2011: Ellen "Nelly" Sheehan
Service without ego, caring with no agenda, team play with enthusiasm, injury with “I’ll be back,” heart with an even playing field as its guide — all are retrospective images of a long and honorable tenure.
The warm and welcoming smile, the soft pink in the cheek, the shy demeanor are the first external impressions of a resilient, creative, hardworking, energetic, compassionate, and faithful woman, a woman who has served Foxcroft School for twenty-two years as the Director of Riding, as a school person par excellence, and as an ear to students and colleagues alike.
As the Director of Riding, her long service has generated a myriad of successes and legacies. Her reconnection with the Middleburg Hunt, a Hunt co-founded by our own Miss Charlotte, was a coup. The opportunity for riders to shadow the Huntsman, the Whippers-In, or the Masters is exceptional and unparalleled in other schools. Her research, her travel, and her negotiations to establish an exchange program with Stonar, a girls’ boarding school in Wiltshire, England, not only expanded international opportunities but also represented a Foxcroft first — a formal exchange program. Now in its sixteenth year, Stonar served as a role model for the other exchange programs which have followed. Foxhunting in Ireland may be the “pièce de résistance.” Legendary for its difficulty, this challenge is not for the fainthearted. Not surprisingly, by the second of nine trips, the Master from County Limerick Foxhounds exclaimed, “Ah, the lady from Virginia with all those brave girls.”
Stateside, our Director of Riding led her riding teams to three championships in the TSEL (Tri-State Equitation League) and to an outstanding finish at the Ohio Team DeVille. A grateful parent wrote, “The trip to the Ohio Team DeVille was yet another ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ experience that Foxcroft has given our daughter ... the girls rode beautifully as a team and as individuals ... the School’s incredible staff consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty … thank you.”
Fittingly, former students recommended her at the end of their freshman year in college for inclusion in Who’s Who Among American Teachers for both 2004 and 2005. The criterion for this honor is simple yet profound: “Making a difference” in the life of students. Those girls would probably cite not only the riding lessons, shows, and events but also her banana bread and her endless bus/van driving.
And yet she found time to serve the whole school as a member of the Judicial Council, the Curriculum Committee, and many ad hoc committees and as an advisor to scores of girls. Outside Foxcroft’s gates, she represented the School as a member of accreditation teams, thus evaluating other riding programs. Here, there, and everywhere our blushing yet stately lady has put others first.
The Board of Trustees and Mary Louise Leipheimer, the Head of School, honor Ellen Chester Sheehan’s outstanding service by presenting her the School’s highest award, the Anne Kane McGuire Distinguished Service Award.