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The end of the 2020-2021 school year at Eastern Christian School marks the end of an era. Head of School Tom Dykhouse will be retiring after 14 years of distinguished service. The entire school community owes Mr. Dykhouse a debt of gratitude for leading our school through changing and challenging times and positioning us well for the future.
A lifetime commitment
Mr. Dykhouse’s connection to EC started before he was even born. He represents a multi-generational Eastern Christian School family. His father served on the Board of Directors. He met his wife Linda as a student at EC. All three of his children graduated from EC. Tom and Linda’s grandson Bryce is a proud member of the EC graduating class of 2034. After graduating from EC in 1976, Tom went on to graduate from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a degree in Economics. He then embarked on a successful career at Guy Carpenter & Company in international reinsurance for 27 years, working at the World Trade Center in New York.
9/11: A life (and career) altering event
On September 11, 2001, two hijacked airplanes crashed into the twin towers. One of these planes hit the exact space where Mr. Dykhouse’s firm was located. In this era of his career, Tom was a global traveler and was fortunate to be overseas on that day. But this tragic event saw him lose 295 friends and colleagues on impact.
After years of helping to “right the ship” for his office and team- including years of commuting to Connecticut from NJ while his company’s new NYC headquarters were rebuilt, Tom felt the call to pivot from his business career back to Eastern Christian School. He had been following in his father’s footsteps- serving the EC Board of Directors (as president) at the time, and the school was looking for a new type of Head of School.
He was hired for the role as Head of School in the summer of 2007.
An Era of Innovation
Tom inherited a school in decline. The school had taken on large debt. The facilities were in a state of disrepair. School enrollment had been on a decline for over a decade. The board of directors was in an era of management, not governance. It was not uncommon for minutes from the meetings of the Board of Directors to include conversations around replacing light bulbs. There was legitimate talk about closing one of our campuses and contracting.
Tom knew that we had to innovate our way out of this spiral. And he went right to work.
He worked with the Board of Directors to help them restructure from a management body to a governance body. He also restructured the administrative team to “Get the right people in the right seats on the bus.” Together with this team, he initiated capital campaigns to help fund campus improvements on all three sites. He worked with the finance team to review and improve faculty compensation and benefits packages to ensure that Eastern Christian School could hire are retain some of the best teachers in the field of Christian education.
Almost all improvement efforts cost money. Walking the tightrope between offering an excellent Christian education and keeping it affordable to families of a wide range of socio-economic standing is difficult. So Tom became an expert in long-term institutional sustainability. He has the school on a debt retirement plan. He helped to create several successful businesses that support the mission of our school, including Ditto thrift store and Eagle Solar Energy Company. He oversaw the implementation of Variable Tuition to ensure that excellence and affordability were still possible to EC families.
Not surprisingly, as the school climate, culture, facilities, and programs began to improve, the educational marketplace responded. Enrollment grew. Prior to his arrival, enrollment had been in a decade-long decline. Now, enrollment was up over 150 students from when he started. Never one to stray from the neighborhood roots of our school, Tom initiated Project Hope, a program for students in Paterson, Haledon, and Prospect Park who couldn’t afford EC tuition. Today, over 24 EC students are a part of our school as a result of this quiet program. A number of others have graduated our school thanks in part to Project Hope.
A National Profile for EC
Throughout these efforts and many successes, Mr. Dykhouse helped to elevate the profile of Eastern Christian School to that of a national level. Other Christian and private schools regularly visit our campuses and meet in person and virtually with administrative team members in order to glean expertise and practical advice about leadership in the field of Christian education.
What’s it like working with Tom?
We surveyed some of Tom’s closest professional colleagues at EC to find out what it’s like working with Tom. Here’s what they had to say:
What’s it like working with Tom?
What are some characteristics that you admire in Tom?
Describe Tom Dykhouse in one word.
Personal Service to Other Organizations
Throughout this jam-packed career at EC, Tom Dykhouse always used his position of leadership to serve in a wide variety of Christian institutions in areas of education, church, finance, and health care. He is Board Chair of both the Christian Schools International Pension Fund and Calvin University’s Van Lunen Center, an organization that helps to train and educate heads of Christian schools. He serves the Christian Reformed Church as a Pension Fund Trustee. He serves as a Trustee at Christian Health. He has also served on the Barnabas Foundation Board of Directors.
What’s Next for Tom Dykhouse?
Perhaps, not surprisingly, someone with Mr. Dykhouse’s skill set, experience, and drive doesn’t plan to sit quietly and ride off in the the sunset. He’ll continue to support for Eastern Christian School as our first ever Head of School Emeritus. This means that our community will still benefit from his vision, experience and wisdom even after his official term is complete.
He will also transition into a position of Leadership to benefit all of Christian education: Tom will be serving as Co-CEO of Christian Schools International in a joint role with friend and colleague Glenn Vos (former Holland Christian School Superintendent).
He also very much looks forward to some more flexibility of his schedule and more time with Linda and his grandkids!
What’s Next for Eastern Christian School?
Tom passes the baton to his hand-picked assistant Head of School, Ruth Kuder. He has long said that the most important mission we can strive towards is the training up of the next generation of Christian young people to be people of vision and influence for the Kingdom of God. This is precisely the type of leader our school community has in Ruth Kuder. We’ll have an interview with our new Head of School posted in this space shortly. Stay tuned!