With 43 years of professional experience in education, Terry Giffen, Search Associates' College Counselor Recruitment Consultant, has enjoyed an impressive career as a teacher and coach, advisor and college counselor, dean and administrator, and consultant in prominent schools in the U.S. and abroad. All along, two pieces advice have guided him: one must be willing to take a risk to grow, and one often learns much more from failure than success.
Rather than pursue his initial plan to pursue an MBA and join his father in the textile industry in NYC, Terry turned to education as a potential career. He knew that, as a teacher and coach, he could combine his love of literature and sports. At the age of eight, Terry learned to sail and began racing competitively by age 12. In high school, he earned varsity letters in football, wrestling, and golf, and he continued his athletic career throughout college. Terry earned both his B.A. in English and M.A. in Education at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, in 1973 and 1974, respectively. Within his first three years of teaching and coaching at his first school, West Geauga Junior High School in Ohio, Terry was named "Teacher of the Year" twice.
Terry has taken several risks in his career that resulted in promotion and opportunity. Choosing to go to a college over 500 miles away from home was the first of many. Terry's career would lead him across the U.S. and abroad, finally to retire early to his vacation home in South Carolina, where he began his own independent educational consulting business.
Some of the most challenging moments of his career were while serving as the Dean of Admissions at Coe College, where the financial pressures to "fill the beds" to help balance the budget necessitated his admitting some less than stellar students. Perhaps the greatest challenge was managing the expectations of students and parents. He explains,
"When a student is admitted, all is great, but when a student is denied, parents and students often look for others to blame. If I have done my job well--truly gotten to know the student, been readily accessible to help with questions or concerns, and helped them to understand the nuances of highly selective admission—I've almost always been able to be viewed as student advocate rather than adversary."
Terry also has stories of triumph, like receiving emails from students grateful for his guidance and seeing the tears of joy of a family whose child received a full scholarship. He has been honored on a number of occasions by parents of former students at Choate Rosemary Hall and The Taft School, who have donated funds to the school in honor of his good work. One father made a $20,000 donation to establish a fund to be used at Terry's sole discretion in support of his college counseling program. Over the years, Terry used that fund to support many of the neediest students for their expenses.
Terry has served on the Counselors Advisory Boards for Southern Methodist University, the University of Michigan, and U.S. News and World Report's Annual College Ranking Issue. Terry believes that his greatest accomplishment, however, has been the ability to care for his family and raise, in partnership with his wife, two successful children--now parents and educators themselves—in fantastic environments. He explains,
"Living on boarding school campuses for many years, I had the luxury of seeing my children several times during the business day … I've always said that the greatest gift a parent can give a child is access to an outstanding educational experience. I'm not a product of the independent school world, but thankfully, I was able to provide access to a world-class education at Choate for Jason and Sarah."
Some of Terry's best times are spent at his home on Dataw Island, South Carolina. There one might find him typing his perspective on college admissions to a publication, reading up on historical fiction or perhaps a Dan Brown novel. One might also find him unwinding with episodes of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, out playing golf, entertaining guests with fellowship and food, or cruising local rivers and creeks with friends on their boats.
As Search Associates College Counselor Recruitment Consultant, Terry will advise schools in the U.S. and abroad. It is a privilege and an honor to welcome Terry Giffen aboard to our team of experienced Consultants who offer a wide variety of consulting services to our member schools.