Burch Ford Kaleidoscope Award

for Excellence in Student & Residential Life

The Burch Ford Kaleidoscope Award recognizes three professionals each year, who have exemplified commitment, creativity and excellence in the area of Student and Residential Life.

The Award is named in honor of the late Mary Burch Tracy Ford (Burch), who served as the first full-time counselor at Groton School, the Dean of Students at Milton Academy and for 15 years, the Head of Miss Porter’s School.

Burch had a down-to-earth quality, side by side with a supremely idealistic point of view. She was a practical, can-do person, who brought her imagination, her remarkable experiences, and a devotion to service, to her work. A kaleidoscope is a fitting symbol of her graceful ability to combine her practicality, courage and renowned availability, with her creativity, playfulness and conviction of what is right. In addition to her many achievements as a leader in the boarding school community, she invented new traditions and created innovative programs that not only enriched students’ experiences, but gave them direction and confidence in great possibility. Striving for excellence was a mindset that Burch herself modeled and instilled in her colleagues and students. It became the fabric of the communities she served. 

The Burch Ford Kaleidoscope Award, itself, is a handcrafted, engraved Kaleidoscope. It will be presented on behalf of TABS Board of Trustees to three individuals each year at TABS Conference.


Deadline: April 30, 2022

Join us in honoring excellence, innovation and commitment in the Student and Residential Life sector, by nominating your deserving colleagues for the 2022 Burch Ford Kaleidoscope Award.


  • Worked at a TABS member school for at least three years.
  • Shown an exemplary spirit of vocation, a devotion to service, and a gift for leadership. 
  • Modeled inspiration, commitment, and integrity as a person and as a professional.

To nominate a colleague, please be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Contact information about nominator
  • General information about the nominee 
  • Nominee’s current professional information (School, Title/Position)
  • Work history
  • Supporting statement for nominee noting significant contributions to the individual’s school and/or the boarding school community (250 to 500 words)

Be Inspired



Burch Ford

Burch Ford

Before completing two years in the Peace Corps and then completing her interrupted undergraduate education, Burch Tracy Ford trained as a psychotherapist and worked in private practice for some years before being appointed the first full-time counselor at Groton School. At Groton she became important for students, faculty, and staff as a trusted resource. She administered the Human Relations and Sexuality program, and at the Head's request conducted an examination of the school's first ten years of coeducation. One result of the study was to establish a dual student leadership position; the "Senior Prefect" from then on would be two students, a boy and a girl.

From Groton Burch went to Milton Academy as Dean of Students. Milton made good use of Burch's clear thinking and unwavering commitment to orderly, sensible policies regarding discipline and the operation of the boarding department that she oversaw.

Burch's tenure as Head of Miss Porter's School saw many achievements that include such items as beginning a mentoring program for Miss Porter's students at a Hartford public school; adding Leadership Seminar, Experiential Education, and Financial Literacy programs to the school's requirements; beginning a residential Summer Challenge program for middle school girls; wiring the whole campus; a faculty sabbatical program; adding the Chinese language as a curriculum option; adding many existing buildings to the campus for faculty housing; building a new library (named for her by her Board), swimming pool, and squash courts; and completing a 50 million dollar capital campaign.

Harder to document but equally important was Burch's personal leadership, from her ready availability to anyone, student, faculty, or staff, who needed her ear, to her warm and hospitable relations with the town of Farmington, to her establishment of significant rituals during the school year, from Wallace Stevens's "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour" as part of a winter solstice assembly to her regular recitation of proverbs in Wolof, the language she spoke, fluently, in the Peace Corps in Senegal.

A series of gatherings, around the country, late in Burch's tenure, called "Burch and Books," honored Burch's love of reading and her personal commitment to life-long learning. After her retirement in 2008, her days filled up quickly with positions on the Boards of schools in Rwanda and Jordan and the Council on International Educational Exchange, among others. She served as Interim Head of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, leading the search for a permanent Head.