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Fred Colson, Chief Financial Officer

FredColson, Chief Financial Officer

The Lasting Lessons from a Joyful Career

Having announced my retirement at the end of this school year, I have found myself in moments of reflection recently. I remember my first visit to Belmont Day, for a day of interviews, on May 8, 2017. I found a nurturing and magical place. During my drive home to northwestern Connecticut that day, I stopped along the Mass. Pike service area. While sipping coffee, I jotted down several pages of notes from the interviews. Every few lines, I wrote, “I hope BDS is not too good to be true.” I was energized and hopeful but a little cautious about what the future might bring.

During this school year, I have not only found myself reflecting on these past six years but on the entirety of my career. This is the 36th year I have worked either as a finance director or consultant to nonprofits. I have been a part of many wonderful organizations across the country that contribute to the well-being of its participants, from healthcare and mental healthcare to faith-based services and, of course, education.

I am reminded, at this time of change in my life and career, of the amazing book, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow. Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and Zaslow was a writer for the Wall Street Journal. Many professors give a final presentation as they end their careers. When Professor Pausch was asked to give a “last lecture,” he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His beautiful and inspiring lecture was turned into a best-selling book and has been viewed online over 21 million times.

In the spirit of Professor Pausch and all the last lectures, I would like to share a few things I have learned along the journey of my career. During my career, my goal has always been to leave our world a little bit better than I found it, one stop at a time.

One of my treasured memories as a boy was being a member of the Boy Scouts of America. As a young scout, I learned the scout motto, “Be Prepared.” Along the way, the scout motto helped me as I worked to attain the rank of Eagle Scout. But more importantly, that motto has guided me through the myriad of responsibilities encountered in my career. I have only been successful when I was prepared.

I am old enough to remember typing financial reports on a typewriter. I don’t know how many sheets of paper I tossed when the column of numbers went askew because I hit the spacebar one too many times. Being introduced to a computerized spreadsheet to prepare a financial report was a game changer. Quite frankly, I was ecstatic when I learned not only could I line up the numbers but also add that column of numbers with one simple formula. With each new skill learned, I started to say, “There must be a better way.” That became my mantra. It pushed me to keep improving, keep searching for excellence and efficiency in my work. Always look for a better way.

As a young adult in the working world, I was rather shy and introverted. I would attend a business networking event and stand in a corner, hoping someone I knew would show up because talking to a stranger was frightening. About 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to take a class in improv comedy acting. Although the class had only eight sessions, it was life-changing. The experience unlocked something in me that has brought me great joy. The freedom to be comfortable in a crowd opened doors for me that I never expected. Be willing to reinvent yourself when necessary.

My role as a chief financial officer has often been intense and stressful. Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to work for organizations in healthcare and, specifically, mental health. Working in a caregiving environment taught me that when the going gets tough, it is always time to ask for help. Sadly, there is still a stigma in our society around the idea of seeking help, especially for mental health. Do not be afraid to seek care for yourself when times are rough.

I have worked with kids as young as our pre-kindergarten students through their college years. Sometimes they might veer off the beaten path in high school or college and try some risky things, or worse. But what I have always found true is that kids who are raised in a home filled with love and a solid foundation will get through those challenging times. Do yourself and your children a favor, and love them unconditionally.

These are but a few of the thoughts that have crossed my mind over these past eight months. In a few short weeks, I will leave Belmont Day and head home for the next chapter. My only regret is that I wasn’t 20 years younger on May 8, 2017. As I leave, though, I can say BDS is truly the magical place I encountered that day. Thank you for letting me be part of this community. I am certainly going out on top.

FredColson, Chief Financial Officer

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