A conversation with Bob Broudo about his Landmark journey
Bob Broudo is a living symbol of Landmark School. He is a founding faculty member, has served in almost every role during his tenure at the school, and has led the school as head of school since 1990. On January 15, 2021, Bob announced that he would be retiring from this role at the end of the 2021–2022 school year, and we recently sat down with him to reflect on his 50 years at Landmark School.
What is your fondest Landmark memory?
“Wow, there are so many memories, but I am always moved by my memories of opening day in September of 1971. It was like watching a rocket ship go off. There was a sense of excitement, opportunity, hope, amazement, commitment...a sense that we were starting something brand new here that had never been done and would change lives. We all had so much passion. People were putting in 120 hours each week just so the school would be ready. Many of the things that took place on the first day of class in 1971 still take place today related to our teaching methodology, student profile, mission—even traditions like Milkbreak.”
How did you attract students to that first cohort?
“In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, there was significant new information and awareness about dyslexia. Dr. Charles Drake, Landmark’s founder, opened the Reading Research Institute, a diagnostic testing center in Wellesley, Mass., and there were other testing centers such as at Children’s Hospital. Frustrated by the lack of appropriate services and programs for students diagnosed with dyslexia, Dr. Drake ran remedial summer programs in Maine in various locations, including Camp Deer Trees, Bates College (which is where I went to college and how I met Dr. Drake), and at Hebron Academy. Many of the summer students and “word of mouth” produced the first cohort of Landmark students (40 on opening day!)
Who influenced you most in your life?
- My mother. When I was 13, my mom died at the age of 39 from Hodgkin's disease. She was, and still is, my social and emotional guide.
- My dad. A non-judgmental, creative, passionate, pragmatist
- Dr. Charles (Chad) Drake. He opened the door for me and so many.
- Fred Hammond. My high school track coach taught me about achieving potential and leadership.
- Jeff, my college roommate, opened doors I hadn’t thought of.
- Thursday night Newburyport men’s group from the late ‘70’s to the present day. Too much to say, but they are brothers forever.
- Native American Chief, Little Bear. He helped me understand what is and what is not “my medicine.”
- Larry Silver, M.D. A leading mind in the field of learning disabilities and a very wise, humble man and friend.
- Nick Lopardo. From day one, we were always on the same page with a sense of “Yes, we can!”
- Nelson Mandela. He never doubted his sacrifice and made a difference in the world.
- Abraham Lincoln. He was a unifier during the most tumultuous time in our country’s history.
- Jack Kornfield. The Buddhist author taught me that when you have multiple paths, pick the one with your heart on it.
- Rumi. I love the Persian poet’s simple basic enlightening truths.
- Mary Oliver. Nature, nature, nature, nature, nature!
- W.H. Auden. His poem, For the Time Being, changed my life.
- Massachusetts General Hospital taught me about trust, faith, letting go, and priorities.
- Maida. Taught me about that higher power of love on earth that I was always digging for.
What do you plan to do after you leave Landmark?
“My last year as head of school will be the academic year of 2021–2022. The new head will take over at the end of June, 2022. Landmark will always be part of my life, and I will stay involved to work on specific important projects for the Board and the Landmark community. I am also looking forward to having time to write, volunteer with meaningful non-profits and the City of Beverly, and do some traveling with Maida.”
What has been the most significant change in the school since 1971?
“This change has come from the outside—mostly in the form of neuroscience and the validation and insight it has provided for our work. We designed programs based on hypotheses and then experience. Neuroscience advanced us and helped us get to the next level.”
What do you hope your legacy will be?
“To be able to outrun any student up the hill until I retire (he chuckles). Seriously, I hope my legacy will be to help build and support our human capital so that we can support our faculty and help more kids with language-based learning disabilities.”
What about Landmark has made you most proud?
“Landmark articulated early on what our mission would be and the specific profile of our students for whom we designed our programs — and we stuck with these two basic tenets. Over the years, we’ve developed and refined our programs but never watered them down. During the recession of the early ‘90s, our enrollment and finances took a huge hit. We labored over the difficult decision to reject approximately 120 applicants that would have helped our bottom line—but we knew we couldn’t serve their needs based on our mission and student profile. As hard as that was, I’m really proud of that. If you have a blown out knee you go to an orthopedic doc, not a generalist. We are specialists and it’s helped us stay strong and help more kids.”
What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
“Continue to take advantage of opportunities. Assess them and choose them carefully as they come to you. Check in to see what’s in your heart and if it’s wrong—don’t do it. And one more thing. You are not going to be able to change the world—but you’ll make a difference.”
What is your one wish for Landmark’s future?
“Maintain who we are—the Mission.
Sustain Landmark by making sure the business works, allowing the school to go on forever.
Expand our impact to reach more students and families.”
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