Days before her father died, Jill Hartness shared the news of her new job with him.
Hartness was named the eighth president of the Boyd-Buchanan School — where she and her father are both alumni — in August. She is the first alumna president and the first woman to be named president of the school.
"My father died a week ago. The first day I came back, I walked through the halls," she said. "I call it the best therapy I could ever have, seeing the children's faces and feeling the love and spirit of this place."
For Hartness, Boyd-Buchanan is home. Not only does it have the family connection, it's where she met her husband, Jeb, and where her children are enrolled.
"I don't know if I ever felt like I left Boyd-Buchanan," she said.
Hartness served many roles at Boyd-Buchanan before becoming its president, including as an instructor of math and her most recent role on the school's board of directors.
She also taught at Chattanooga State Community College, and briefly left education to work at real estate agency Waterfront Partners, before returning to Boyd-Buchanan.
Jeffery Keasler, the school's board chairman, said the board had hoped someone in the Boyd-Buchanan family would apply for the job, and Hartness' experience in education and experiences with the school were assets to the position of president.
"Obviously, her love for Boyd-Buchanan was first and foremost in our decision," Keasler said. "She just exudes what Boyd-Buchanan stands for — her character, putting God first — things we try to give to every student."
Founded in 1952 as the Chattanooga Bible School, Boyd-Buchanan offers a Christian-based curriculum for students from preschool to high school and is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.
The school's enrollment for 2012 is a little more than 900 students, a slight increase from last year, according to the 2011 State of the School report and enrollment data. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the school is focusing on a theme of "Building a Legacy."
"We've been blessed by the generations that have come before us," Hartness said. "We, in turn, want to leave a strong legacy for those that follow in our footsteps."
Not only does Boyd-Buchanan have a 92 percent retention rate, but it also has 160 second- and third-generation students, and a number of faculty members who are alumni.
Hartness credits much of the success of Boyd-Buchanan on its commitment not only to academic excellence, but also to Christ-based education.
"It's a family over here," she said. "Once people come on our campus, they feel like they're home. There's a spirit of excellence and a strong presence of the Lord."
Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...