Ed Cissel: A Life Well Lived

On Wednesday, June 17, Head of School Andy Abbott wrote the following letter to the JBS community, sharing the sad news of former Head of School Ed Cissel's passing:

Last night Ed Cissel died peacefully in Little Compton, Rhode Island, where he and his wife, Jane, retired in 1986 after a 19-year run as head and first lady of Burroughs. Jane predeceased Ed in February 2016.

Ed came to Burroughs from the Pingry School (New Jersey) when we needed a strong leader. Following two heads who served over a relatively short time period, his first task was to solidify a coherent and stable community and build parental and staff confidence—and he did that primarily by investing in people.

He strengthened the faculty by acting on the belief that to attract and retain good teachers, the school needed to offer equitable pay for men and women as well as support for continuing education. He also gave teachers opportunities to design their own curricula.

He is responsible for some of the school's most valued traditions. He launched the Drey Land program, masterfully negotiating a cost-free lease with Leo Drey '34. He broadened enrollment by doubling tuition aid. He encouraged students to engineer a new form of self-rule, resulting in today's Student Congress. He instituted Senior May Projects. And arguably the greatest of them all, he inaugurated daily assembly.

During his tenure, he also strengthened the school's financial position and the campus. The annual giving program grew from $84,000/year to more than $550,000/year, and the endowment rose from $250,000 to almost $10 million. The campus expanded with the construction of a fine arts building on the east side and a sports and performing arts center on the west side.

These are just a few examples of what Ed Cissel achieved at the helm. He touched everything and everyone. He was fair, warm, innovative, responsive—and much, much more.

Last month, Ed celebrated his 99th birthday. By any measure, he led a full and giving life, but his death came all too soon.

More will be said in the next Reporter, but for now, please join me in celebrating a life exceptionally well lived, remembering how one person made a powerful and indelible mark on our community, and extending our sincerest condolences to the Cissel family.