Daniel Atwood, former Trinity Foundation Board Chair, will deliver the Marianapolis Class of 2021 Commencement address.
Atwood first became involved with Marianapolis as a parent -- three of his children attended the School. In 2006, the then Headmistress Marilyn Ebbitt invited him to join the Board, for which he served as a member of the finance committee, trustees committee, executive committee, development committee, and Board Treasurer. Atwood also chaired the search committee that recommended Joseph Hanrahan as the new Head of School. In 2012, Atwood was named Board Chair.
Atwood said that, for him, the decision to join the Board was simple. During his time as a parent, he saw a number of aspects of the School that he believed made it special, including the diversity of both coursework and students, the dedication of the faculty and staff, the many opportunities in athletics and extracurriculars, and the strong sense of community. What confirmed his decision, however, was the opportunity to help the School grow and thrive in its mission.
“I loved the mission of the School. I loved that there was good continuity in the mission of the School,” Atwood said, citing, in particular, its pledge “to educate students in the Catholic tradition of academic excellence, with a commitment to an active faith in God and a dedication to building character with content, compassion, and integrity.”
One of the things he values about his time with Marianapolis is the friendships he made and the collegiality of the Board and the administration. He holds up his Catholic faith and the importance of education and community service as some of his strongest values, and he enjoyed being around people who shared those values.
“Being on the Board is such a great experience. To be in a situation where you’re sharing a common goal with a bunch of other people whose motivation is very simply to volunteer their time and expertise, and also give financially -- I think that when you have that in common, you find other things in common with each other,” Atwood said. “Marianapolis is a Catholic school, but it’s also a place where people of many different religious traditions feel at home.”
Atwood graduated from Middlebury College with honors in 1979, receiving an A.B. in American Literature. Six days out of college, he started working at a natural foods supermarket and progressed rapidly to managing the company’s largest store.
In 1982, he joined Cornucopia Natural Foods, now United Natural Foods, and worked as a key executive and marketing architect for 28 years, during which time annual revenues rose from $2.5 million to $3.5 billion. Atwood said he felt privileged to be a part of an industry that not only exploded as it did during his 31 years working in it, but that also contributed to bringing a more wholesome diet and environmentally sustainable products to the world.
“At the same time that I was able to provide well for my family, I was also able to be a part of something that’s really important,” Atwood said.
Atwood has been married to his wife, Mary, for 40 years, and they have seven children, five children-in-law, and fifteen grandchildren. He cites his family as the thing he’s most grateful for in his life. “We both have really close relationships with all of our children and children-in-law and grandchildren, and it’s just such a delight to see them grow and thrive,” Atwood said.
After his family moved to Woodstock in 1990, Atwood volunteered as a youth sports coach, chairman of the Woodstock Board of Education, a member of the Board of Directors of the Woodstock Agricultural Society, and as a member of the Historic District Commission and the Water Pollution Control Authority. He said that much of the focus of his volunteer work in Woodstock was preserving the rural and agricultural identity and historic character of the Town, while still allowing people to live and grow. Most of all, he said community service has always been a focus in his life, and his work in Woodstock was a continuation of that.
Atwood’s passion for community service began in college. “I wasn’t sure exactly what form it was going to take, but I knew that I wanted to get into community service because I knew that we’re called to serve our fellow human beings,” Atwood said.
In the course of his 24 years with Marianapolis, Atwood has observed a number of things that he believes make the School special. He loves the mission of the School and its consistency over multiple administrations and governing bodies. He loves the dedication and care that the faculty and staff have for their jobs and the students. “Most of all,” he said, “what makes Marianapolis special is the attention the School puts into developing students as well-rounded people.”
“I love the fact that Marianapolis focuses on the whole person, on helping the students grow in mind, body, heart, and soul. It’s not just about academics, as important as academics are; it’s not just about athletics, as important as athletics and extracurriculars are. We’re not just our mind and body; we have a heart, we have a soul, and I think that’s something that Marianapolis has really focused on and that I love about it,” Atwood said.
Atwood hopes to pass along messages of hope and encouragement in his commencement address and to challenge graduates to think about the ways they can make a difference in the world, stating, “Milestones like Graduation are times at which people have a clear opportunity to step back and think about where they want to go with their lives.”