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Unsung Hero: Valerie Hughes, Hathaway Brown School

By Net Assets posted 11 days ago

Unsung Hero Valerie Hughes

Leadership |

Hughes helped drive innovation and set the standard for diversity, equity and inclusion at Hathaway Brown School.

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 2019 recipients. Stay tuned to for additional profiles.

Title: Chief Financial Officer

School: Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Years in position: 20

Years in an independent school business office: 21

Superpower: Visionary. Hughes’ “authentic dedication to diversity and multiculturalism has enabled Hathaway Brown to lead in this area — both in Cleveland and beyond.” Hughes helped Hathaway Brown host a national symposium that urged educators to consider how best to meet the needs of growing diverse populations. Additionally, she was key to helping create a financially sound summer program that brings 150 girls from underserved communities to campus each summer for academic enrichment. “Val inspires action and grounds these visionary ideas into financial realities.”

National voice: Hughes has served in executive leadership roles at the National Coalition of Girls Schools, the Ohio State Independent School business managers group, the Cleveland Council for Independent Schools and seven ISACS accreditation committees. Hughes’ extensive experience makes her the “go-to” person to train, orient and collaborate with new CFOs in the independent school network. “Valerie Hughes has made an extraordinary impact on the current state of independent schools in our country.”

Master project manager: Over the past 20 years, Hughes managed projects including construction of an innovation and creativity center, a collaborative learning commons, a new middle school, dining hall, IT hub and pool. Her “stellar performance record” also includes three significant facilities upgrades and two capital campaigns.

Thoughtful touch: Hughes “has been in the forefront of HB’s successful efforts to combine a high-performance culture with a loving sense of community.” As CFO, Hughes must “juggle the needs and interests of students, faculty and parents and has done so with great courage, respect and thoughtfulness — guided always by the mission of the school — for people in her care.”

See a full list of the 2019 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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