More About Our New Administrators
Courtney Archer-Buckmire was named as the Director of Advancement at Grace in April 2020, replacing the irreplaceable Joyce Kuh. Previously, Courtney was the Director of Major Gifts at Poly Prep Country Day School from which she graduated. Before returning to Poly she was Director of Annual Giving at Chapin and Associate Director of Annual Giving at the Ethical Culture Fieldston Schools. This gives Courtney the unique position of being a student then a colleague and now a colleague again of Hugo Mahabir, Head of High School at Grace.
Of her appointment, Courtney said, “I am thrilled to join Grace and honored to be Joyce’s successor. No one can replace her and 30+ years of experience. I hope to build on her great successes as we strive to make Grace its best self. Through the many Zoom meetings this spring, I met different facets of the Grace community and it was clear, even through video, how special Grace is.”
Courtney began her independent school career as an Admissions Associate at Trevor Day School. She is a graduate of William Smith College who has been active on the boards of organizations important to her and has shared her advancement skills generously. She is on the board of the Sylvia Center, and she has been a member of the board of trustees and alumni council of Prep for Prep, of which she is also a graduate.
We are very excited to welcome Courtney to Grace. Everyone she met was very impressed by Courtney and felt that she is just the person we need to lead our advancement efforts in this new era for Grace.
Courtney is a native New Yorker and lives in Brooklyn. She is a first generation American, and her family is from Trinidad and Tobago. Courtney lists her obsessions as cooking and recipe tasting, Caribbean literature, yoga, emerging artists, gummy bears and spending time with family in Tobago. She studied writing and rhetoric at William Smith College and is a classically trained dancer, having studied and trained for 25 years.
Susan D. Austin
Susan D. Austin was appointed as the new Chief Financial Officer at Grace Church School in December 2019. Of her new role as CFO, Ms. Austin says, “I am excited to be a part of a community that values both traditional academic excellence and social diversity. Each is critically important to developing world class leaders of the future. Although my role is behind the scenes, it is important to me to be with a group of colleagues who share similar values and hopes for our future.” Prior to joining Grace, Ms. Austin, who holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from Stanford Graduate School of Business, was a Senior Managing Director at Brock Capital Group. She continues to serve on the boards of numerous companies, such as NextEra Energy Partners, Prudential’s Insurance Funds, Broadcast Music, Inc. and Hubbard Radio, as well as not-for-profit institutions the MacDowell Colony and educational institutions such as The Caedmon School and The Brick Church School. Previous experience includes tenures at Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers.
Randall Flinn was appointed the Interim Head of the Lower School at Grace for the 2020-21 school year. Randall comes to us from the Convent Of the Sacred Heart School on East 91st Street where she was Assistant Head of the Lower School since 2011. While at Sacred Heart she was a co-founder of their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and came to visit us on several occasions. She also provided crucial leadership in curriculum development at CHS and was a part of their admissions team. She was also a classroom teacher and a literacy specialist at PS 212, a public elementary school in Manhattan established by Bank Street School For Children, that emphasizes integration, collaboration and project-based learning. She has an M.Ed from Teachers College, Columbia University in Organization and Leadership, an M.Ed in Early Childhood & Elementary Education from NYU, and a B.A. from Pitzer College.
Elsa Hepner was appointed Head of the Middle School in February 2020, succeeding Carol Collet. Ms. Hepner has been a member of the faculty at Grace since 2012 serving as a Latin teacher in both the Middle and High School divisions. Before Grace, she taught Latin at Staten Island Academy and at a public middle school in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
In addition to being a standout teacher at Grace for the past eight years, she has been a leader of the faculty and involved in the life of the school at many levels. She is the faculty representative to the Board of Trustees and has served as a member of many committees, including work on faculty evaluations, scheduling and design learning. She also coaches Middle School girls soccer.
When asked about her appointment Ms. Hepner said, “I knew the moment I walked through the door that Grace was truly an exceptional place. What I did not realize was that over the next eight years, it would become my home. I am so excited to transition into this position of leadership and invest myself further in the community that I so love. It is an honor to be following in Ms. Collet’s footsteps. I will work each day to carry forward the spirit and culture that Ms. Collet instilled in the Middle School as I address what the future holds.”
Ms. Hepner is a home-chef, who enjoys exploring different cultures through the lens of food. She loves spending her weekends with her husband, Olivier, and her two children, Nora and Elliot, going to the farmer’s market, reading, and running in Prospect Park near their home in Brooklyn. Ms. Hepner completed a Master of Education from St. Joseph University in 2009. She completed a B.A. in Classics at Trinity College in 2008.
In announcing Ms. Hepner as the next Head of Middle School, Mr. Davison said, “What makes her the best candidate is that she is a warm, caring, thoughtful, thorough, and persistent person. We have been blessed to have had Carol Collet at the helm of the Middle School for the last 32 years, and Elsa is the perfect person to not only keep the warm humor and care that Carol has shown every day but also to lead through the challenges of the next generation.”
Kallan K. Wood
Kallan K. Wood was appointed the Dean of the Class of 2023 in August, 2020. She began working at Grace in the College Counseling Office in 2014, and throughout the past six years, she has taught full time in the Literature department, teaching 9th grade World Literature, developing new courses for 11th and 12th graders and served as an Advisor for the classes of 2017 and 2021.
In addition to her work as an academic teacher, Ms. Wood is one of the founding members of the Safe Space Advocates, founding member of the team that created the MLK Jr. High School Student Symposium, co-leader of the Senior Peer Leadership program and faculty advisor to Multi-(G)racial, the high school’s multiracial affinity space. This school year she began a three-year term as the faculty representative to the Board of Trustees.
When asked about her new role, Ms. Wood said, “I believe in creatively fostering intellectual curiosity, developing critical thinking skills, centering equity and inclusion, as well as creating meaningful relationships with students, faculty and the community at large. I am looking forward to bringing all the above to bear as Dean of the Class of 2023.”
On her view of her role as an educator, she said, “I believe it is important for all students to feel and believe that they are deserving of engaging with all material. As a Black/biracial woman, I feel it is paramount to model how to talk openly and comfortably about my own identity and experiences and how they figure into my academic pursuits and school life; this in turn, allows me to ask the same of my students. It is vital to create a learning environment where all students are able to bring their full selves into the room, just as I do.”
As a member of the 2019-2020 NYSAIS Justice, Equity & Diversity Institute, Ms. Wood was able to further her work as an anti-racist educator. “This program has been valuable in helping advance my expertise in how to lead professional conversations and has given me a wealth of resources and access to colleagues engaging in high-quality work at other schools.”
Ms. Wood holds a B.A. in English and History from Williams College and an M.A. in Philosophy and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her K-12 years were spent in a Waldorf School. Originally from Los Angeles and a very proud Californian, she has called New York home since 2012. She enjoys eating dumplings and desserts and sometimes doing absolutely nothing at all.