Some people are your leadership mentor way before they even know it.
Dave Wolk was that for me.
Long before I took on a major leadership role I watched and listened to Dave and his leadership style in the public eye. I aspired to be the type of leader Dave is, courageous and passionate to bring about important and sustainable change, but always with his feet firmly planted in the ground and with a heart full of love and compassion.
Later in my career I had the opportunity to serve with him and benefited from his kind, clear and amazing counsel. I cannot think of a better leader to now coach and help others accomplish amazing things.”
Former President and CEO
Green Mountain Power Corporation
Dave Wolk is a consummate leader, mentor and change agent. He was recently called out of “retirement” to act as an Interim Superintendent of his hometown school district during a most challenging period; I served as President of the Board of School Commissioners at the time. Dave was the logical and sound choice to lead the District during the transition period, and the Board and staff relied on his counsel and direction.
Dave brings with him a calm, measured and transparent approach to executive leadership. He shepherds organizational change in a way that encourages engagement. People want to follow his lead, because he listens and respects differing and divergent views. Dave speaks with clarity, honesty and respect. He does not shy away from the challenge, and he fully commits himself to making whatever organization he is engaged with a better place for all concerned.
Dave led the successful search for a permanent Superintendent. He counseled the Board on best practice approaches to recruitment, which yielded an exemplary candidate who now serves in the permanent Superintendent position. Dave’s many years in education at all levels, and his dedicated service on numerous Boards, have provided him with unique, broad perspectives that can be brought to bear to solve varied organizational challenges and opportunities.
Despite having many years of organizational leadership experience myself, I too learned from Dave as I worked closely with him in my position as Board President, and I continue to do so as both of us have moved on from those positions. Dave is an inspirational leader, mentor and organizational champion. It is a privilege to know and work with him.”
Formerly President- Rutland City Board of School Commissioners
Chief Executive Officer- Community Care Network
The force that is Dave Wolk demonstrates as unique a personality as I have ever encountered in my thirty-five years maneuvering through the adult world. There are a few intellects or personalities that I have encountered in life that have such energy, such strength, such ability to effect change that they clearly stand apart from the rest of us mere mortals. In my experience, I am thinking as far back as my college days, whether it be a particular Jesuit or a professor, or beyond that time, a work colleague or a friend. There are only a handful in my mind that have that combination of ability and influence. Dave Wolk is clearly one of those small number with whom I have been fortunate enough to share time.
I have known Dave for nearly 25 years, working for him in two capacities, and watching his work from not too far as he led a school district, then the state education system, and then inspired the renaissance of a state university. In the first case, I was fortunate to be the beneficiary of his leadership of my place of employment, the Rutland City Public Schools. His leadership energized the growth and innovation of an urban school setting to become one of the leading districts in the state. In the same way, I watched the university that I attended as a graduate student be transformed by Dave, truly from good to great. Dave’s professional commitment greatly enhanced my personal and professional life in Vermont, along with the rest of our Vermont community and those connected to us from afar.
Dave’s leadership is deeply personal and caring. While the tools he employs are a superior intellect, a drive to innovate, a willingness to take calculated risks, and a willingness to make hard decisions, his superpower is a genuine concern and love of the people with whom he works and for whom he serves. Dave is as strong as any in the aforementioned skills that every leader needs to be competent and successful. But he gains absolute buy-in from his staff, his public, and his colleagues because all understand that he truly cares for their self-interest. That is the kind of sentiment needed to entice people to work harder, to collaborate better, and to simply lay down defenses that can be an obstacle to constructive engagement. I think I can say without exaggeration that I have never met anyone who loves interacting more with people. But it is not simply interaction that serves Dave well; he loves people, and he wants the best for them. In facilitating the fulfillment of individual self-interest, Dave builds a community in which everyone contributes.
Dave has mentored me over two-plus decades. He asks questions, probes, offers perspective, and always makes me reflect. But his commitment to my welfare and that of my family is the key motivator that always brought me to work harder for Dave. A teacher said to me last year, after I asked him to take a large burden for the district that he had no obligation to bear, “I wouldn’t do it for you, but I will do it for Dave.” And he did; he did it exceedingly well, and the district benefitted. That’s the power of Dave Wolk.”
Rutland City Public Schools
I have served in public education for four decades, and I can state without equivocation that Dave Wolk is the most dynamic and inspiring leader I have ever known.
Wolk was my supervisor at Castleton University (during my tenure as professor, department chair, and academic dean) for fifteen years, and he continually motivated me—and all of my colleagues—to reach heights that we never thought possible. Indeed, I am now president of Castleton University (sitting in the office previously occupied by President Wolk) and that is mainly due to the fact that I have wisely followed the teaching, credo, and mentorship of Dave Wolk.
Dave is a living legend in the state of Vermont. He has performed—and excelled—at every level of leadership: He served as a teacher, guidance counselor, academic dean, principal, assistant superintendent of schools, superintendent of schools, state senator, State Commissioner of Education, chief of policy for Governor Howard Dean, and then the longest-serving president in the history of Castleton University (aka “the place that Dave built”). Along the way, Wolk has been bestowed with every award and recognition that a leader can earn.
Wolk achieved all of this for many reasons, including (1) he is a charismatic and visionary trailblazer; (2) he knows how to work with boards and executives; and (3) he is an insightful judge of character and aptitude, with a talent for spotting and nourishing leaders.”
Dr. Jonathan Spiro
President, Castleton University