Priscilla McCord Interview
This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Priscilla McCord. She is going to talk about Hotchkiss School, Town Hill and the merger with Indian Mountain School, and the Northwest Center for Family Services and Mental Health, the boards of Family Services and Chore Service. Today’s date is April 5, 2022. This is file #9, cycle 5.
JM: What is your name?
PM: Priscilla McCord
JM: What is you birthdate?
PM: May 17, 1950
JM: Where were you born?
PM: New York City
JM: How did you come to the area?
PM: My husband went to Salisbury School and he just loved the area so much. When we were looking for a weekend house, this was one of the first places we looked. We found one of the greatest houses in 1990.
JM: Wonderful! When did you become full time Salisburians?
JM: You started volunteering ASAP?
PM: I came up here and I worked. My first job was at Hotchkiss School.
JM: When did you start with Hotchkiss?
PM: 1994 I started.
JM: Who hired you?
PM: Bill Appleyard
JM: What was your title?
PM: Assistant to the Director of Alumni Relations.
JM: How long did you work there?
PM: for 3 years
JM: Did you work for Rusty Chandler? (See his interview) 2.
PM: He was Alumni Director. When I first started in the office, he was not the director, there was another one. But then during my time there, he changed over and was Alumni Director for about one year and then he went to become Interim Headmaster.
JM: You said you organized reunions. That must have been a chore.
PM: It wasn’t a chore: it was complete fun.
JM: You enjoyed it.
PM: Yeah I did.
JM: You said something about putting 12 reunions together?
PM: Yes, we decided that trying to put all these classes together all the time was just way too much. We consolidated the reunion process representing 12 classes with over 600 people attending a three day event. We kept the 50th reunion separate, and at the time I think the 25th was kept separate too.
JM: I am skipping over Sharon Hospital where you used to work. Then you went to work at Town Hill.
PM: I did 1999 to 2004
JM: What was your title there?
PM: That was a good one: I was the Office Manager of the whole school, and assisted the Head. It was really just he and I. Later one they hired an Admissions person, but not for a while. We were on our own. It was a really fun job, running the whole school. I was very involved with the kids.
JM: Who was the gentleman whom you were assisting?
PM: Bill Osier
JM: Then Nancy Elting became Head
PM: She came on as Interim Head. It was during her time (one year) that she felt that it was very important for Town Hill to merge with Indian Mountain School. And so they did
JM: Town Hill is Pre-k to 4th grade?
JM: Now Indian Mountain School is Pre-K to 9th grade.
JM: When did the merger take place? 2003?
PM: Yes about 2003 3.
JM: Now if you were organizing reunions at Hotchkiss, and then you went to Town Hill where you were doing everything.
PM: Pretty much
JM: You did day to day, alumni, parent,
PM: Yeah everything
JM: You are a jack of all trades.
PM: Parents organizations, but it was really fun. Grandparent’s Day, Art Day.
JM: Yeah but you are dealing with little kids, but that is fun with little kids. It is harder with adults.
PM: I of course dealt with the parents too who were one the board, and the parent organizations. Some of my greatest friends are from that time.
JM: It is a wonderful organization and a great way of getting to know people. It gets everything to work together. That is very important.
PM: I actually never wanted to leave, but the merger changed the job. I felt that I would be there now with all the little kids who would come back to see me.
JM: Then you went to work at the Northwest Center for Family Services and Mental Health. That was 317 Main Street, Lakeville which is next to the Methodist Church.
PM: It was.
JM: Where is it now?
PM: It is non- existent now. They sold that house and it became a private residence (Bob Douglas owns it now Ed.) They then went to building across the street from the Boat House that Mr. Owens built. It now has quite a few different businesses with it. Right now it is Ellen Walker. When they were across from the Methodist Church the business was struggling financially: they were acquired by another company called Community Mental Health Affiliates. They are located in New Britain. It really changed.
JM: It would. When you worked there, who was the head of it?
PM: Donna Campbell was my boss.
JM: You worked there how long?
PM: I worked there a long time, about 8 years.
JM: 2004 to 2012
PM: I think that’s OK. 4.
JM: You had some interesting responsibilities. You had a barn dance as a fund raiser. Tell me about that.
PM: I was the Director of Development and also the Event Coordinator. The event that we put on yearly was to raise money. That was our biggest fund raiser. The first one that I did was a barn dance in Sharon at a wonderful couple’s home. They are no longer living there. It was packed. A lot of hay bales around, we had a good little band, a lot of dancing. It was fun. It was my first and it was a little, not the best but they became better and better. They fund raisers were always well attended.
JM: Yes anything in this town that is a worthwhile cause; the fund raisers are well attended.
JM: You had a special one because you thought it should be located at the facility.
PM: Everybody always looks for another place to hold their event. I felt, “What are we doing?” I want to remind people about why they are coming to an event. The best way is to bring them back to where it all began. So we put it in the driveway of the Northwest Center, but we put on a play. The play was held in the Methodist Church. They were so kind to let us use it. We put on a play based on Gail Sheehey’s book about the difficulties of caretaking and caregiving and how important it is for that caregiver to get her own help. There was a passage from one of her books: it was presented by Ed Herrmann, Sam Waterson, Star Herrmann, and Jill Clayburgh. We did this 45 minute play: it was spectacular. Then we had the dinner next door under a tent.
PM: Yeah, it really was.
JM: I’ll bet that raised a lot of money.
PM: It did. I am a big underwriting person so we always raised a lot of money ahead of time so that we go into the event in pretty good shape.
JM: Not then, but in the same time period you were on the Board of Family Services. (2007-2009 Ed.)
PM: Yeah I was because the Mental Health Director at the time Randy Dwenger, he is now in town as a psychiatrist, he and I both were on the board at the same time. They did a bi-annual event. That was really my purpose.
JM: You also said that one of your friend’s was Kim Fiertz (See her interview) who was also on the board.
PM: One of my good friends. She asked me to help out and I said<”Absolutely!” I met her at Town Hill.
JM: All things are related I guess. Chore Service you joined that board in 2010. 5.
PM: I was trying to figure it out because it was either 2010 or 2012 when I joined. Yes it was 2010.
PM: Because I needed help for my mother when she was trying to live independently. I had quite a few workers. They were all outstanding. It did not work out for my mother to live independently. I thought that this is the greatest organization.
JM: It is.
PM: It went on to be run by the President of the Board Lee Daves. It was Lee Daves he was there until 2 or 3 years ago. He did an outstanding job. He treated it like a business, a full time job. So we all rose to that. We rose to the challenge.
JM: Because you are an event planner, you were responsible for the garden parties.
PM: Yeah along with Lee. He would try to find a garden for us with parking. We always have had so far beautiful venues. There is an Executive Director (Jane MacLaren, see her interview) so I am always helping the Executive Director. I am not doing actual hard stuff anymore.
JM: You are an assistant.
PM: That is how I like it.
JM: Do you like what you do?
JM: It is obvious, in your voice, and the tone that you really enjoy it.
P<: Because I love this town more than anything. My first moment living here full time, in 1994, it was my first day at Hotchkiss which was really eye-opening. I am from New York City so I thought it might be on that level. That was not even close. I rode my bike that day after work on Salmon Kill Road, and I thought, “I don’t think there is a more beautiful place in the entire living land.”
JM: I have heard that a lot. Is there anything you would like to add before we close?
PM: Other than that. I still think it has the most beautiful, wonderful people. Everybody is willing to help one another.
JM: That is the essence of Salisbury. Thank you
PM: Thank you!