Todd Bland’s successful tenure as Milton’s Head of School is the result of a unique blend of talents, says former Board of Trustees President Lisa Donohue ’83.
I still remember the moment as if it were yesterday. Spring of 2008, and I was a new trustee at Milton Academy, participating in my first official vote. But it wasn’t just any vote, it was a vote to appoint a new head of school. Heady stuff, so to speak. No small amount of pressure to make the right decision. When it was over, Todd Bland was appointed as the 12th head of school in the school’s history.
While I didn’t know Todd personally, he came to Milton with impressive credentials and vast experience in secondary school education. But he also came with a special connection. His parents Sherry and James met at Milton—both members of the Class of ’58—and his father is memorialized on campus in Apthorp Chapel. We always want to excel in new endeavors and push ourselves to succeed, and Todd was no different. He just had a little extra pressure, given his family legacy. But in classic Todd style, he was undaunted and in fact embraced it.
Over the next 14 years, I had the pleasure of working closely with Todd as a trustee and even more closely, beginning in 2015, as Board president. I got to know Todd the person: what makes him tick, what inspires him, where he draws his strength. And that was the real privilege.
The accolades of Todd’s tenure are many—strategic planning, the Dare campaign, curricula renewal, DEIJ, our outstanding faculty, and of course our amazing student body—to name a few. All strategic and intelligent or (IQ) driven successes. Smart, purposeful leadership with an eye toward ensuring Milton’s future. Milton achieved many milestones under his leadership. And while not easy, these milestones were all opportunities.
But back in 2008, no crystal ball could have forecast all the challenges that Todd would face as well, or the impact they would have on our community. A financial crisis, a global pandemic, racial injustice, a sexual-misconduct reckoning, a war in Ukraine. Challenges that on one hand, were macro and global in nature, and on the other hand, deeply personal and painful on an individual level.
And it is here where Todd made the most impact, not only on me but on the entire Milton community, driven by his EQ side. Much is written these days regarding the importance of emotional intelligence in strong and effective leadership. Todd was way ahead of the game on this one, and it became an indelible mark of his tenure.
Todd attacked each of these challenges head on, guided by his North Star, his emotional connection to people. He steered Milton through some of our toughest challenges, and through it all, reminded us of the importance of caring, of acknowledging the human ethos in every situation, and of always, always leading with kindness.
Todd’s emotional quotient also translated to a strong educational quotient. And while one might assume that to be a given in an educator, this was yet another area where Todd excelled. From the moment he arrived on campus, he exuded both passion and patience—a passion for education and a patience for the education of children. He applied his patented “appreciative inquiry,” recognizing that it is hard to determine the “right”’ path forward without taking the time to genuinely seek to understand, to actively listen to what is being said, and to appreciate different perspectives. The positive impacts of Todd’s EQ are needed now more than ever. Not only at Milton but, more important, in the world beyond Milton.
So often outstanding leadership comes from the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Todd’s tenure at Milton embodied this notion. And with the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t have voted any other way back in 2008. Todd was the right person in the right place at the right time to lead Milton for the past 14 years. Our community, our school, and I personally are the better for it.
We put ourselves into our life’s work, and education is Todd’s life’s work. We want to know that we made a difference. That we had a positive impact on the people around us. That we left a place better than when we came. Todd should be proud of all that he accomplished as Milton’s 12th head of school—proud of the indelible imprint he left on our school and our community. I know I am. And I have a good feeling that Sherry and James would be too. The Bland family legacy at Milton added a wonderful chapter.
Lisa Donohue ’83, elected to Milton’s Board of Trustees in 2008, served as president of the Board from 2015 to 2022. A former marketing executive for Publicis Groupe, the world’s largest communications company, she now serves on several corporate boards.