Former Head of Schools Susan A. Nelson Receives National Honor
Webb life trustee Susan A. Nelson, who led The Webb Schools as head of schools for more than two decades, has been awarded the 2022 Ruzicka Compass Premier Leadership Award by The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS).
The award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the excellence, advancement and success of boarding schools. It is named for the late Steven D. Ruzicka, TABS’ executive director from 1995-2007.
“Steve was a phenomenal human being, and to be a recipient of the award that bears his name is a little overwhelming,” Nelson said.
Nelson joined Webb in 1988 as head of Vivian Webb School. In 1991, she was appointed the first female head of The Webb Schools, which encompasses Vivian Webb School, Webb School of California and the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. Programs launched under her leadership transformed the campus and the boarding program and significantly strengthened Webb’s endowment.
“I loved every single thing about my work at Webb. I loved the people, I loved the passion,” Nelson said.
When Nelson arrived at Webb, the institution had only recently launched the Vivian Webb School and structures for managing the two schools had some challenges. Among her accomplishments was helping to guide the schools to a new operational model that ensured both schools would thrive.
“Webb’s ability to face challenges and stay true to its mission over 100 years is part of the reason for today’s success,” Nelson added. “Like all such extraordinary institutions, it’s about the people, and Webb has been blessed with amazing people.”
Head of Schools Taylor B. Stockdale worked with Nelson as director of institutional advancement and assistant head of schools before succeeding her as the campus leader in 2011.
Stockdale nominated Nelson for the award.
“Susan Nelson is one of the bravest, most courageous people I’ve ever met. To me that is the essence of who she is,” Stockdale said. “She inspires people around her to march up the hill, if you will, and really take on the really difficult work, but to do so with a sense of joy and a sense of pride.”
Nelson joined the TABS board in 2006 and served as chair from 2012 to 2018.
She also has served on the Secondary School Admission Test Board, the advisory board of Cal West, the Claremont University Consortium Board of Overseers and the Claremont Hills Conservation Corporation.
She was vice chair of the California Association of Independent Schools Secondary Board of Standards and the accrediting team chair of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Nelson’s two sons are graduates of The Webb Schools.
TABS created a video celebrating Nelson’s achievements.