The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2018

Rob Gustavson: Celebrating 10 Years

This fall marks the 10-year anniversary of Rob Gustavson’s tenure as head of Fay School. Each winter, faculty, staff, and board members gather to celebrate the dedicated service of those members of the community who have reached five-year milestones. At this year’s dinner, both Stu Rosenwald, Associate Head of School, and Jim Shay ’78, President of the Board of Trustees, shared remarks about Rob, which are excerpted here.
From Stu Rosenwald, Associate Head of School and Director of Secondary School Counseling:
I would like to share some comments about Rob Gustavson from the perspective of someone who has been at Fay for 37 years, and who reports directly to Rob.
Rob sets high standards, and he always adheres to the principle that consistent excellence is an expectation of all Fay employees. This isn’t because he’s a taskmaster. Rather, it’s because he has faith in the fine people that he has hired, and he gives them the autonomy they deserve because they are excellent. As Bill Belichick says, “Know your role and do your job!” Rob adds, “Do it with excellence at all times.”
With this expectation of excellence as his guiding principle, Rob’s accomplishments as Head of School at Fay have been numerous.
He has overseen the beautiful transformation of Fay’s campus, from our gorgeous quad to our functional and attractive buildings. He has coordinated the opening of both the Primary School and the Early Learning Center. Under Rob’s guidance, the breadth and quality of our auxiliary programs have also improved significantly.
Across all areas of the School, Rob has established systems for planning and review that ensure thoughtful and continuous improvement. In collaboration with Fay’s Board of Trustees, he developed the 2020 Strategic Plan, the Strategic Financial Plan, and the Campus Master Plan. He has also established a process of regular and ongoing curriculum review as well as a rigorous and consistent faculty and staff evaluation pro- gram that provides regular feedback, support, and professional development opportunities.
As a member of the boards of The Association of Boarding Schools, The Association of Independent Schools in New England, and the Junior Boarding School Association, Rob has increased the profile and standing of Fay within the independent school world.
Knowing that the excellence of Fay School is directly tied to the quality of its faculty and staff, Rob has made equitable and significant pay a priority, working proactively to increase faculty salaries to the 75th percentile as compared with similar independent schools. I’m not sure that Rob has ever been given the appropriate credit that he deserves for this incredibly important accomplishment.
Indeed, fairness matters more to Rob than to most people. When something seems unethical, Rob does something about it. He’s not going to settle for something that isn’t just, that isn’t right, that isn’t fair.
Rob’s moral compass guides his decision-making as does his intelligence. In fact, Rob is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. A brilliant problem solver, Rob is able to break down complex situations, look at all sides of an issue, apply his superior logical reasoning skills as well as his solid judgment, and come to a conclusion that leads to the correct course of action.
And let’s remember that all of his decisions are made in connection with what is best for Fay students. The student experience is at the core of what Rob is always trying to improve. That’s why he insists on excellence from the faculty and staff at Fay. He wants a Fay education to be the best that it can be for our students. He wants to help our students to develop habits of mind and life skills, and he wants them to build their confidence at Fay so that they can lead meaningful lives. This is what drives Rob, and he will never let Fay rest on its laurels. He wants innovation and improvement and is never satisfied with the status quo.
As a leader, Rob strongly believes that every member of the faculty and staff plays an important role in our community. He treats every employee with equal respect and values the work they do for Fay. Rob has many talents and interests that have enabled him to make genuine connections with the members of our community. We know he is a teacher and a leader, but he is also a woodworker, a landscaper, a lover of architecture, and a hockey and baseball fan.
Rob, thank you for choosing to have a meaningful career that sets students on a solid pathway to success and, at the same time, honors and appreciates the efforts of the faculty who are guiding these young people. Your integrity, strength of character, and sound moral judgment have made Fay School a better place.
From Jim Shay ’78, P’15, ’15, President of the Board of Trustees:
When Rob Gustavson was appointed head of Fay School in July 2008, the economy was entering a period of profound recession, the independent school landscape was changing, and Fay had just embarked on an ambitious Master Plan that included the construc-tion of the Primary School and the Village Dorms. Rob was tasked with addressing a host of challenges while ensuring the continuing growth and health of the School.
Rob’s skill as a thoughtful observer and his quiet determination have proven to be perfect for Fay. True to Fay’s motto, “You can if you will,” the Board of Trustees has closely observed all that Rob has achieved and finds itself deeply impressed at how adeptly Rob has improved the quality and the experience for Fay’s students, faculty, and staff. Over the last ten years, Rob’s relentless pursuit of excellence in every aspect of the School has enabled Fay to successfully navigate its challenges. He has established long-term goals and worked carefully and skillfully to achieve those goals, adjusting to unexpected and unforeseen circumstances along the way. We recognize and support that Rob always keeps the students’ best interests front and center, even if this is not always in the best interests of the bottom line.
Rob’s many achievements include a strong and steady increase in financial aid, developed to attract the best students across all grades; a robust Fay Fund, which directly supports school operations; and thoughtful strategic plans created to ensure Fay’s continued growth and sustainability. In a time when most independent schools have experienced drastic drops in inquiries and enrollment, Fay has remained steadfast in enrolling well-matched students. The Fay “brand” has never been stronger.
Rob, our sincerest thanks and congratulations for ten years of dedicated service to Fay School. It is an honor and privilege for all of us on the Board of Trustees to work with you.

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