7,228 Days of Perspective: The (Sometimes) Forgotten History of Bosque School

Doug Key, Assistant Head of School for Admission and Financial Aid
(In 1999, Doug Key became Bosque’s first 11th grade United States History and 12th grade Modern History teacher. In 2002, he was appointed the school’s second Head of Upper School, serving in that role for 14 years. Since 2016, Doug has been the Assistant Head of School for Admission and Financial Aid.)

When I arrived at Bosque’s first campus at Menaul and Wyoming in 1999, I was energized by the school’s optimism and ideals. Undeterred by the aging classrooms, there was an unassailable determination that this ambitious school would provide high-level academics and a compassionate community. This was the original vision of the founders and continues to inform our mission today.

There are only eight remaining faculty and staff who remember when we opened our current campus in January 2000—Eduardo Aleixandre, Cathy Bailey, Chris Barr, Sheryl Chard, Dan Shaw, Katie Shaw (a 6th grader at the time), Cindy Suppona, and myself. With the number of veterans shrinking and new leaders increasing, it is important—in fact, essential for the school’s future—to embrace Bosque’s past. As I depart this summer after 20 years to become a head of school in California, I offer three enduring Bosque School values to illuminate the journey ahead.  

First, the school’s founders insisted that we offer a challenging and engaging curriculum. Peggie Ann Findlay, the name that appears on the Performing Arts building and who is considered our principal founder, described our academic program as “cool but hard.” We even wore buttons with this slogan. Many of our signature programs emerged from this idea: BEMP, Seminario, Medical Reserve Corps, and Senior Thesis, to name only a few. Recently, middle school Inquiry Projects were inspired, albeit unknowingly, by the same belief. Even though it might sound trite, “cool but hard” infused our academic goals in the past, and I am sure will continue to guide our scholarly aspirations for the future.

Second, we have always been educational entrepreneurs. Because we were the newest independent school in Albuquerque, we had to innovate and wisely manage our resources. Additionally, the faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees have always exuded a palpable passion for the school’s mission. Our passion—and resilience—have been our most important entrepreneurial characteristics. Many probably don’t realize that a local neighborhood association in 1998 successfully opposed our first attempt at a westside campus near Alameda and Rio Grande. And, because of the heroism of local firefighters, we survived the devastating 2003 bosque fire that came within 100 feet of the school. But we never wavered. Against enormous odds, we have built a nearly 25-year history of achievement: constructing a one-of-a-kind campus, prudently managing our finances, creating a network of unsurpassed community partnerships, and sending forth 18 successful classes of graduates. Certainly, to continue to flourish, Bosque will need to borrow from the school’s reserves of passion and resilience as it enters a new phase of its history.

Finally, our well-known culture of warmth is partially a product of our gratitude for those who first created our school two decades ago. It is difficult to describe how risky it was in those early years for faculty, parents, and students to have faith that our vision was viable. But they did. If you walk across campus today, you will come across names from the past that symbolize this faith: Wood and Weber Fields, Budagher Hall, the Barr Court, the Rod & Mary Kay Pera Science Center, and the Gerald & Betty Ford Library. Before you enter the library, I suggest you stop to read the often overlooked plaque to the west of the entrance. The plaque honors parents who laid every brick of the patio on the south side of campus in 1999 and 2000. Without the commitment of the early supporters of Bosque School, we would not exist today. Unlike some schools, we did not have a single benefactor to fund our startup; instead, Bosque School has always been a grassroots effort. One of my favorite anecdotes is the story of our first mascot: it wasn’t a bobcat but a giraffe because, as Peggie Ann Findlay stated, everyone “stuck their necks out” to establish the school.

Of course, Bosque School must adapt to change. The school faces different challenges than it did two decades ago. However, if the Bosque community can continue to embody the school’s long-standing ideals—promoting a curriculum that is “cool but hard,” viewing the future through the lens of an entrepreneur, and remembering those who poured the foundation of the school’s culture—it will be honoring the vision of our founders.