Every year, we are honoured to recognize members of the SMUS community as they retire and take on new adventures. Read the 2019 Retirees series to learn more about their outstanding contributions to the school. In this story, we recognize Jennifer White, former executive assistant to the Head of School.
Sometimes you get a call that changes everything. For Jennifer White, it was two phone calls within a couple of hours that led her to apply for the executive assistant to the Head of School job at SMUS – one call from a friend and another from a former SMUS employee who had both seen the job posting and immediately thought of her.
Before SMUS, Jennifer worked in administration for businesses directly with CEOs, presidents and owners. Her previous job in administration was in engineering. When the business sold, she opted to take a break and work part-time at PISE (Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence) – and that was when the calls came.
Although the skill set for her position was administrative, similar to her past jobs, the dynamic was dramatically different at SMUS. “It’s much more emotionally dynamic, more personal,” she says. When she was in engineering, the focus was on hydroelectric systems and software. At SMUS? Parents and kids.
“You needed to be objective in conversations. It could be tricky,” she says. “But that was one of the things I appreciated most about the job.”
In line with a focus on the personal, Jennifer speaks highly of the generosity, sacrifice and genuine care she witnessed with the teachers towards the students, colleagues with one another and the school with everyone. “It was at a level you would not imagine.”
As Bob Snowden’s 22-year role as Head of School ended in 2017, Jennifer was at the helm with communications, conversations, celebrations and more. The transition process required a lot of extra time, energy and work. “It was very intense.” But for her, “to see Bob, this distinguished Head of School, out graciously and gracefully – to disengage him from everything he has been doing for 22 years, was a privilege.”
Jennifer stayed at the school to work with the interim Head of School Andy Rodford. With countless calls and emails to Mark Turner’s office in England, she helped pave the way for a seamless transition so Mark could take up his role.
Over the years, Jennifer’s favourite part of her time at SMUS was working with the Head of School. She reveled in watching and learning and gathering what was essential to them, what they noticed, what they needed. “I’ve always worked with exceptional and really interesting people,” she says.
She was days away from a month-long foray to Ireland at the time of writing. And beyond? “Education has always been really important to me,” she says. Jennifer is considering several options which are close to her heart and with her retirement, now has time to pursue. “A lot piques my interest!”