January 30, 2014

You Had Us At “Hello!” - Announcing the Retirement of Mari Engle Friedman

Mari Engle Friedman
The first time I visited Friends’ as a candidate for Head of School, I was guided on a delightful tour of the campus by our wonderful Director of Admissions, Mari Engle Friedman. Every one of our families who is currently at the school has enjoyed a similar experience.  In fact, all prospective families for the past sixteen years have been introduced to the sights and sounds of Friends’ School by this kind and gentle soul.

This past August, Mari came into my office to let me know that this 2013-14 school year will be her last.  I am saddened to announce that Mari will be retiring this summer.

I am however also extremely happy for her that she is choosing this path and will be enjoying the next stage of her life without the long hours that her position at Friends’ demands, with multiple exciting opportunities ahead of her.

Mari came to Friends’ in 1998 with great experience in independent schools.  For sixteen years, she has been the first impression for those interested in our school. And what a first impression she makes!

For most of us, Mari’s sweet soothing voice, her articulate explanations of the Friends’ School philosophy and the application process, her incredible attention to detail, her extraordinary listening skills, and her friendly vivacious nature are all we needed.  She had us at “Hello!’

Mari grew up in rural southern Ohio, the daughter of a high school creative writing teacher and a librarian.  She did her first work in private schools in Coral Gables, Florida, at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart where she was assistant to the Head of School and where she was introduced into the world of admissions.

After several years, and a move back to Colorado, Mari landed a great job at Colorado Academy as assistant to the Upper School Head, where she also worked closely with the Admissions Department, as well as the college counselors. Mari loved being at CA and was there eight years. However the commute from Boulder eventually became too taxing. She began helping a friend with his acupuncture business here in Boulder. Meanwhile Friends’ School was growing and finding itself in need of an Admissions Director.

My predecessor, Polly Donald, called up her friends at CA to enquire if they knew someone who might be a good fit for Friends’.  They recommended Mari and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mari’s first work at Friends’ was not only in Admissions, she was also in charge of the summer program, enrollment contracts, financial aid, record retention, and marketing. At the time, Friends’ did not have a full-time business manager so Mari also supported Polly with some of the school’s business and administrative work. At the time, the elementary school was under-enrolled.  With Mari aboard, the admissions numbers climbed very quickly.

In the time that she has been with the school, Mari has seen significant changes.  She has never forgotten that parents always have a choice when it comes to schools. Over the years, she has seen parents become more knowledgeable and inquisitive when they are learning about our school. In the information age, she knows that parents who tour with her have already done their homework in a multitude of online venues: our website, social media, and websites like greatschools.org and the Yahoo group ‘Boulder Rockn Moms’.

While Mari no longer runs the summer program (she handed that off to Kathy Sherwood years ago!), and the business office has grown to take other tasks off her plate, she is still heavily involved in all aspects of school life.  She still knows everyone who has been a part of the Admissions process with her.  And if you have recently been on one of her tours, you know how she still keeps the tours fresh and alive – even after hundreds and hundreds of tours over sixteen years.

All of us at Friends’ are exceedingly grateful for all that Mari has done for the people of Friends’ School since 1998. As she heads off into the sunrise (her home is exactly due east of the campus!), we wish her all the very best.

Markiah and Mari at a Friends' School auction
Mari is planning on doing plenty of gardening in retirement, and spending lots and lots of time with her beloved husband, Markiah – they married in 2006.  Markiah and Mari own a small poetry publishing press, Liquid Light Press, and are planning on building on their portfolio of published books.  She will be spending more time volunteering with an organization that she’s been involved with since 1977, Words of Peace Global. Mari is also interested in supporting caregivers who have family members with Alzheimers’ and working with baby boomers to help them understand the importance of health and preventative care. That all sounds to me like an extremely busy and fulfilling retirement!

Mari has also promised to be available to her successor here at Friends’. We will be advertising for this position in the next couple of weeks and will appreciate your support in spreading the word.

In the coming months, we will all have several opportunities to express our gratitude to Mari and all that she has meant to our children, our families, and our school.  We still have a few months in which to enjoy her exceptional company.

Thank you, Mari, for everything.  You had us at “Hello!” 


Sandra Shevlin said...

Mari is great, we have really enjoyed getting to know her over the past year and feel greatful for all her help, she's a gem and this school will miss her, have a wonderful retirement!

Jessie Vanden Hogen said...

Mari is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met...both inside and out.
We will miss you!

kristinsong33 said...

I so appreciate Mari's presence. Very peaceful, loving and generous. You will be missed, Mari! Thanks for all you have done for Friends' and for your amazing gift of friendship!