By Rachel Talamo
After more than a decade of service to the school, this summer Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Assistant Head of School for Operations Thom Greenlaw stepped down from his post at BB&N.
“I’ve been here for 12 years,” he said. “I’m very proud of the accomplishments the school has had in [that time] and my role in those accomplishments, but it’s time to do something a little different.”
At BB&N, Mr. Greenlaw worked primarily for Head of School Rebecca Upham and with the Board of Trustees on school strategy issues, financial planning, business management, and health services. He has spearheaded many major projects, including Renaissance Hall’s development, a morning transportation program, the solar panels above the Nicholas Athletic Center, a school-wide sustainability model, the school’s fixed-rate loan, and a faculty and staff daycare cooperative. He also served as a golf coach and as an academic and senior project adviser.
“He was here since 2001,” said Director of Communications Joe Clifford, who worked closely with Mr. Greenlaw for seven years. “The school has made so many incredible advancements in that time, and Mr. Greenlaw’s fingerprints are on virtually every one of those.”
Ms. Upham stressed that Mr. Greenlaw’s financial foresight has both benefitted the school and gained him national acclaim.
“Thom has the remarkable ability to see a trend long before anybody recognizes it as a trend,” she said. “The work that Mr. Greenlaw has led has had a tremendous impact on schools across the nation.”
Board of Trustees Chairman Brace Young P’14, ’14, ’17 said despite this ability, the CFO never became conceited.
“He wasn’t trying to show that he was smarter than everybody else, even though he probably was,” he said. “He’s just a very nice man.”
Mr. Greenlaw left BB&N to assume the Chief Operating Officer (COO) position at the Ethel Walker School, a K-12 all-girls school in Connecticut. According to him, the more senior role will allow more direct connection with students, which he also said was his favorite part of working at BB&N.
“Boarding school life has a sense of community that [I’ve looked] forward to being a part of,” he said. “It’s a different lifestyle, more of a 24/7 type of role.”
Mr. Young also remarked that though leaving was bittersweet for Mr. Greenlaw, BB&N has hardly any financial “adventure” left for him to tackle.
“He wanted to pursue something that’s a bigger challenge, with more fixing,” he said. “Much thanks to him, I think there’s nothing [financial] really left to fix at BB&N.”
“I like challenges,” Mr. Greenlaw affirmed.
According to Ms. Upham, Mr. Greenlaw’s greatest asset throughout the years was his personality, though, rather than his financial fervor.
“Thom’s biggest strength as CFO and COO [was] his genuine concern for the people here,” she said.
Mr. Clifford also lauded Mr. Greenlaw’s social nature.
“He is sort of a quintessential practitioner of what he calls MBWA: management by walking around—that gets to his people-person side,” he said. “He’s not a paper pusher. He’s always in the action.”
According to Mr. Greenlaw, his relationships at the school have been incredibly important to him.
“I love to establish great connections in a variety of ways,” he said. “I’ll miss the faculty and students. The staff in the business office are among the top in the country as far as I’m concerned—they work very hard behind the scenes and are the somewhat unsung heroes of the
school because they keep it operating every day.”
According to Controller Jane Segale, the feeling is mutual.
“Thom’s a great boss,” she said. “We’ll really miss him. He’s eager to face a challenge, wonderful to work for—and he has an open-door policy so you can always go to him with any issue.”
Mr. Clifford said these qualities made Mr. Greenlaw especially unique as a CFO.
“I think Mr. Greenlaw was a rare person in his role,” he said. “The person in that role is usually the bean counter, someone who’s good at just keeping the books. But Mr. Greenlaw is far more than just that. He’s a people person. And he was able to balance that with his skills and operations in finance. And that was a pretty magical combination for BB&N.”