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Unsung Hero: Charles Breslin, Dana Hall School

By Net Assets posted 11 days ago

Breslin Unsung Hero

Leadership |

Breslin reduced the school’s debt and strengthened its endowment while managing multiple successful construction projects at Dana Hall 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 2020 recipients. Stay tuned to for additional profiles.

Title: Chief Operating Officer
School: Dana Hall School, Wellesley, Massachusetts
Years in position: 15
Years in an independent school business office: 15

Superpower: Financial steward. Over the past 15 years, Breslin has helped move the school’s debt to endowment ratio from 2:1 to 1:3 while transitioning the school from a traditional investment oversight model to an outsourced chief investment officer model. “Dana Hall School is on a completely different financial footing than it was when he [joined the school], which has enabled us to envision the future rather than only worry about the debt,” said Head of School Katherine Bradley. For example, under Breslin’s leadership, the school was able to weather the 2008 economic crisis without laying off any employees, while completing a successful capital project on the student center.

Growth mindset: Breslin has also overseen the renovation of four dormitories, new faculty housing and a new turf field. He helped develop a public-private enterprise relationship that allows the school to have “home ice” for its hockey team.

Team player: “‘It takes a team’ is a phrase Charlie uses often, especially when someone is trying to praise him. Despite all he does for Dana Hall School, he never seeks accolades or sole credit for anything.” Additionally, “what others may not know, as it will be lost in Board minutes, is that he champions our lowest paid employees, and that comes from his genuine knowledge of and regard for them.” 

Unwavering dedication: Breslin was originally hired as controller at Dana Hall School before becoming CFO. When the COO retired, Breslin took on both roles to save school resources, even though it meant working longer hours, and has been fulfilling both roles for eight years. “He works as hard, if not harder, than anyone I know.” The most he has said about this during the pandemic is that “‘It feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.’ That small phrase, ‘our shoulders,’ rather than ‘my shoulders,' encapsulates Charlie’s sense of teamwork, even when it’s at the highest level.”

Leading with empathy: Breslin “wears his heart on his sleeve. He is the first to well up with tears of joy or sadness to celebrate the accomplishments of others and empathize with how others are feeling. The result is that many of our employees confide in him and seek his guidance, and his office is not a place where people feel trepidation. In this regard, he is a model for anyone in a leadership position.”

See a full list of the 2020 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. Net Assets will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the summer and fall — check in to learn more about other recipients.


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