Tag Archives: Rich Tarrant

Coalminer’s Granddaughter

Monday, June 4, 2018

DLT_UVMcommencement

Commencement Address given by Deborah L. Tarrant

University of Vermont, College of Education & Social Services, Class of 2018

 

Thank you, all, very much. Dean Thomas, thank you for your invitation to be part of this special day. I’m humbled and honored.

And Dr. Bishop, thank you for that lovely introduction. I appreciate you mentioning my family history. If I can take poetic license with an old, well-known country song, “I’m proud to be a coalminer’s granddaughter.”

As Dr. Bishop mentioned, my connection to the College is through the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. Because of this connection, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. Penny Bishop for the past 13 years. If you know her, you know what an asset she is to this University. It was her dedication and that of her Associate Director, Dr. John Downes, that kept the vision moving forward in the early days of the Tarrant Institute.

Those of us associated with the Institute believe it speaks to a new paradigm for learning – one that will have a direct impact on many of your careers. The catalyst for what started as an experiment and ultimately became the Tarrant Institute was the observation that for quite a few middle school adolescents, particularly boys, traditional teaching methods were not working very well. Being expected to sit passively for hours and learn the same way kids had learned for the past century, was becoming less and less effective. Think about it – some of you were in middle school about that time – these young people were spending their leisure time immersed in new technology. It’s no wonder their attention drifted at school.

My husband, Rich, and I had a vision for what a 21st century classroom could look like. With Dr. Bishop’s help, we started with one class at one Vermont middle school with students who didn’t seem to like school very much, and who spent a lot of time in the principal’s office.

The idea was to engage them while they were in middle school, before they became problematic high school students. The plan was for technology to be the hook, but we knew from experience that just dumping laptops or notebook-devices into classrooms was NOT the answer. The answer was to use computers as learning tools in a way that would engage these technology-hungry adolescents.

As it turned out, the learning curve was really steep – for the teachers!   The kids took to the new environment instantly. And, why wouldn’t they? They were surrounded by technology everywhere except at school!

This pilot program immediately turned disengaged students into eager learners.   An unanticipated outcome was that other students started looking up to the kids in the program because of their computer expertise. All of a sudden, the program students had a sense of pride and accomplishment they had never before associated with school. In that first year, not one of those kids who had been regulars in the principal’s office needed disciplining. Not one! And parents were absolutely amazed by the eagerness of their kids to go to school.

I’ll never forget the day we visited the pilot classroom late in that first year, and a young man who was obviously older than the other students approached us. It was apparent, he had been held back at least once, maybe twice. Very shyly, he reached to shake hands with Rich. Then he raised his head and looked Rich right in the eye. All he said was “Thank you.” But the emotion in those two little words was so powerful!

It didn’t take long for all the students in that first middle school to want to be part of the program. So the experiment was a success from the beginning, but right away, it was obvious the main challenge to expanding the program was the ingrained idea that teaching could only be done by lecturing to silent, immobile students.

This realization was the eureka moment when the focus of the Tarrant Institute changed from the students to helping teachers transition to innovative ways of using the magic of technology in the classroom.

In preparation for being here today, I came across two quotes that are especially relevant to this new paradigm. The first is, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”

The origin of this quote is widely debated, however, the second quote is unquestionably attributed to Dr. John Dewey, a well-known education reformer with whom many of you are familiar.

Dewey was born before the Civil War, in 1859, just a few blocks from here. He graduated from UVM 139 years ago. He lived to be 93, and fittingly, he’s laid to rest right here on UVM’s campus. His is the only gravesite on the campus.

Here’s what Dewey said: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Bingo! Dr. Bishop and her team are literally changing the way we educate, just as Dewey envisioned.

We’ve all heard that learning is a life-long process. Experienced teachers learning new methods using technology in the classroom are perfect examples of this. In my case, three years ago, life unexpectedly presented me with a whole new ball game as Mayor for the Town of Hillsboro Beach. My professional experience was in the world of fashion and in the corporate world. Believe me, spending my golden years in the political arena was never part of my master plan!

In thinking about the message I wanted to leave you with today, it struck me that while my role as Mayor is a very visible position of leadership, as graduates of the College of Education and Social Services, you will be leaders the minute you step into your first classroom or office. Typically, graduates in other majors do not have this level of leadership responsibility right out of the chute. Getting a business degree and overseeing financial assets is one thing, but the degree you receive today will make you responsible for something far more valuable – human capital.

The Hippocratic Oath for physicians is the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world. Paraphrased, its most important tenet is, “First, do no harm.” If there was an equivalent doctrine for educators, social workers, and counselors, it would have to go one step further. Not only are you expected to do no harm, you are expected to prepare your charges to be contributing members of our society.

Most of you will play many roles in your new careers: teacher, mentor, advisor, role model, and sometimes even surrogate parent. What often goes unacknowledged, is that your role as a leader, and the influence that role inherently has, carries over into every one of those other roles. A leader is defined as “one who directs by influence.” As leaders, the influence you have on the lives you touch will shape our country for years to come.

It’s a huge responsibility – having influence over young people and people in need of social services. These are the most impressionable and vulnerable segments of our population. The human capital you will be responsible for is our country’s most important asset. Accordingly, your challenge will be to handle your leadership role carefully – and – judiciously.

Today is the official beginning of this leadership role. This graduation is your springboard. Regardless of what has come before this day – regardless of how or where you grew up, regardless of your GPA – after today, your place in the world will be up to you.

In the immortal words of Dr. Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known simply as Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

This is a momentous day! And I’m honored to share it with you.

To parents, grandparents, and loved ones of the graduates: congratulations! And thank you for the sacrifices you made to get to this day.

And finally…, to the graduates: savor this moment! You’ve worked hard. You’ve survived Vermont winters … and … You made it!

This is your day! Congratulations! Thank you!


Deb Tarrant is the Vice President of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation and Mayor of Hillsboro Beach, FL.  Her grandfather started working in the coal mines of Harlan County, KY at age 10, and her grandmother left school after the 7th grade to help support her family.  Deb is the first member of either side of her family to earn a college diploma.  She graduated summa cum laude  with a degree in marketing and accounting from Miami University in 1979.

Backstory

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

podcast-ep12-fb-800x420

Contributed by Lauren A. Curry

Foundations can be mysterious things – understandable, but not that helpful when it comes to building effective partnerships.

Resources are always finite, though, and the Tarrant Foundation has long made the strategic decision to maximize our spending on grantmaking. We designed our website and the media posted there to provide clear information and a sense of the context in which we work, but we invest very little in trying to push our story out into the broader community.

It’s a tradeoff, we know. One that perhaps contributes to that sense of mystery. But one we’re glad to make when it means putting more dollars into our grants.

Grantmaking is our core work. We invest significant time and money in those partnerships – building relationships, collaborating, and putting a whole lot of miles on my car every year! Chances are if you’re reading this, you and I have sat down together at least once to talk about the difference you’re trying to make in your community. Maybe that took place in your office … or on the back porch of one of your clients, or in a field full of poison ivy, or on the floor while building marshmallow towers with at-risk youth. Maybe it was at the bedside of a dying patient, or in a steamy kitchen, or in a horse barn, or on a jobsite, or at a picnic table. Maybe it was in an empty lot with nothing to see but what the space could be, someday, if only the right partners could be engaged.

Wherever that meeting happened, I was glad to be there (yes, even that time with the poison ivy). I learned a lot from you and your colleagues, from getting to know your community, and from seeing your vision in action. Hopefully you felt like you learned some things too, about who we might be as partners, about how we work, and about the process we were asking you to move through with us.

Still, we know the veil exists.

Earlier this spring when there was still waaaaaaaay too much snow on the ground, I was invited to share some of the Foundation’s story on RetroMotion Creative’s podcast. RM made several of the videos we use on our website, including this one that I love featuring Rich and Deb talking about their approach to giving.

The podcast picks up with the making of that video, then delves into some of the structures and strategies we’ve built around the Tarrants’ vision. More than that, it’s hopefully an opportunity to get to know us a little better, and to make this whole thing maybe a little less mysterious. Bonus features include YouTube PD, the Mythbusters Mega Merrython, lessons learned from my personal non-profit endeavors, and tough love from @thewhineydonor.


Lauren A. Curry has served as Executive Director of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation since 2005.

Award Season

Monday, October 17, 2016

Contributed by Lauren A. Curry

Recently I shared news that Rich and Deb had been honored with the Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy Award from the UVM Foundation. It was a wonderful honor, and a great opportunity for me to reflect on the many things accomplished through the Tarrants’ generosity to our communities.

Rich would be the first to tell you that we can’t do any of this on our own. Our work is only as good as the many incredible people out there who turn our investments into action at the community level.

Top of that list in our minds is Dr. Penny Bishop, Associate Dean and Professor in UVM’s College of Education and Social Services, and Director of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at UVM. For the past decade, Penny has contributed outstanding leadership, vision, wisdom, and hard work to manage our investments in middle-level education throughout the state. Her partnership has turned that investment into something far more meaningful and far more effective than could ever have been achieved without her.

But don’t take our word for it.

amle-penny-award

Last week at the Association of Middle Level Education’s (AMLE) national conference in Austin, Penny received the John H. Lounsbury Award for Distinguished Achievement. This prestigious award is the association’s highest honor, given only in those years when a sufficiently meritorious candidate emerges.

It was a great pleasure to see Penny honored for her many important contributions to the field of middle level education, and for the groundbreaking work she undertakes here in Vermont. Our board and staff are incredibly lucky to benefit from her leadership of the Tarrant Institute, and from her friendship as well.

Congratulations, Penny! You earned it.

amle-student

Penny’s award wasn’t the only highlight of this year’s AMLE conference. Members of the Tarrant Institute team made a record 14 presentations at AMLE, featuring stories, strategies, and research from their many partnerships with Vermont educators. Attendees even got to visit directly with some Vermont students (above) to learn about how personalization through technology is working for them!

For more information on the AMLE sessions or about the Tarrant Institute, check out their blog here.

                                                                                                                                                               

Lauren A. Curry has served as Executive Director of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation since 2005.

Lifetime Achievement

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Contributed by Lauren A. Curry

It’s a funny thing to talk about Lifetime Achievement. The words suggest summation. A grand total. A backward look.

This past weekend, Rich and Deb Tarrant were presented with the 2016 Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy Award from the University of Vermont Foundation. The award was given in recognition of the tremendous investments made by Rich and Deb, and by their Foundation, in efforts to improve middle-level education, advance medical research, and strengthen the University.

lifetime-achievement-2016

I could not have been prouder. And, I think it’s safe to say, Rich and Deb could not have been more uncomfortable.

Neither Rich nor Deb likes to be praised for their generosity. You’ll hear Rich say in the video below that even the word philanthropy doesn’t sit well with him. It’s too soft. Rich considers the resources he and Deb invest in communities and programs around Vermont to be just that – investments. In exchange for those investments, he expects a non-monetary return, in the form of lives impacted, communities strengthened, and futures changed.

Rich and Deb accepted the award, with characteristic modesty, graciousness, and big serving of humor. They shook hands, smiled, and stood for pictures. Then they did what they do best: get back to work.

In just the couple of days since the award presentation, Rich and Deb have met with numerous leaders who are tackling some of our state’s biggest challenges. They have talked statistics, theory, efficiency, and impact. They’ve emphasized the crucial balance between thinkers and doers. They’ve considered scope and next steps and how, as ever, to make the very most of the resources they have.

As much as I love to see Rich and Deb honored for all that they have done, for them the conversation is always about what lays ahead. What’s been done is only ever a tiny part of what can be done. Our job is to get focused, get organized, and tackle what’s next.

Onward.

                                                                                                                                                                

Lauren A. Curry has served as Executive Director of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation since 2005.

In Honor of Allen and Bonnie Martin

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tarrant Foundation’s Gift to UVM Medical Center in Honor of Allen and Bonnie Martin from Tarrant Foundation on Vimeo.

Contributed by Richard E. Tarrant

Last night, Deb and Lauren joined me to announce a $1M grant from the Foundation to the University of Vermont Medical Center. The grant will go toward the construction of a new seven-floor inpatient facility. The building will include 128 state-of-the-art private patient rooms and other spaces critical to the growing needs of our community, and to delivery of the highest standard of care.

We have chosen to name the 5th floor of the new building, serving Oncology, Gynecology, Urology and General Surgery, in honor of two longtime friends of the hospital: Allen and Bonnie Martin.

Allen graduated from Williams College and went on to receive an honors degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.  After Harvard law school and a prestigious clerkship, Allen ultimately became a partner at Downs Rachlin Martin, a law firm serving Vermonters and Vermont businesses for more than half a century.

In 1994, he became the driving force behind the formation of Fletcher Allen Health Care – one of the first integrated healthcare delivery systems in the country. Allen was the glue, pulling together physicians from the University Health Center, nuns from Fanny Allen, administrators at Mary Fletcher, and folks from the UVM College of Medicine. Imagine trying to bridge those many different interests, and to honor the pride of each player in the piece of that complicated puzzle that he or she represented. There was no road map, but Allen got it done.

Here’s a little story that embodies Allen.  One Sunday afternoon he was at home reviewing the pending federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1999 – because apparently that’s what lawyers do on a Sunday afternoon! He discovered a set of special provisions to increase Medicare reimbursement rates for hospitals serving rural communities by aligning them with nearby metropolitan areas.  It entailed a complicated body of work, but by the next morning Allen had drafted a provision that ultimately classified Chittenden County as part of the Greater Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area.  That alignment brought $5-$7M per year in additional reimbursements to Fletcher Allen … for more than ten years.

Because there were no additional costs related to those reimbursements, they equated to a contribution of over $50M from Allen’s Sunday afternoon bemusement.  In a way that makes Allen Martin the largest donor to the Medical Center in its history.

Allen made many other important contributions to the hospital over the years. He also served as a board member for IDX Systems Corporation, Union Mutual Insurance Company, and the Vermont Law School. Not bad for an Oxford philosophy major.

We mustn’t underestimate Bonnie’s impact on the softer side of things at the Medical Center. When the McClure building was new she helped fill it with artwork, expanding eventually to Baird and Shepardson as well. She also launched the hospital’s annual calendar of Vermont artwork, which brightens many of our walls still today.

Allen and Bonnie had an enormous impact on helping the Medical Center become what it is today. We are proud to name a floor in their honor.

I also want to take a moment to thank Jenna Page. Jenna is a multi-award-winning oncology nurse who spoke last night about the impact of the new building on patient care. She told heartbreaking stories about the added burden a lack of privacy can bring to cancer patients and their families when they are already suffering so much. Jenna had half the room in tears. We were blown away by her passion and her compassion, and are grateful for the work she and her peers do on behalf of us all.

We look forward to the day the new building is open to house medical staff, patients, and patient families.


Richard E. Tarrant is the President of the Tarrant Foundation.

An Innovative Partnership

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Contributed by Lauren A. Curry.  This post originally appeared on the blog of the Council on Foundations, a national philanthropic affiliate organization in Arlington, VA.

Ten years ago this month I waddled – enormously pregnant – into a job interview with the founder of a billion dollar healthcare tech company. “I have this crazy idea about education,” he said.

Technology, he hypothesized, could make learning more interesting for students. He saw it as a platform enabling kids to learn at their own pace, pursuing courses of study according to their own curiosity. This style of self-driven, high-tech learning, he thought, would keep kids engaged, and graduate them with skills necessary in our evolving economy.

He planned to explore the idea through his foundation. “What do you think?” he asked. I thought a lot.

In my experience, philanthropy and public education had not made the most successful of bedfellows. The work is notoriously hard, and structures and nuance on both sides can hinder effective partnerships.

Even promising strategies contribute to “initiative fatigue” in schools, the result of constant new mandates, tools, and big ideas. An Education Weekly commentator recently observed of the term, “I hear it everywhere I go.

Compounding that weariness is an understandable frustration among some educators that their work is disproportionately subjected to the opinions, advice, and occasional interference of outsiders. Teacher and writer Trent Kays declares,

Politicians, business magnates and venture capitalists have become the educational experts now.

Some of Kays’ generalizations are unfair, but his tone strikes me. He’s speaking out for those who are in the education system every day and have made it – and its evolution – their life’s work. He continues:

Perhaps most frustrating is that there are dedicated educators and researchers who are actively trying to change and improve education. But, their voices become minimized because they’re not millionaires, billionaires or have started a company in Silicon Valley.

Ten years and $12 million into our foundation’s journey in education, we’ve attempted to draw strength both from our board’s entrepreneurial experience and from within the education community. We’re not alone in that attempt – many of those Kays criticizes have done the same, engaging scores of experienced educators to ensure respect for school cultures, professionals and daily realities as they seek to influence systems change.

For us, though, how we’ve done it is unquestionably key to our success.

In 2009, we established the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont. There, an independent team of researchers and educators is now on track to partner with half the middle schools in Vermont, supporting technology-rich learning and innovative school cultures.

I disagree with Kays’ argument that educator voices are subjugated to those of wealthy philanthropists. It’s been useful for us to consider, though, how the establishment of an independent entity grounded in the education community itself supports our goal of authentic, effective, peer-driven innovation.

And what have we achieved? A longitudinal study is now underway, but discreet pilot results are compelling. Researchers observed a 21.2% decrease in male absenteeism after just one year. Students, teachers and parents have further reported improved engagement, participation, behavior, and core academic outcomes – all harbingers of later academic and earnings success.

To put a finer point on it, my venture capitalist boss declares simply: “it’s a home run.”

                                                                                                                                   

Lauren A. Curry has been the Executive Director of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation since 2005.

 

A Great Day

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Contributed by Lauren A. Curry

Most days in this job are pretty great. Today was extra great.

This morning I watched as Rich and Deb Tarrant announced a second $5 million investment in Vermont kids. The funds will go to the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont to support up to 60 new partnerships with middle schools statewide over the next five years. The Institute works with schools and teachers to create learning that is technology-rich, personalized, relevant and – most of all – engaging for today’s youth.

As a professional, that’s a pretty exciting moment. It’s as a parent, though, that I find myself most grateful for this extraordinary investment.

More than 9 years ago I sat down for a conversation with Rich and Deb Tarrant. I was meeting them for the first time, and was interviewing for a position with their new foundation. I was also 8 ½ months pregnant with my first child.

Rich asked me during that conversation what I thought of an idea he had to use technology to modernize education and improve learning opportunities for kids. Our discussion was exciting and, while I confess to focusing a bit much on the challenges involved, Rich’s passion and determination were compelling.

Not long after, I had a job offer … and a baby. And the Foundation had a new partner: Dr. Penny Bishop and her remarkable team at UVM’s College of Education and Social Services.

In 2006, after a long hot summer spent huddled around desks with a gifted group of teachers from Milton Middle School, we piloted our first student cohort. In 2009, with both Edmunds and Manchester Middle Schools on board, we formally launched the Tarrant Institute.

The Foundation’s gift to create the Institute was the largest in our history – by a lot. It marked a major turning point for us as an organization. Today marks an even bigger one. Rich told the audience gathered at the press conference this morning that we are “doubling down”, investing a further $5 million in a strategy that works.

Which brings me back to my perspective as a parent.

That beautiful baby boy born those many summers ago is now a 4th grader. He is smart, creative, and sometimes a handful in class. He thrives on technology. He is one of many kids who I think would chafe in a traditional middle level classroom. And he – along with every kid – deserves to learn in a setting that values his individuality, challenges his intellect, puts relevant tools in his hands, and positions him for success in his life ahead.

I am grateful that my son’s school and so many other middle schools in Vermont now have the opportunity to draw on the expertise, resources, and supportive partnership of the Tarrant Institute. Thank you Rich and Deb.  Thank you Penny.  Thank you to all of the wonderful, committed educators who bring this work to life.  As Rich said, “writing the check is the easy part … without these people we would be nowhere.”

You can listen to the complete press conference here, including remarks from a remarkable young 7th grader at People’s Academy in Morrisville. Educators can learn more about partnership with the Tarrant Institute at joinus.tarrantinstitute.org.

                                                                                                                                               

Lauren A. Curry has been the Executive Director of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation since 2005.