Mary Lyon Foundation to begin search for new executive director

  • Sue Samoriski stands at the podium for the 2019 Spring Lyonnaise, the Mary Lyon Foundation’s celebration of excellence in local education, held at the Warfield House Inn in Charlemont. After three decades at the helm, Samoriski plans to step back from her role as the foundation’s executive director. Contributed photo/Sadie Adams

Staff Writer
Published: 9/7/2020 12:42:38 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — After three decades at the Mary Lyon Foundation’s helm, Sue Samoriski plans to step back from her role as executive director.

“I feel like after 30 years, as the founder, it’s important for the organization to be strong and independent,” she said.

Samoriski said she began to write succession plans for the foundation as early as 2008, in preparation for the day she felt she could “safely walk away” and feel confident the organization would continue to thrive.

“It has been my dream to be able to step away and see the organization continue to grow and flourish,” she said. “I will continue to volunteer occasionally for the Mary Lyon Foundation, and when we have a new director on board, I will be there to assist and to make sure they have all the tools they need, and all the connections they need to continue leading the organization.”

A newly formed search committee plans to launch a search this fall for a new executive director, with the hope of having one in place for January 2021.

The foundation, which Samoriski established in 1990, was incorporated in 1991 in the name of Mary Lyon, a “19th-century pioneer in women’s education and advocate for opportunity and quality education for all,” according to the foundation’s website. The nonprofit supports education in Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Hawley, Heath, Plainfield, Rowe and Shelburne.

Samoriski said in the last 30 years, the foundation sponsored 23 special education conferences; hosted summer programs, a literature festival and an annual spelling bee; and received grants to benefit the schools. And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mary Lyon Foundation has worked with towns to provide resources to teachers, students, families and school administrators.

In addition to the search for an executive director, the foundation is also looking to hire an executive assistant, Samoriski said.

“That position is to support a really busy non-profit office and to help the board and our committees, and support our campaign work as well as support the executive director,” she said.

The extra support from an assistant is in part because the pandemic’s closure of the foundation’s office space on Ashfield Road has meant a reduction in the availability of volunteer staff.

“There’s still the work to do, but it’s difficult for many of them to work from home for many reasons,” she said.

Samoriski said she plans to stay on board with the organization full-time through the 2020 to 2021 school year, allowing time for her to show a new executive director the ropes.

“I am very happy to stay involved and watch new directions evolve,” she said.

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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