[Editor’s Note: Students aren’t the only ones returning to school this fall. Hundreds of parents are reorganizing their crammed schedules to stay involved in their children’s classrooms and with their sports teams and social events. In an effort to recognize this dedication, Noozhawk is beginning a weekly series of parent profiles — if they can spare a second to speak with us. If you know a parent who deserves a moment in the spotlight for his or her behind-the-scenes efforts, send a nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Five years ago, Tom Brennan lived in New York and breathed the buzzing Wall Street scene, traveling on a moment’s notice to Tokyo or London and never imagining he would someday live in Santa Barbara.
Today, life is busy in a different way. Most of his travel is for play dates, soccer practices and Marymount of Santa Barbara board of trustees meetings — and Brennan says that’s just great.
“My son, Tommy, just turned 8, I’m a single dad, I live here in Santa Barbara and my work is largely based in the financial services industry,” said Brennan, who still travels to New York occasionally but lately spends most of his time in Santa Barbara.
Brennan’s 2004 move to the West Coast became a headfirst jump into the Santa Barbara community, primarily focusing on Tommy’s school, Marymount of Santa Barbara.
This year, he serves the school on the board of trustees, the finance committee, the marketing committee and the committee on trustees.
“I think when you jump into any aspect of your community in a huge way it becomes a part of your social community,” Brennan said. “So between Marymount activities, my son’s play dates and coaching three sports, I never stop.”
Brennan, who operates his own private advising firm, says he arranges his work schedule around his parenting schedule, not vice versa.
“Mechanically speaking, I get up at 4:30 and work for a couple hours,” Brennan said. “Tommy gets up at 7 and we do our morning routine, then I get as much done as I can when he’s at school.
“You give me six hours in my office, and I’ll bang out five hours and 50 minutes worth of work.”
His involvement at Marymount started right away, when Tommy was in kindergarten and Brennan agreed to help organize the Mustang Invitational Golf Tournament. Soon, word of Brennan’s enthusiasm for the school got around.
“When I was walking to one of the golf committee meetings one day, the two ladies who were co-presidents of the Marymount Parent Council said, ‘Hey Tommy, we have a job for you!’ and I didn’t give it much thought,” Brennan said.
Two months later, he was asked to head up the Parent Council as the first dad in the school’s 70-year history to be co-president. He accepted.
“Like everything else, I just jumped into that,” Brennan said. “There was one meeting where I was literally the only dad in a room of like 60 moms.”
Marymount parents, Brennan says, are an extremely cohesive and involved group. The Parent Council, made up of about 35 parents, coordinates 23 smaller committees. Brennan serves on three of them.
“They literally do everything to support faculty, kids and school operations,” Brennan said. “At the end of the day, we run a pretty healthy budget, and during my experience last year, the MPC decided to funnel all the money we generated into supplemental learning programs.”
The council’s 2007-08 fundraising efforts brought a new learning specialist onto campus as well as more advanced topics into classrooms. Brennan also organized a fathers-kids campus beautification day.
“All in all, the school is known for having a very cohesive, tight family-like community,” Brennan said. “I think the school embraces that and smartly so, they leverage it.”
“You only have one shot at being a parent to young kids. If nothing else, it is a bit of a blur,” Brennan said. “I hold on and try to make the most of the experience, for my son and after that for myself, too.”
MVP: Tom Brennan
School: Marymount of Santa Barbara; private, kindergarten through eighth grade
Location: Ten acres in Santa Barbara’s Riviera district, 2130 Mission Ridge Road
Noozhawk intern Mollie Helmuth can be reached at email@example.com.