Susan Esau can be proud of the record she compiled during a little more that a decade as executive director of the Lawrence Schools Foundation.
Esau announced last week that she would step down from that role after the foundation’s annual Community Education Breakfast in September to join her husband in the real estate business. The community should wish her much success in her new career, but her shoes will be big ones to fill at the schools foundation.
During Esau’s tenure the foundation’s two signature events — the Community Education Breakfast in the fall and the Foundation Follies in the spring — have grown in stature and community support. The Lawrence public schools alumni Esau has booked as featured speakers for the annual breakfast are a source of inspiration for both the school district and the community. Among them have been Alan Mulally, who soon will step down as president and CEO of the Ford Motor Company; David Booth, chairman and CEO of Dimensional Fund Advisors; Srinija Srinivasan, a former executive at Yahoo; and other impressive former Lawrence public school students. This year’s speaker will be Roberta Smith, a 1965 Lawrence High School graduate, who is co-chief art critic at the New York Times.
The community breakfast not only is a great way to showcase the quality of students the Lawrence public schools turn out, it also is part of a fund-raising strategy that has seen increased success under Esau’s leadership. The news release announcing her departure, noted that the foundation had raised more than $4 million in direct contributions during Esau’s tenure and nearly doubled the direct support the foundation provides for early childhood education, grants and awards for teachers and student scholarships. In 2013, the foundation generated more than $715,000 and provided nearly $216,000 in grants, $25,000 in cash awards and $58,000 in scholarships that affected more than 2,800 students and teachers. The foundation also manages the Lawrence Education Achievement Partners, which provided in-kind volunteer hours and contributions valued at more than $1 million in 2013.
That kind of support makes a huge difference for students attending the Lawrence schools. Esau likely would be the first to deflect credit for that achievement to all the foundation’s donors and volunteers, but an energetic executive director, who builds confidence in the foundation’s mission and competence is no small piece of the puzzle. During the last decade, Esau has taken the Lawrence Schools Foundation to the next level. We thank her for her contribution and hope the foundation board will find a successor who will take the organization to even greater heights.