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Be Bold and Discover Extraordinary Things

A Note to Buellers from Susan Steele

We asked Susan Steele, former Chief Executive Officer at the Buell Foundation and one of the founding champions of the Buell Early Childhood Leaders Network, to share what she’s been up to since retiring from her role at the Buell Foundation in 2022. She also shared her reflections on her pride and support for all of us as Buell Leaders. 

Retirement has turned out to be an adventure in a whole new world. Much of what occupies my time is familiar and urgent with my continuing work as co-chair of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission and as a board member for the Denver Preschool Program. But, I’ve also been able to find lots of fun new opportunities in the “newly available” open time on my calendar. I must confess that I am just beginning to learn how to use that time in a way that meets my own needs and feeds my soul. Never too late to learn!

As expected, my husband and I have spent a lot of time chasing fun in the sun. We are learning to “travel” (do what you want, when you want) rather than to “vacation” (highly planned with rigid timelines). It is very different and very liberating! So far, we have explored Sea Island (GA), Savannah, Charleston and Orlando on a trip in January.  February brought a week in New Orleans right after Mardi Gras. And, we just returned from a 10-day trip to Tucson, Santa Fe, Taos and White Sands National Park (of course!).

Pride for the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program (BECLP) and Network (BECLN)

The Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program (and later the Network) grew from the kernel of an idea more than 15 years ago. The emerging field of early childhood was going to need highly effective leaders from all domains of the work to ensure that young children got “off to the right start”–leading to more success in school and in life. The time was especially ripe in Colorado with all the good work that had been going on for almost 20 years. The BECLP was designed to identify and nurture those leaders. Every day I see evidence of the impact of 265+ passionate, knowledgeable, diverse leaders. Often, this involves work in advocacy or in promoting better systems at the organizational, local, regional or state level. In every case, these leaders have a toolbox of effective tools, which I believe comes at least in part from their cohort experiences in the BECLP along with the additional supports from the BECLN.  

I’m always proud to say – you know that’s a Buell Fellow!

My hopes for the BECLN in the coming years?

For me, the Network shines especially in two ways: 

  • All Buell alums can find a warm, inviting space to rest
  • Celebrate success as well as recharge for what lies ahead  

Everyone (participants, faculty and the management team from over the years) can find kindred spirits in the Network–people who care and want to make a difference.  These are people who can remind you to “Give Yourself an A” or that it is possible to “Lead from Any Chair.” They can understand that the process of change is often difficult but very rewarding (think Theory U). 

At the same time, the Network continues to provide more information and more tools in order to encourage more advocacy and more action from all Buellers. There could never be a more critical time for true early childhood believers like the folks in our Network to be participating in all the good efforts that are happening right now in Colorado. Standing up the new Colorado Department of Early Childhood and rolling out Universal Preschool are two unprecedented examples. We need people who can bring knowledge and optimism to these conversations – always acting calmly and with respectBuellers are perfectly situated at this time to be part of the success.

One thing I want each Buell Leader to know right now…

It has truly been my honor to be part of this remarkable program. I will always appreciate and value the many things I have learned from each and everyone one of you! We didn’t always agree on things, but I think we all learned to appreciate how to work with and value the other side. I hope I’ve been able to persuade many of you to be bolder – you have so much to offer. I am a big believer in being in the right place with the right people at the right time. This has happened on many occasions during my career, including my introduction to the Buell Foundation. All of us are in the right place in Colorado with exactly the right passionate, effective people in an unprecedented time. I urge you to get out of your usual “box” and try something new. You may find something extraordinary!

I am so appreciative to all of you for our time together over the years.  I have received so many wonderful notes and emails in the first few months of my retirement. Your expressions of friendship and gratitude were amazing! And a special thanks to all of you who contributed to my Kudoboard. It brought back such special memories and was just what I needed at the time. Thank you. I would love to stay in touch.