The 2022 Alumni Leadership Award was presented to longtime Suffield Academy faculty member and Suffield graduate Brett Vianney ’70 on May 2.
Associate Director of Development Adam Pistel ’08 introduced the award, saying, “It’s incredibly fitting that a school that places such emphasis on teaching leadership skills honors alums who have made a significant impact on the world both within and beyond our community... Mr. Vianney’s presence in the classroom and on the fields—where you can see how much working with students means to him—is irreplaceable, and the impact of the legacy he leaves behind when he retires this year will remain for years to come.”
Dean of Academics & Faculty Sara Yeager and Head of School Charlie Cahn both spoke about Mr. Vianney as a Suffield student and faculty member. Ms. Yeager said, “Brett Vianney is a man of infinite kindness, wisdom, and Tiger pride. Simply noting his forty-two year teaching commitment to Suffield demonstrates his selfless devotion to young people. Most impressive is that he’s always thinking of others and how he can make our community a better place.” She even quoted some of Mr. Vianney’s former students, who said things like, “I can write because of you,” and, “I hope one day I’ll inspire and touch a student much as you have done for me.” Mr. Cahn spoke about Mr. Vianney’s years as a Suffield student, where he had great success on the wrestling team, and about how Mr. Vianney offered Mr. Cahn his first job at Suffield in the English department. He said, “Simply put, Brett’s dedicated, encouraging, and inspirational teaching profoundly impacted many, many Suffield Academy students. As a faculty member, he has made a historic, truly significant impact on the school and on the lives of others.”
After accepting this year’s Alumni Leadership Award, Mr. Vianney took to the podium to answer several self-posed questions. First, he spoke about why he chose to attend Suffield Academy as a student. This initially had to do with the baby boom and overcrowding at his local public high schools, and was also influenced by Suffield’s new pool and strong wrestling team. At Suffield, he found his niche as a wrestler, a proctor, and as both an English and geology student. He next addressed why he became a teacher at Suffield. After returning for his ten-year reunion, he was alerted to an opening in the English department. Within two weeks, he had accepted the position to begin teaching in the fall of 1980. “During the 1980s I discovered how much I truly loved being a teacher,” he said, "sharing my passion and knowledge with my students.” Mr. Vianney has held many positions at Suffield including English department chair, wrestling coach, and riflery coach, and is the recipient of the Pervear-Kinne Prize and the Richter Award for excellence in teaching. But Suffield has always been more than a job for Mr. Vianney. Eight years after he began teaching, the next phase of his life began when he met history department teacher, Molly, who would later become his wife. Then in the mid-90s, his daughters, Grace and Caroline, were born. For his final question, he spoke about why he stayed at Suffield Academy for forty-two years: in short, wonderful colleagues and friends and a love of teaching. He said, “It is the comments I have received from students, and even their parents, sometimes during the year, sometimes right after graduation, and sometimes years later telling me how I impacted their lives... I feel truly blessed to have been part of the Suffield Academy community for forty-six years. It has been a very, very special lifetime.”
To view the full ceremony, please visit our livestream page.