Unsung Hero: Graeme McWhirter, The Pennington School

McWhirter’s discretionary financial planning skills have helped The Pennington School reduce debt, grow the endowment and strengthen the advancement office.

Sep 17, 2021


The Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award is given to business officers who have made extraordinary contributions to their schools and exemplify exceptional integrity, knowledge and motivation. At the end of each school year, new Unsung Heroes receive their award from their head of school, often at a significant school occasion such as a board meeting or an all-school ceremony. What makes these Unsung Heroes so special? The highlights below come straight from their colleagues' nominations.

Title: Chief Financial Officer
School: The Pennington School, Pennington, New Jersey
Years in Position: 15
Years in an independent school business office: 15

Superpower: Problem solver: When it comes to financial matters involving students and their families, McWhirter “is discrete when discretion is called for, and he never loses sight of treating all people with respect and dignity,” according to Pennington Head of School William Hawkey. “Even in challenging financial times, he ‘goes to bat’ for families to make things work for them with tuition payments. When flexibility is the only answer to make a family’s financial problems lessen, he spends extra hours figuring out a creative solution. He loves to solve problems for our community, even when they are not always about financial situations.”

Financial prowess: This past year, McWhirter spearheaded a refinancing of the school's debt that will ultimately save the school over $800,000 over the next 18 years. And under his stewardship, the school’s endowment has doubled over the course of his tenure.

Positive influence: In addition to his many financial responsibilities, McWhirter also oversees school operations, housekeeping and food services. And he has “proven to be a huge help and thoughtful colleague to our admissions and advancement offices,” by managing financial aid budgets and fundraising dollars. McWhirter also leads several board committees, including those for finance, investment, audit, and buildings and grounds. “I can't think of an area where Graeme's positive influence has not been realized within the larger operations of the school,” said Hawkey.

Other duties as assigned: McWhirter regularly volunteers to staff school events such as homecoming, alumni weekend, back-to-school nights and various other admissions and advancement events that occur throughout the school year. “Graeme's collegial spirit set him apart from all other CFO's I have worked with,” said Hawkey.

See a full list of the 2021 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. NetAssets.org will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the fall — check in to learn more about other recipients.



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