Ruzicka compass


Ruzicka Compass

Premier Leadership Award

The Ruzicka Compass Premier Leadership Award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the excellence, advancement, and success of boarding schools.

A steadying influence, rich with vision, and always true, even in turbulent times, Steve’s leadership likewise enabled great voyages for so many boarding schools, and for the leaders, educators, and families who live and serve in these remarkable communities.

The Award itself, an elegant, handcrafted artisan box with an inlaid compass, is presented on behalf of TABS’ Board of Directors to one individual each year at TABS Annual Conference. A larger, compass-themed plaque, bearing the names of each annual recipient, is maintained at TABS offices.


Deadline: April 30, 2022

You can help TABS pay tribute to those who chart courses of inspiration, commitment and integrity on behalf of boarding schools. If you know a colleague who embodies these characteristics, and has made extraordinary contributions to boarding education, consider nominating him or her for the 2021 Ruzicka Compass.


  • Worked in, on behalf of, or for the benefit of TABS member schools for an extended period of time
  • Exemplified a spirit of vocation, a devotion to service, and a gift for leadership
  • As a person and as a professional, modeled inspiration, commitment, and integrity
  • Beyond assisting his or her own school, made a marked contribution to the effectiveness, success, and future of boarding schools

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

  • General Information about the Nominator
  • General information about yourself (contact information)
  • General information about the nominee (Contact information and status – working/retired)
  • Nominee’s current professional information, if applicable (Employer, Title/Position)
  • Work history: last 3 jobs, years of service, employer, role
  • Supporting statement for nominee – (150 to 500 words)
  • Three references, including contact information

Be Inspired



Barbara Landis Chase

Barbara Landis Chase

Barbara began her professional life as a 3rd grade teacher at Moses Brown School. She then taught at the Wheeler School, where she also served as Director of Admission. In 1980, she became Head of The Bryn Mawr School and in 1994, Barbara received an historic appointment as the first woman Head of School at Phillips Academy Andover, where she served for 18 years. Barbara was ahead of her time, addressing race and LGBTQ issues, and establishing needs-blind admission at Andover in 2008. Barbara is now a senior search consultant with Carney, Sandoe & Associates, where she is an executive coach and mentor, and conducts searches for heads of school, continuing a career-long focus of opening the funnel to more women and more people of color.


F. Robertson Hershey

F. Robertson Hershey

Rob began his independent school career as a teacher of history and economics and a varsity basketball coach at Woodberry Forest School. He then moved onto become the Director of Student Life, Director of Admissions, Assistant Headmaster, and Associate Headmaster. Rob then served as Headmaster of Durham Academy for ten years, before accepting the position of Headmaster and President, of his alma mater, Collegiate School in Richmond, VA. In 1998, Rob became the eleventh Head of School at Episcopal High School, until 2016. Rob maintained his connection to the classroom throughout his entire career, teaching a course every year of his 46-year tenure. In 2021, he completed 5 years of private consulting, working with heads and board chairs from over 30 schools.


Drew Castertano

Drew Castertano

Drew J. Casertano was appointed as Millbrook School’s sixth headmaster in 1990. Under his leadership the school’s applications have tripled, the enrollment has grown from 170 to 315, the endowment has increased from $6.7 million to more than $45 million, and annual and capital funds of nearly150,000,000 million have been raised to support more than 223,000 square feet of newand renovated spaces. Drew remains ever thoughtful in his governance – collaborating with trustees, faculty, parents and alumni to build talented teams with a shared vision for Millbrook students.

Prior, Drew served as director of admission and financial aid at The Gunnery and at The Loomis Chaffee School, where he began his career – teaching, coaching, living and working in a dormitory, directing student activities, and working in admissions. He is a graduate of The Choate School and Amherst College, and earned his Master of Education degree at Harvard University.

Drew has held principal roles within numerous educational organizations, serving as a trustee at Dutchess Day School, Parents League of New York, Washington Montessori School, the Secondary School Admission Test Board (now the Enrollment Management Association), and at TABS, where he chaired the executive committee that developed the North American Boarding Initiative. He was president of the Headmasters Association and the board of trustees of the New York State Association of Independent School (NYSAIS). Currently, he is a board member at Indian Mountain School and New Canaan Country School, and served as a long-time board member of Safe Passage.

Drew’s career is characterized by innovation, advancement and results. Steve Ruzicka was guided by the belief that anything is possible and I think we can safely say this belief guides Drew. TABS Board is pleased to recognize his continuing achievements with the Ruzicka Compass,” said Ben Williams, TABS Board Chair.


Michael Mulligan

Michael Mulligan

With an extensive background in independent schools—as student, teacher, and administrator—
Michael holds an unwavering belief in the value of an outstanding boarding school education.

In 1986 Michael moved west to join Thacher as Dean of Administration, teacher, and coach. He then took on other administrative roles, including Assistant Headmaster, Dean of Students, and Interim Head of School, before his appointment as Head of School in 1993. Since then, Michael has overseen all the administrative activities involved in running Thacher, still finding time to coach freshman boys in soccer and lacrosse and to lead two Extra-Day Trips in the High Sierra or the Los Padres National Forest, traveling on horseback or on foot. He continues teaching various classes including Public Speaking and World Religions.

As Chair of The Association of Boarding Schools, a national organization that helps schools like Thacher in professional development, program development and marketing outreach, Michael worked with other educators and specialists across the country to get the good news out about boarding schools to a public that may not know or may misunderstand this unique educational opportunity. He recently served on the board of the California Association of Independent School and is a member of the Headmasters Association.


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. 


Wanda Hill

Wanda Hill

Wanda Hill is an icon in the independent school world. As an educator/parent, she sought the best opportunities for her sons, both of whom graduated from a TABS member schools.

Recognizing that waiting to support students applying to college is "too late", Wanda founded Project Match in 1980. In addition to running Project Match, Wanda worked tirelessly volunteering in the independent school world. She served many terms as a trustee on the TABS and SSATB Board of Directors as well as serving on the boards of many boarding schools.

Since 1980, Project Match has placed over 500 Washington area students in 85 boarding schools around the country. Project Match students have received over $15,000,000 in financial aid from independent boarding schools. Project Match alumni have succeeded in a myriad of career paths. They are entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, teachers, entertainers, as well as corporate and nonprofit leaders.

Finally, Steve Ruzicka had enormous respect and affection for Wanda. As she turns 90 in September, this award is a fitting tribute to and celebration of her life's work.


Henry (Skip) Flanagan

Henry (Skip) Flanagan

A truly dedicated and longstanding school leader, Skip Flanagan personifies the qualities our schools aspire to: he is a visionary, a planner, a caretaker of tradition, an innovator, a thinker, a mentor, advisor, coach, and a leader of students, faculty, alumni, and parents.

He is one of the reasons TABS is where it is today. He had the vision and the nerve to move us away from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and set our own path. He built the board and he worked with his team to broaden the agenda and vision of boarding schools. He set the pace for TABS. And he stood up, time and time again, for what is good for teens and what is good for boarding schools.

Skip has served our industry for decades; as a leader for TABS, President of the Headmasters Association, former Director of English Student Union, and board member of NAIS.  

Skip continued his career in education following his 25+ year tenure as Western Reserve Academy’s Headmaster, when he returned to Avon Old Farms where he is currently teaching, coaching, and helping boarding schools. 


David Hadden

David Hadden

David Hadden is a man of passions, and while they vary from summer camps to football, he is constant in his commitment to providing kids with a 24/7 experience that can only be found at a boarding school. His story is one of a life of boarding.

At the young age of 12, David enrolled at Upper Canada College as a boarding student, and he will often recount the story of how that first year was formative. This experience fueled his life-long belief in the power of a boarding school education. As a young adult, he and his wife were boarding house parents at UCC, and at the ripe age of 32, he became Head of Lakefield College School, which was then an all-boys boarding school.

David’s impact at Lakefield is remarkable. Responsible for LCS' staff driven “Securing Our Future” fund raising campaign launched in 2001, he had raised $44 million for the school by the fall of 2008, an unprecedented success. During his tenure as Head, David introduced co-education to LCS and created a governance structure that continues to ensure breadth and depth of sustainable support. He remained Head of Lakefield, and he served additionally as CEO of the Foundation, until his retirement in 2008. To celebrate his contributions to the school, Hadden Hall, a state-of-the-art Student Recreation Centre was opened that same year at LCS.

Some people retire and disappear happily from the world of their former professional life. But not David Hadden. He has worked tirelessly to ensure all Canadian boarding schools thrive. When Canadian boarding schools saw an enrollment drop by over 10% between 2007-2009, David worked closely with Admissions Directors to initiate a visionary pilot project that sees 26 Canadian schools, all very competitive with one another, collaborate on marketing, recruitment and research, for the betterment of all. Today, Canada’s boarding school enrollment has still not recovered completely, but we have seen a steady increase since 2010, thanks in part to David’s vision for a long-term strategic collaborative initiative, and for his ability to bring the country together for a great cause.

David has volunteered his time, his leadership, his voice and his visionary mind to the CAIS Collaborative Boarding Project and is revered across Canada as a true leader and a legendary Canadian Head of School. His work at the CAIS Leadership Institute mentoring new Heads in CAIS schools, and his role as facilitator with the Next Step Program reinforces his leadership in his retirement. Many people ask the question – if our schools had not launched a collaborative initiative to promote the value of boarding schools in Canada, where would we be today? Canadian boarding schools, from coast to coast, are grateful for the courage, tenacity and passion of David Hadden.


John R. Eidam

John R. Eidam

A native of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, John Richard (Jack) Eidam earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Lycoming College (PA) and a master of divinity degree, in practical theology, from Drew University (NJ). He was first appointed dean of admissions at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania in 1969, and continued on staff there for 43 years.

The Reverend Eidam managed admission, marketing, financial aid and summer programs for the school of 800 students pre-school to postgraduate on two campuses. He developed an international program beginning in 1980 to include at any one time 23 cultures and almost 100 students. As well, he developed a set of summer offerings that attracted 500 students from around the globe. Among summer programs at the high school level, Wyoming conducts one of the longest-running and most flexible ESL programs in the world and one of the most challenging large ensemble performing arts programs in the world.

Jack was a pioneer in structuring international admission and exchange programs, first admitting Saudis, Japanese, and Koreans in the 1980s. Then, in the 1990s, Wyoming Seminary developed a summer program for Thai scholars—about 75 a summer—supported by the Thai government. Not satisfied with simply recruiting students from other countries, Wyoming Seminary was one of the first schools to convert its entire curriculum to an international focus, with its international students playing an integral part.

Currently a director of American Secondary Schools for International Students and Teachers (ASSIST), a non-profit organization that manages student exchanges, Jack has also chaired the board of directors of the Secondary School Admission Test Board (SSATB) and the finance committee of the board of directors of The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS).

Jack was the first recipient of the William Bretnall Award for Outstanding Service from SSATB. Wyoming Seminary honored him with the Louis Maslow Award for Outstanding Teaching or Administration.

Long active in his local community and region, Jack has served as a trustee for Leadership Wilkes-Barre and United Methodist Homes (for which he also served as vice chair). He is a member of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church and formerly a senator in the United Methodist Church University Senate.


Ellie Griffin

Ellie Griffin

Ellie Griffin is the 4th Recipient of the Ruzicka Compass Premier Leadership Award for her contribution to the excellence, advancement, and success of boarding schools. She was presented the award on December 2, 2011 at the TABS Annual Conference in Boston. Ellie is the former Director of Health and Counseling Services at Milton Academy (MA) where she has taught Developmental Psychology, Psychology AP, and Social Sciences.

Over the past 27 years, Ellie has counseled adolescents, led workshops, and provided consulting services to independent boarding school administrators and faculty. Her service has not only inspired other educators, but pushed the boundaries for underrepresented students within boarding schools.

"I am so honored to be receiving the Ruzicka Compass Award," said Ellie in her acceptance speech. I had great respect for Steve Ruzicka and all that he accomplished to make boarding schools good and healthy places for adults and kids to live and learn. His energy, enthusiasm, openness and great sense of fun were contagious, and I know that all who knew him, miss him still."


Mary Louise Leipheimer

Mary Louise Leipheimer

Best described by Rob Hershey, Chair of 2010-2011 TABS Board of Directors, and 2010 presenter of the Ruzicka Award, "In short, Mary Lou has been a strong voice in virtually every organization and conversation shaping our work and lives in boarding schools!"

Mary Lou was appointed Head of School at Foxcroft in 1989. During her tenure, she has brought Foxcroft to the forefront of girls' schools by blending a 21st century vision of the School’s mission with the unique traditions that have set Foxcroft apart from other schools since its founding.However, Mary Lou introduces herself as a teacher. After all, she came to Foxcroft in 1967 to teach English, planning to stay for two years. What kept her here was finding “that these girls had a sense of self that I wasn’t sure I had yet…. There is something in the fabric of this community that results in Foxcroft ‘growing’ leaders in disproportional numbers, a fact validated in communities throughout the world.”

To this day, Mary Lou’s teaching moments happen on a daily basis in her office as a result of her open-door policy, in Morning Meetings with the Foxcroft community and across the country as she travels on behalf of the School. During her Foxcroft tenure, Mary Lou has also served as English Department Chair, Director of Admission, Director of Development and Assistant Head for External Affairs. Mary Lou has a Bachelor’s of Science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.


Tom Wilcox

Tom Wilcox

As a founding director of TABS helping to seed the concept of a collaborative association specific to boarding schools, Tom is an overwhelmingly deserving recipient and was nominated by many of his peers.

Wilcox, President and CEO of Baltimore Community Foundation, served as the headmaster of Concord Academy in Massachusetts for nineteen years. He has also been a teacher and administrator in schools across the U.S. and Europe and has truly left a legacy of leadership and service in the world of independent college prep boarding schools.

"Tom chose the path to live by his passions, to be known for his commitments, and for the work he did for other people," Rob Hershey, Headmaster of Episcopal High School and Chair of 2009-2010 TABS Board of Directors, said during the award presentation. Hershey also praised Tom’s leadership during the nascent phase of TABS. “It is certainly not too bold to say we would not be here in this room if not for Tom."


Family of Stephen Ruzicka

The Family of Stephen Ruzicka

To honor Steve Ruzicka and establish the award, TABS presented the 2008 award to his family.

Steven D. Ruzicka was the longest-serving executive director during TABS thirty-two year history. Steve led the Association with distinction from 1995, during its final days as an office within NAIS, through its incorporation as an independent entity in 1999, until his death in 2007. A lifelong educator, he is remembered professionally for his vision and love for boarding schools, coupled with his trademark energy, compassion, and determination, which led TABS through a period of tremendous growth and progress. The belief that anything was possible guided his service to the Association and the schools he represented, which he believed were, and should be, the best in the world.

A native of Minnesota, where his family still owns and manages a farm near Minneapolis, Steve’s career with boarding schools took him first to St. Mary’s in Texas and later, to St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, where he served as Director of Admission from 1988-1995.