Bringing Her Heart to School: Director of College Counseling Amy Baumgartel Singer is Honored with the 2024 Trustees Award

April 23, 2024

Amy Singer holds the Trustees Award alongside Head of School Allison Gaines Pell.
Director of College Counseling Amy Baumgartel Singer (right) holds the Trustees Award alongside Head of School Allison Gaines Pell.

Director of College Counseling Amy Baumgartel Singer ’89, P’20, P’24 doesn’t like to talk about herself or have her photo taken…so she was a bit hesitant when we told her we wanted to do a story about her receiving this year’s Trustees Award, which is bestowed annually upon someone who has given an extraordinary amount of themselves to Wheeler. “To be honest, I’m still recovering!” she said when we interviewed her several days after she was honored in a surprise ceremony. “It’s a thrill, and it was completely overwhelming. I had no concept that I would even be considered for this. I know all of the folks who have received this award before me, and they’ve made such legendary impacts on the school or continue to make legendary impacts, I didn’t feel that I was in that league. I just do the job the way it’s supposed to be done – I do it the way I would do it for my own children. And that’s what our whole office does, frankly: we’re a kids-centered office and a family-centered office.”

Ms. Singer and her College Counseling colleagues have been centering students and families since she returned to Wheeler 26 years ago, and then began as the office’s co-director two years later. She had returned to Wheeler from Wellesley College, the same institution she attended after graduating from Wheeler. She was working in the college’s admissions office after several years of consulting and earning a graduate degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “The opportunity to come back to a place I loved and people I loved was tremendous,” she remembered. “To work for a school whose mission I believe in deeply felt like I had won the lottery, and my husband, Adam, was also really excited about it. We moved to Rhode Island to make that possible, because I think being here means something to all of us. Doing the job is one thing, but it’s being part of this community that is a benefit that is outrageously rewarding, great, and fun.”

Head of School Allison Gaines Pell P’23, P’25 talked about Ms. Singer’s commitment to the community when presenting her with the Trustees Award. “Amy sees Wheeler as an institution and as a collection of people. She sees Wheeler for all that it is – its striving, its imperfection, its beauty, its deep values, its commitment to becoming and remaining humble, student-centered, grounded, and full of heart. In hard moments, Amy stands with and for Wheeler, and in triumphant moments, she celebrates but reminds us of our duty to continue to keep the flame of ambition alive.”

That ambition has meant finding the best college and university “fits” for more than two decades-worth of Wheeler students and their families. Each journey is a personal one for Ms. Singer and the College Counseling team, and each of those individualized journeys requires a great deal of time, talent, and care. “It’s a privileged moment to be involved in a student’s life as they’re transitioning to their first ‘quasi-adult’ role in the world,” Ms. Singer reflected. “I always joke that in our jobs, the only thing we don’t do is show up at Sunday dinner, and that we sort of become part of the life of the family…I just want them to feel as well-matched for the next thing that they’re going to do as they felt here. That was certainly my experience as a student. On the evening I received the award, I said that my parents did all the sacrificing they did because in their minds and hearts, they believed Wheeler was worth it. Not because it would connect me to a specific future but for what it is on a daily basis. That’s what still matters to me, the lived experience of being a high school student here or being a colleague here.”

The College Counseling team poses for a group photo outside.
College Counseling team members (left to right) Ms. Singer, Associate Director of College Counseling Ann Sexton Foye, College Counseling Administrative Assistant Dana Watkins P’19, Co-Director of College Counseling Michael J. Geller, and Student Support Coordinator Rose Phildor P’28.

In her remarks about Ms. Singer, AGP also praised Ms. Singer’s teammates. “Amy has built, over her years here, one of the region’s top college counseling offices, known for our ability to deeply see, know, and support our students, and then to match them with places that will help them soar in their journey beyond Wheeler,” AGP said. “She leads by modeling this laser focus on students, and in so doing, helps all our students (and their sometimes anxious parents) navigate a big life transition and its attendant triumphs and disappointments. Over the years, she has worked alongside incredibly talented college counselors, and as a leader, Amy sets the tone with an exceptionally high standard of care, and her deep love of and commitment to Wheeler, its values, and its mission.”

As she accepted the award, Ms. Singer said it was especially meaningful to have her parents in the room. “It meant so much for them to see that sending me – and my brother and sister – to Wheeler was an investment that was worth it, both for the education I received but also for the career that has allowed me to turn around and support hundreds of other Wheeler kids and their families. In addition to my parents, my husband was there, my daughter, Hannah [’20], was there on FaceTime with my siblings, and my son, William [’24], was there, which was lovely. This place has been our home in so many ways.”

Ms. Singer also emphasized that her faculty and staff colleagues have been central to building that sense of home, whether for her or for students and families. “While the College Counseling office receives a lot of attention for what comes after Wheeler for each student, I think we are just another layer of impact, actually. Long before students get involved with our office, it’s our colleagues who’ve had the material impact. They’ve helped to grow students’ minds, their values, their way of being in the world, and who they aspire to be. I like to say we just helped students find the next zip code to do that in. So when we work with our students, we ask them questions like, ‘Where can you take your talents?’ and ‘How are you going to be answerable?’ We tell them, ‘You can be answerable in a big place, in a small place, in an urban place, or in a suburban location. But where are the right places for you to use your powers?’ Wherever they choose, we are just the culmination of all of that impact. It’s the faculty and the kids who really make that happen. We help load the ship up and send it out, but we haven’t actually created the person. There’s a lot that goes into this process, and it involves a lot of people beyond me and my team. I just do the work the way it’s meant to be done – with heart. I bring my heart to school every day. I don’t know a different way to do it.”

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