31 Years as an On-Campus Servant Leader

Jonathan and Debbie Oleisky watching the 2024 eclipse from the campus of Garrison Forest School

When I tell people that I’ve been an on-campus faculty spouse (yes, that’s a mouthful), at Garrison Forest School, a girls’ day and boarding school in Owings Mills, Maryland for 31 years I often hear, “Wow, that’s a long time.”

In 11 weeks, this wonderful chapter of my life will be ending.

My wife, Debbie, is retiring at the end of the academic year from her distinguished career teaching high school Chemistry. If you had told me just after our wedding when, at 25, I moved into her one-bedroom faculty apartment in a student dorm, that  I would be living on campus for over three decades, I would have told you that would be impossible.

The  impossible became an extraordinary journey that taught me the very foundation of what servant leadership is all about. Being part of an on-campus educational community has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I learned that helping others and serving the needs of a community are an important part of leadership. So, too, is just being a good person.

I’ve often told people that living on campus is akin to a combination of base housing meets Israeli Kibbutz. It’s all about the community.

As newlyweds we were incredibly lucky to raise our two daughters in our faculty dorm residence. With each daughter, the school added an extra room onto our faculty apartment. Sarah and Emily loved growing up in a dorm with over 30+ big sisters. Often, they were the center of attention, and from Garrison Forest’s international boarders, they learned  the value of hearing languages from around the world just outside their front door. Over the years we lived in two additional faculty residences and enjoyed the company of countless families and faculty members who were our on-campus neighbors.

The role of the faculty spouse is just one small part of a complex day/boarding school ecosystem. From communal meals in the dining hall and helping students move in at the start of the year, to supporting campus activities, my role has been to welcome, support, encourage and step in with a smile however and whenever I was needed.

This  very vantage point inspired me 12 years ago to found Kalix Marketing Group to support  independent school marketing efforts.  I created Kalix with the intentionality to give and not to take. This is the core of what Kalix does. We are here to serve a wide variety of schools around the country, independent, parochial, public and charter.  

When the last box is packed, the last pictures have all been taken down and we drive off campus for the last time as an on-campus family, I’ll leave with a profound sense of gratitude for all that Garrison Forest has done for me and my family. I am sure I will tear up as this experience has shaped both my professional and family journey. I would not have it any other way.

Thank you for such an enriching and wonderful opportunity!

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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