Five headmasters ago, before the creation of the lunch program and Frank Science Center, controller of finances Carol Wessels came to Country Day. Now, after working there since 1987, she will retire.
Wessels had been working for churches before she decided she wanted a job that provided a retirement plan, and a friend working at SCDS referred her to an opening.
“It was almost like working in a church setting, which I liked,” Wessels said. “I liked the family atmosphere, and the people (were) nice. I (had) tried a corporation for a while, and it wasn’t a good fit for me.”
Hired as the bookkeeper, Wessels became the staff accountant in 1992 and the controller in 2000.
“Even though I sit at my desk a lot, I enjoy the parent interaction when I can, my coworkers and the work a lot,” Wessels said. “I have so many long-term friends from way back (at SCDS); we still get together.
“And there’s enough variety in my job that keeps me growing and interested.”
She cited the auction and new enrollment.
“There’s always something coming up,” Wessels said. “It’s surprising to people how much there is to do.”
Additionally, Wessels said she’s enjoyed watching SCDS grow in terms of buildings, enrollment and programs.
“Oh, gosh, all the extra programs have changed a great deal!” Wessels said. “Everything has just grown, grown, grown. And it all deals with accounting and makes (my) job bigger and different.”
Other changes, such as major switches and updates in software, have posed a challenge.
“Every time you have a new product, it’s a learning curve for everyone,” Wessels said. “Sometimes you really have to problem-solve and figure out what you can do to streamline the accounting.
“It’s a lot of detail work, which isn’t for everyone, but I enjoy it.”
Amy Wells, director of the annual fund, said Wessels’ “meticulous” nature is perfect for her job.
“It’s amazing what (errors) she can catch and how she can actually make everything balance out at the end of the day,” Wells said.
Although the school has increased in enrollment, Wessels gives families the same individual attention in their bills and other needs, according to Wells.
She added that Wessels is exceptionally kind.
“I joke and say Carol is a saint,” Wells said. “You can always go to her and ask her a question. And she’s also very generous in her personal life, taking care of people who’ve been sick.”
When former French teacher Gerlinde Klauser developed terminal cancer, Wessels helped care for her and keep her connected to SCDS.
“My husband and I helped her around the house with things she wanted, and sometimes I’d just go and visit,” Wessels said. “One time I called her and she needed something made to eat because she was too weak, so we went and cooked her something. It’s all small stuff.”
After retiring, Wessels plans to spend more time with her family (including seven grandchildren), camp in the area, volunteer for her church and do more of her hobbies, such as making dollhouses.
Wessels, who said she has always enjoyed miniatures, and her husband began assembling dollhouses when she received a kit from Elegant Dollhouse (1120 Fulton Ave., Suite E) for Mother’s Day in 1998. Since then, they have completed several workshops, dollhouses and room boxes, donating two small rooms to the auction and one large farmhouse to a Rulindo fundraiser. Wessels said she wants to donate more dollhouses as she downsizes.
“It’s a nice hobby we do together because he does the building, the shingling and the little building things, then I decorate,” Wessels said.
“We kind of got away from it the last few years because we were busy doing other things, but I’m hoping we can finish some projects and do it more again.”
—By Larkin Barnard-Bahn
Originally published in the May 28 edition of the Octagon.