Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration Matt Sheehy will leave the College to take the position of Chief Financial Officer at Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, beginning Aug. 1, Vice President for Finance and Administration Fred Puddester announced in the March 31 Daily Messages.
Since he graduated from the College of William & Mary, Sheehy has worked in higher education, including positions at George Washington University and Carnegie Mellon University. “It has been an amazing journey to this point and I have learned a tremendous amount from colleagues, faculty, staff, students, and mentors along the way,” he said.
Sheehy joined the College in June 2013, taking on a role unlike any that he had previously held — that of the Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration (AVPFA). The AVPFA serves as a partner to many operational areas and in many cases collaborates with other senior staff on topics such as energy procurement, sustainability, and risk management.
Sheehy said he appreciates that his role encompasses a broad range of responsibilities. “I love the fact that some days I’m talking about real estate, sometimes I’m talking about childcare, sometimes I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with the [Williams Inn], and some days I’m working at the testing facility,” he said. “It’s really one of those roles that doesn’t have a defined operational responsibility from day to day. You can really be involved in so much, and the role has evolved over time.”
The role of the AVPFA has changed significantly over time, but especially in the past 16 months due to the pandemic, Sheehy said. Part of these new responsibilities include co-chairing the COVID-19 Operations and Business Continuity Committee with Puddester. The committee meets bi-weekly to “continue to improve functions on campus, review and recommend changes to guidelines, and act as a sounding board for faculty, staff, and student concerns,” Sheehy said.
Though the pandemic has added significantly to his responsibilities, Sheehy said he has found a silver lining in this change. “I think what [the pandemic has] done is it’s really elevated how interconnected so many things are,” he said. “When we think about bringing students back, you have to think about dining and housing and transportation and academic support, and all those kinds of things. The ability for us to all get in a room and talk about all those things has really elevated everybody’s role at the College because everyone is so much more mindful now.”
In addition to becoming more connected with his colleagues, Sheehy said he found that he was able to become more connected with students throughout the pandemic as well. Whether it be checking people in at the testing site or bringing packages directly to those in quarantine, he said he has had more chances to interact directly with students.
“I think that’s what’s so great about places like Williams — the ability to connect with students,” Sheehy said. “I’m not supporting them from a financial aid perspective, and I’m not in the classroom teaching, but being able to support a student even in a small way, for me, has been really rewarding in weird ways.”
Sheehy has played a pivotal role in the College’s planning and operations in regards to the pandemic, according to the Daily Message announcing his departure. “His leadership in the college’s response to the pandemic was extraordinary, ranging from planning major logistical alternations to campus operations to loading students luggage at arrival,” the announcement said.
According to Director of Human Resources Danielle Gonzalez, the College does not yet have a timeline for the search for Sheehy’s successor. “I imagine we will likely wait to recruit this position until the new VP of Finance & Administration is identified so they can inform the search process,” she said, referring to Puddester’s intent to retire at the end of this academic year as well.
President Maud S. Mandel has said she will chair a committee to search for Puddester’s replacement, hopefully by the time Puddester departs in August.
“I think it’s a really exciting time to have a new [associate] vice president coming in,” Sheehy said. “There’ll be some bumps along the way, as people figure out what to do with some of the things that I’ve been integral in. But Williams is a fabulous place. They’re going to find somebody else.”
Sheehy also left behind some advice for his successor, advising them most of all to be patient. “I think it’s easy to run around and feel like there’s so many issues to deal with,” he said. “Being able to prioritize and understand what you can is important. I think patience is the biggest thing — not getting distracted by the noise.”
Sheehy’s last day at the College will be June 30. Before then, the College hopes to create opportunities to recognize Sheehy’s service to the school, according to the Daily Message. “I’m not unaware of the fact that the next 90 days are going to fly by pretty quickly,” Sheehy said. “And that’s both nerve-racking and exciting.”
“This was a very tough decision for my family, as we love Williams and the Williamstown community,” Sheehy said of his choice to leave the College. “There was not one factor that influenced us in making this decision. It involved a lot of conversations with friends and mentors, and, ultimately, the opportunity to join another extraordinary institution much like Williams was the deciding factor.”