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Unsung Hero: Alex Smith, Besant Hill School

By Net Assets posted 11-19-2018 09:16 AM

alex smith

Leadership |

Smith implemented a regular risk audit, which spurred his school to raise limits on fire damage just 15 months before a devastating wildfire. His tireless efforts enabled campus to reopen one month later.

The Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award is given to business officers who have made extraordinary contributions to their schools and exemplify exceptional integrity, knowledge and motivation. At the end of each school year, new Unsung Heroes receive their award from their head of school, often at a significant school occasion such as a board meeting or an all-school ceremony. What makes these Unsung Heroes so special? The highlights below come straight from their colleagues' nominations. 

See a full list of the 2018 recipients. Stay tuned to for additional profiles.

Title: Chief Financial Officer

School: Besant Hill School, Ojai, California

Years in position: 13

Years in an independent school business office: 13

Superpower: Facilities guru: Smith took the lead on several new construction projects including a visual arts center, four  housing facilities, and a pool and aquatics center. His "thoroughness and expertise has resulted in a unified campus 'look' [made possible] by stretching a dollar in many different directions. " He also streamlined dining, maintenance, technology and health while adopting best practices in each department. "His leadership has completely transformed the operational and financial practices at Besant Hill School." 

Governance whiz: 
As leader of the finance committee, Smith revamped board reports to make them timely and filled with relevant detail. "His attention to key benchmark areas that the head of school and board can focus on, discuss and analyze has been critical to the financial success of Besant Hill over the last few years."

Master risk manager: Smith implemented a regular risk audit and assessment of school insurance policies, which led to increasing the school's limits for fire just 15 months before the Thomas Fire destroyed nine buildings on the Besant Hill campus.

Tireless advocate:
 "The Thomas fire began on December 4, the buildings were lost on December 5, and the roads back to the campus and our land were reopened on December 10. On the 11th, we had the full force of a vendor cleaning every building, dorm room, student’s belongings, faculty home, classroom, etc. This process took daily work until January 7, and our students returned on December 8 to a pristine and clean campus, which did not have a hint of smoke, soot or ash. [Smith] worked through the holidays and New Years, with many late days, to accomplish this goal."

See a full list of the 2018 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the fall — check in to learn more about other recipients. 



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