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.

Susan A. Nelson



Nominations are now open for 2023 • Deadline is April 15

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 2023 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



Susan A. Nelson


Barbara Landis Chase


F. Robertson Hershey


Drew Casertano


Michael Mulligan


Burch Ford


Wanda Hill


Henry (Skip) Flanagan


David Hadden


John R. Eidam


Ellie Griffin


Mary Louise Leipheimer


Tom Wilcox


Family of Stephen Ruzicka


Will Gilyard is in his 19th year of working in independent schools. In 2020, he returned to his alma mater Choate Rosemary Hall to take on the roles of Form Dean, and Alumni Engagement Associate. Will joined Choate after nine years at the Kingswood Oxford School (KO), a 6-12 independent day school located in West Hartford, CT, where he served as Dean of Students, an upper school math teacher, assistant football coach, and faculty advisor for the United Students club and Boys of Color group. At Choate, Will is the faculty adviser to Choate Afro Latino Men (CALM), and Girls Who Code (GWC).

Will also serves as a core faculty member and helped create the curriculum for the Institute for New Teachers of Color in Independent Schools, created in 2020, the Interschool Leadership Institute, created in 2013. Will also served as a core faculty member of the Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute for Educators of Color (KOLIEC) from 2011-2018 and helped create the curriculum for the mentoring/advising circles for institute participants.

Before joining KO, Will was the Head of the Upper School at the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine in New York City. He serves on the board of advisors for the IDEAL School, also located in New York City. He is passionate about the role of educators in independent schools, specifically in the lives of students of color. Will has attended numerous workshops, conferences, and institutes related to leadership in independent schools and anti-racist education. Will had the honor of being a member of a think tank for the CARLE institute. 

Will has his B.A. in Psychology from Williams College and his M.A. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Joseph. Will is thrilled to be a part of the TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) team and looks forward to working with energized and focused individuals who are interested in being change agents in the residential life sphere.

Will and his wife, Afton, ALP/Enrichment Teacher in Stratford Public Schools reside in Wallingford, CT with their two sons, William (10) and Maxwell (8).


Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97 joined Blair’s faculty in 2002 and is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the School on matters related to student and residential life, including health and counseling services, athletics and co-curricular programs. He runs Monday School Meeting and, among other things, is known for greeting students in the morning at the Clinton Hall doorway and offering freshly picked apples from his office during the month of October. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Ryan serves as a member of the history department and teaches Global Issues. He also authors the monthly e-newsletter From Hilltop to Home, a communication designed to help new boarding-school parents navigate the ins and outs of the Blair experience.

Over the course of his time at Blair, Ryan has served as a history teacher, head tennis coach, a dorm head and Dean of Admission. He completed his undergraduate work at Dickinson College, where he captained the men’s tennis team, and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Columbia University. Before joining the faculty at Blair, Ryan taught at the Taft Summer School in Watertown, Connecticut, and Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania. He also spent three summers as program director of the Cambridge Prep Experience at Peterhouse College, Cambridge University.

In addition to his roles in schools, Ryan has served as a faculty member for the TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) Summer Session and is a regular presenter at national boarding and independent school conferences on student and residential life.

Ryan and his wife, Jennifer, performing arts department chair and Director of Instrumental Music at Blair, live in Grullon House with their children, Jack, Will, Ella and Addison, and their dog, Teagan. The Pagottos enjoy opening their home to Blair students, faculty and staff members throughout the year.


Susan served as a professor and leader at Middlebury College for over 25 years, most recently as Executive Vice President and Provost, leading Middlebury’s academic programs across multiple campuses – Middlebury, Bread Loaf, Monterey – as well as study abroad locations around the world. Prior to her Provostship, Susan served as Vice President for Strategy and Planning, Dean of Planning and Assessment, and Dean of the Faculty. She is a tenured Professor of Psychology and taught throughout her time at Middlebury.

Susan began her consulting firm in 2018, advising schools, colleges, non-profits and foundations in the areas of strategy, planning and governance; and coaching senior administrators to build leadership capacity and support change management. This led her to partner with TABS in 2019, in the development of TABS current strategic plan.

In addition to consulting, Susan co-authored the book, The College Stress Test, an analysis of educational markets and tools for helping schools to identify their place within market trends. The book was named one of the best books on higher education in 2020 by Forbes Magazine. Susan has presented extensively on topics relating to human sexuality, social psychology, and the psychology of women and gender. She received her B.S. with highest honors in Psychology, Phi Beta Kappa, at Denison University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology at UCLA.