On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, students and faculty gathered to celebrate the dedication of The Cleveland Student Leadership Center. The Center, housed on the bottom floor of the Athey Academic Center, is named in honor of Barbara and Tom Cleveland, Hill class of 1964, in recognition of their extraordinary generosity in support of the School’s leadership programming.
The Cleveland Leadership Center provides student groups such as SGA, Honor Council, Student Activities and clubs, Prefects, and Captains with a dynamic and comfortable space for idea sharing, training, and mentorship opportunities.
Head of School Zack Lehman P’16 ’18 offered opening remarks, in which he thanked the Clevelands for their support and provided guests with a glimpse into Tom’s background, and why the Center bearing the Cleveland name is so meaningful and fitting.
Mr. Lehman noted that as a student Tom’s teachers observed him as a “person with a true sense of purpose who used his knowledge wisely,” and a leader among his peers as a varsity swimmer, dormitory prefect, and writer for The Hill News. These traits would go on to serve as guiding principles in both his studies at Yale and later in his career.
In the early 1990s, as owner and CEO of his family’s business, H.O. Penn Machinery Co., Mr. Cleveland’s leadership skills were really utilized as he took the company from the brink of closing it’s doors to high-performing by implementing a “managing by values” system into all company operations. Though it took years, ultimately H.O. Penn went on to achieve its goal and became nationally recognized for its major role in the rescue, restoration, and recovery efforts in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. The transformation of H.O. Penn Machinery and Mr. Cleveland’s leadership later became the subject of a Yale School of Management Case Study.
“How fitting, then, this dynamic center for the development of student leaders bears the Cleveland family name,” said Mr. Lehman. “May its purpose always be a place for idea sharing, mentorship, values, and growth as students prepare to take on important positions of leadership within the Hill community and beyond.”
Mr. Lehman then introduced SGA Co-President Sarah Jiang ’22 to offer her thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland on behalf of the student leaders.
“Since the start of our academic year, the Cleveland Student Leadership Center has been an ever-busy area of productivity; whether it be the councils working together, advisers mentoring leaders, or individual work,” shared Sarah.
“Printed on the Center walls are the words: empathy, honesty, integrity, and service. These values have been instilled not only in our leaders, but also in the entire student body,” said Sarah. “Empathy, when we take care of our community and extend a helping hand and endure hardships together; honesty, when we uphold the honor tenets of the school; integrity, as we support each other in times of need and success; and service, shown by our leaders who step up and work to do our part for students and shown by our gratitude to the faculty, and shown to you Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland, in gratitude for the space you have provided us to make a lasting impact on this community.”
Then, Mr. Cleveland, clearly moved by the ceremony, took to the podium to share a few words with the group.
He first noted his pride for The Hill in all it has done to develop great leaders and continued commitment to teaching leadership. He then recounted a very specific memory of his time at Hill – November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was shot. He remembered the devastation of his assassination as the president was someone whom he greatly admired and considered a great leader.
“We must stop focusing on what we are owed and instead focus on what you can do to make things better,” said Mr. Cleveland, recalling that sentiment expressed in Kennedy’s famous, “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You” inaugural address.
“It will take good leaders to make the world better, and it all starts with Hill’s motto ‘whatsoever things are true’,” said Mr. Cleveland.
“I didn’t understand our motto fully when I was here,” admitted Mr. Cleveland. “We focus on truth, but truth is part of a larger Philippians verse that serves as a call to action to be extraordinary and excellent in all we do to make this world a better place.”
The ceremony concluded with a celebratory ribbon cutting with the Clevelands, Amy and Zack Lehman, and student and faculty program leaders.