Meet Chief Financial and Operating Officer David Hanson
It’s education, along with art and dogs, that really piques Dr. David Hanson’s interest. He holds a Doctorate in Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a pair of Masters degrees from the University of Florida and Emory University, not to mention a JD (as his class valedictorian) from Ohio Northern University. He also spent time studying and teaching in Scotland and Pakistan after winning two Fulbright Specialist Program Grants and studied in South Africa and taught in Croatia. But he’s most eager to return to a high school environment (he previously worked as CFO at Phillips Exeter Academy) to safely bring Branson’s high energy kids back to campus as soon as possible. David joins the school from Winthrop & Associates, LLC, a consultancy he founded to support educational institutions. He spoke with Connections about navigating the pandemic, his time in the US Army, and his love of Bansky’s art and Annie on Broadway.
What drew you to Branson? I have three passions in my life besides family: art, dogs, and education. Education is extremely important to me. I was not actively looking for a job when I discovered that Branson was seeking a CFOO. But, when I started to look at Branson in depth, I thought, wow this is a school with a really interesting past that has succeeded through many phases and identities. That told me that Branson is both nimble and progressive, and willing to evolve to be successful, which is rare. The location is obviously beautiful, but for me when I visited campus, one of the student guides said to me, “You know when I was admitted to Branson, I realized I was going to have to become a kinder person because Branson people are known for being extremely nice and kind.” I’m really big on kindness. I was raised to be polite always, and kindness is very important. So that’s kind of when it synched. I thought, “Oh, if I’m going to go back in-house to a school, this is the kind of community I want to join.”
What are you most looking forward to about the 2020-2021 school year? Getting Covid in the rearview mirror as fast as we can. I love the energy of the kids, so I want them back on campus as soon as we can get them back here safely. I think they are both energetic, brilliant and inquisitive all at the same time and high school kids are unafraid of the future. I spent 15 years in higher education, and I’ve never had more fun than working on a high school campus. So, for me, I want the entire Branson community to get through this pandemic safely and get kids back here so they can learn and have fun.
What’s something that surprises people when they learn it about you? That I was a US Army officer. I served in the United States Military as an Army JAG officer and was awarded a meritorious service medal. This usually surprises people because despite my short hair, I’m an extraordinarily liberal, New England Taoist, and most are surprised to learn I served in the military.
What three things do you bring to a desert island? So, I would bring a telephone, a jug of water, and probably a really good book. I would probably bring a book that I could read multiple times and would make me laugh and chuckle, like A Confederacy of Dunces.
Favorite creative work? In the art world, my absolute favorite artist is Henri Matisse. What people don’t know about him, because they usually see his cutouts and think about the work that became monetized after his death, is that he had a remarkable career from impressionism to modern; so he’s my favorite. My favorite living artist is without a doubt Banksy. I saw an exhibit last fall in Amsterdam and his work changes the way one looks at the world. While I do not have a favorite Matisse painting, for Banksy, there is a painting of two bobbies kissing and his anti-war works. They’re just phenomenal.
Movie/book/tv show you’re kind of embarrassed you like? This is really embarrassing. I love real estate and flipping homes, and there is a show called Selling Sunset about the real estate market in LA. It’s very kitschy and sort of bubble gum. I hate to say it, but for some reason I’m just smitten with it. I also hate to admit it, but I’m a big fan of The Brady Bunch. I was addicted to it growing up.
What music and/or artists do you consider yourself a super fan of? I’m big on Broadway. I’ve never seen a musical that I didn’t fall in love with. The first musical I ever saw was Annie. My father took me to see it when I was 11. And, to this day whenever Annie is playing close by or in New York, I go and see it. From a music perspective, I have a pretty open ear and like everything from the Cure and REM to Irish folk music to Lizzo.
What are you always willing to have a conversation/debate about? I used to say politics, but now I just don’t even feel like talking about it. So I would say marginalized communities, because I’ve done a lot of writing and work in that space and feel that we need to talk more about those in our communities who need the most support.
Dogs, I will always talk about dogs. I will talk about them all day long, as long as you want. My career goal is to become a full-time dog walker. They don’t text you at midnight asking you to read a spreadsheet. Art and dogs, I’ll always talk about them. I get distracted when I talk about them, and forget I have other things to do. I have two dogs, they’re sleeping here at my feet wondering when they get to go out and play.
What else might the Branson community be interested to know about you? I’ve lived and traveled all over the world. I have lived in Pakistan and Scotland on assignment for the US government. Vastly different experiences. Pakistan is an amazing nation, and the vast majority of Americans will never know that because of travel restrictions. I also studied the impact of apartheid on the artist community in parts of South Africa years ago. That was one of my favorite academic pursuits and took me far beyond my comfort zone, but it was phenomenal.
I’ve run five marathons and about 10 half marathons. I am not fast, but steady. I also spent many years volunteering with deaf students at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. I also know how to juggle (literally), which can help with the job!