More Proctor Than Proctor Itself: Remembering Bill Peabody, P'82, '86

Posted by Scott Allenby


When our time on this earth ends, we can only hope that we did our best to positively impact the lives of others. Our hope is that as former Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees Bill Peabody P’82, ‘86 understood the scope and depth of impact he had on those within the Proctor community. His ability to inspire, to spread kindness, to encourage, to hug, to love without condition, to create, to believe in the inherent goodness of others not only shaped Proctor, but will sit at our very core for generations to come. 

Bill Graduation

Bill Peabody sharing an invocation at the Class of 2016 Commencement. 

Since 1981, when their son Mike ‘82 arrived at Proctor, Bill and his wife Betsy embraced Proctor’s holistic approach to a life-prep model of education. First as engaged parents, and eventually as members of the Board of Trustees, their ever-increasing involvement in Proctor allowed their wise, deeply spiritual leadership to help our school better understand itself. After joining the board in 1991 (Betsy joined in 1997), Bill and Betsy established the “Peabody Plan” where a couple were able to join the BOT and share a vote. They have served as co-chairs of the Education Committee for a number of years, on the Governance and Land Use Committees, and the Ski Hill Subcommittee. They were co-chairs of the Proctor Board from 2004-2007. Both grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Bill was an Eagle Scout, graduated from the Hill School, Cornell University (BA), Virginia Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Eden Seminary (D.Min.). After living in Oxford, Ohio and Englewood, New Jersey, where Bill served in parishes, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri. In 1972, Bill and Betsy moved to Hartland, Vermont to raise their family, to farm, and to practice professionally in Woodstock, Vermont. They moved to the New London area in 1992. Bill was an artist, private pilot (retired), and enjoyed skiing, hiking, biking, and caring for the land. They are the parents of three sons: Michael '82, Phillip, Woodstock High School (VT),  and William '86. Toto, their dog, has served as honorary co-chair.

Formal Shot

As former Head of School Steve Wilkins P’02, ‘05 reflects, “Some of us used to talk about the handful of people who are more Proctor than Proctor itself. Likely, those individuals and Proctor found each other because they could finish each other's sentences about core values and personal style. Bill Peabody was one of those rare individuals who was more Proctor than Proctor itself; as an Episcopal Priest, mental health professional, artist, and humanitarian he lived values of compassion, honesty, respect, and responsibility. He embodied the notion of ‘together’, he listened deeply to other's thoughts, and he was as inclusive in his leadership style as anyone in the Proctor community. In fact, the green Together banner that has hung on the wall of the Norris Family Theater since 2005 is a Bill Peabody offering. This is what Bill believed in his soul: we are more, we are wiser, we are stronger, together than we are as individuals.” 


Bill and Betsy Peabody hosted a memorable trustee, faculty, and staff retreat in 2005. 

The Peabody’s assumed their roles as co-Chairs of the Board during Steve’s final year of headship, and served as sounding boards, mentors, and guides to incoming Head of School Mike Henriques, P’11, ‘15 and his wife, Betsy Paine, as they stepped into their new roles. Mike reflects on Bill’s impact on his life and work at Proctor, “I have met few people who carry the grace, caring, and kindness that Bill Peabody carried. He carried it for all, not just those who fell within his immediate circle. He loved community and loved to see it flourish, particularly Proctor. When I started my headship in the fall of 2005, Bill and Betsy were co-chairs of the Board of Trustees and they helped the community make the transition in leadership. Bill’s down to earth practicality combined with a deep spirituality that helped the school stay centered on its mission and true to its role in the secondary school landscape. A minister, a man who could drive a team of oxen, a gifted artist, a constant giver to community, and a lover of a good hot sauna and cold swim, he was a traveler who shared his big heart from Mexico to the Northeast Kingdom. Proctor is incredibly fortunate that he was (and still is) woven into the fabric of this community.” 


Long-time Assistant Head of School, Chris Norris, with Bill and Betsy Peabody at an event in the mid-1980s. 

Head of School Brian Thomas shares, "The legacy that Bill Peabody leaves Proctor cannot be measured in the usual way. With the assistance and partnership of his beloved wife Betsy, Bill took on the great responsibility of creating a legacy of leadership in the Board chair role that has had Proctor move from strength to strength. From the highly-evolved Board of Trustees structure to the residential hall that bears the Peabody name, the school carries the maturity and gravitas of his keen eye and sensibilities. Bill will be remembered as one of the most influential visionaries the school has known, which means seeing things in a way that brought life, heft, shape, color, and dimension to all he encountered." 

Current Chair of the Board of Trustees Travis Warren '91, P'18, '19, '23 adds, "For decades Bill and Betsy set the standard. Their unique approach to leadership taught us all so much, with Bill providing a steady voice and moral compass to guide the Board through thick and thin."

Outgoing Vice-Chair of the Board Liz Blodgett Smith '81, P'13 notes, "Bill was that person that every word spoken was one you would want to hold onto. His wisdom, thoughtfulness, spunk, contagious smile and laugh will forever be in our memories and hearts. Everything he did made all of us a better person and Proctor community. We will miss him deeply, and he will forever be in our hearts and memories from the incredible imprint he left at Proctor." 

Former Board Chair (2014-2021) D. Thomas Healey, P'16, '17, '19, '21 adds, "Proctor has lost one of its most influential flag bearers. Bill was an incredibly dedicated supporter and lover of Proctor. As a Board Member, he brought grace and a steady hand to all we did. I always loved our conversations and work together. We love you and will miss you." 

Former Vice Chair of the Board Sally Downey, P'07, '10 reflects, "Bill Peabody represented quiet strength. Bill led through example . He never told people what to do. He invited people to join him and work together to get the job done. Bill was extraordinarily generous with his time and his resources and was never too busy to listen when you needed advice or guidance. He was more than a Board Chair to Proctor Academy. He was a true partner in working to ensure that the students, the faculty, the staff and the Admin had everything they needed to be successful. Oh how he will be missed." 

Former Assistant Head of School Chris and math faculty Kit Norris share, "Bill and Betsy have long been enthusiastic supporters of Proctor. So much so that they agreed to become board co-chairs at a particularly turbulent time for the school, providing a calming leadership style focusing on healing and community togetherness. They made a sustained effort to bring board members closer to the inner workings of the school –– without being intrusive. To get to know some students, for example, Bill began participating with me on Orientation and, after Orientation, continuing to make contact with his orientation group. He and Betsy worked to get to know the faculty and created active workshops to integrate faculty with trustees. Bill was a renaissance man, an ordained minister who for many years provided the invocation at Commencement. He was a talented painter; his paintings hang in many places at the school. He was also a therapist, a pilot, a camper, a canoer, a hiker, a farmer, a cross country and down hill skier, a biker, an ardent conversationalist,  but most importantly, Bill was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He is missed terribly." 


An accomplished artist, Bill's colorful, lively artwork is on display across campus. 

At the dedication of Peabody House in 2008, Bill read an adapted version of John O’Donohue’s blessing, “For a New Home” (a full copy of the blessing below). Bill was dedicating a physical space, but his offering of O’Donohue’s words spoke to a greater hope for each of our students as they entered Proctor. He understood that our job was more than to simply educate young people; it was to take them in, to love them, to help them live into their potential. He and Betsy saw Proctor as perhaps the most effective community to change young people’s lives by teaching them how to live in relationship with one another and with the natural world. As Trustees, and eventually Co-Chairs of the Board of Trustees, they brought their passion for sustainability to the school, along with a deep commitment to Proctor’s relationship with indigenous communities. They served as tremendous advocates of Proctor's Environmental Mission, leading the charge on one of the first installations of geothermal heating/cooling units in a dormitory (Peabody House) and supporting the construction of the Walt Wright '48 Biomass Plant. They championed their personal beliefs within the context of Proctor’s mission, choosing to invest incalculable time and energy into sustaining the Proctor community that has been a part of their lives for over the last forty years. As we celebrate Bill's life, we recognize his unique ability to help make Proctor a "home" for countless students and adults, and for that we will be forever grateful. 

A celebration of life will take place in June 2023. Read Bill's obituary HERE


For A New Home

by John O’Donohue

May this house shelter your life.

When you come home here,

May all the weight of the world

Fall from your shoulders.

May your heart be tranquil here,

Blessed by peace the world cannot give.

May this home be a lucky place,

Where the graces your life desires

Always find the pathway to your door.

May nothing destructive

Ever cross your threshold.

May this be a safe place

Full of understanding and acceptance,

Where you can be as you are,

Without the need of any mask

Of pretense or image.

May this home be a place of discovery,

Where the possibilities that sleep

In the clay of your soul can emerge

To deepen and refine your vision

For all that is yet to come to birth.

May it be a house of courage,

Where healing and growth are loved,

Where dignity and forgiveness prevail;

A home where patience of spirit is prized,

And the sight of the destination is never lost

Though the journey be difficult and slow.

May there be great delight around this hearth.

May it be a house of welcome

For the broken and diminished.

May you have the eyes to see

That no visitor arrives without a gift

And no guest leaves without a blessing.

The family is planning a celebration of life at Wake Robin in Shelburne, Vermont on June 30th, 2023 at 2:00 PM. 


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