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What sort of leader will Michael Ulku-Steiner be? Here’s what his TASIS colleagues said about him EDITOR’S NOTE: These comments were taken verbatim from a tribute book created by The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) as a parting gift for Michael UlkuSteiner, who served as dean of students 2000 to 2003 and headmaster 2008 to 2013. They provide a preview of the type of leader, administrator and person Durham Academy is getting in its new head of school. “I admired your brilliance and your perseverance, appreciated your sense of humor and your open style of communication (which was a huge help), — and last but not least was touched by your kindness and continuous patience.” — Susi Nussbaum, assistant to the headmaster “No task is beneath you and your work ethic is unsurpassed, which makes it a delight to work for and with you. You approach your job with passion, your stories and toasts are unparalleled, you are kind in your responses to our idiosyncrasies, and you temper the many whims and personalities of TASIS with incredible grace. Mostly, you are just good at your core and that makes this community a better place.” — Arrington McCoy, faculty and dorm parent “Some headmasters are leaders and some managers. Michael is the exception in succeeding in both of these roles while maintaining his sense of humor and his ability to be a fun sports buddy and a happy family man. His will be a difficult act to follow.” — Paul Greenwood, 35 years on the TASIS faculty “Michael embodies what it means to be a good leader. He leads with integrity, empathy, and a strong moral compass. He leads by example, incorporating his ideals in everything he does. This generates respect from all those who work with him. … He expects great things and motivates people to be the best that they can be.” — Jennifer Broggini, parent and board of directors “In innumerable ways — your earnest effort to learn each student’s name, your tenacious commitment to equity and fairness, your sincere dedication to service, and so many other ways, you exemplify

what it means to be not just an educator, but a member of this community. It has been an honor and a delight to work alongside you, and it has been an inspiration to learn from your example.” — Courtenay Mastain, faculty and dorm parent “He actively looks for genuine opportunities to interact with people and establish sincere connections.” — Jennifer Blum, faculty and administrator “Michael is one of the calmest administrators I have known. I’ve never seen him lose his temper. He is 15 years younger than I am, but I have still relied upon him as a mentor. One of his greatest strengths is the number of tasks he is able to accomplish in a limited amount of time. Many have marveled at this ability.” — Nyman Brooks, head of TASIS elementary school “Michael is the kind of person who always finds the time to answer your requests. He makes everyone feel like he or she is the most important person in the world at that moment. He never failed to tell us that each one of us is an important member of the TASIS family. … And as I wonder about what lies ahead, I will think back to his wise words, words that I repeat to myself always in times of stress, ‘It will all work out!’” — Francesca Mueller, administrator with 20 years experience at TASIS “Michael is an all-around Superstar at school administration. His energy is always apparent, always positive, always inspiring. He embraces major projects one after the other, and brings everyone in on them. Big things get done.” — Rick Bell, TASIS alumnus ’65, parent and board of directors “Michael lives his role as Headmaster with youthful gravitas and wise vision. Regardless of the topic, he remains open-minded and focused, intent on understanding the issue at hand. He unabashedly motivates stakeholders to take responsibility. I particularly enjoy his wickedly compassionate sense of humor and his pragmatic temperament steeped in humanism. Michael’s superb communications skills and penchant for transparency have opened doors and paved ways.” — Alexandra Heumann Wicki, TASIS alumna ’80 and board of directors “When asked to describe you I have always said you were the best communicator I have ever

experienced, oral or written. Your storytelling is unique and ever so visual.” “Whether for the Board or for any other part of the TASIS community your ability to present all sides of a case in order for you and those concerned to be able clearly to understand and therefore agree on the best decision has proven its value time and time again.” — Jan Opsahl, TASIS alumnus ’68 and board of directors “Perhaps most impressive about your achievements is that you always give credit to others. Your management style is collaborative, inclusive, and consensusbuilding, thus creating a team spirit which brings out the best in your colleagues. However, you do not shy away from taking a stand in the School’s interest, even if it may be considered controversial by some segments of the community. You lead by example and are personally connected with the students. How you are able to memorize the names of all the students in the HS/MS in the first two weeks of the school year is remarkable. Your class visits and feedback to teachers are legendary. You are an educator in every good sense of the word. Your natural instincts and moral values drive your decision making. Above all, you have the ability to raise the bar and set expectations which everyone wants to meet. That is the ultimate test of an effective leader.” — Fernando Gonzalez, former faculty and administrator, currently on the board of directors for TASIS and the TASIS Foundation “Michael has preached and taught us the value of transparency. When facts are shared with all stakeholders, better outcomes are almost a certainty, for the result is increased input of potentially good ideas, improved understanding of the nature of both the problems and opportunities we face, and eventually more ‘buy-in’ to decisions ultimately reached. Moreover, it is Michael’s very nature to share credit. I am always struck that in his public utterances, spoken and written, he goes out of his way to compliment others and acknowledge their contributions. His personal modesty and generous spirit, plus a notably judicious and thoughtful temperament, contribute not a little to his success in team-building. At the same time, Michael does not fear to confront promptly, fearlessly, fairly, and directly issues of both policy and personnel when problems arise in the community. But he can always be counted on to do this in a professional manner with superb interpersonal skills.’” — Berkley Latimer, former TASIS administrator and board of directors



The Record (Summer 2013)  

The Record is Durham Academy’s biannual magazine.