Alumni Profile: Alumni Board Representative Peyton Bryant, 06: Speaking from experience"
Heathwood lifer Peyton Bryant, ’06, has just begun his tenure as the alumni representative on Heathwood’s Board of Trustees. In that role he is the voice for all Heathwood alumni. His goals include building a stronger alumni network and facilitating deeper connections between alumni and the school.
After graduating from Heathwood in 2006, Peyton attended Wake Forest University, where he majored in economics and minored in religion and entrepreneurship. After graduation, he returned to Columbia, beginning his career as a commercial relationship manager for BB&T. Currently, he serves as a commercial real estate broker for NAI Avant and focuses his business on office sales and leasing and investment sales.
A 2014 graduate of Leadership Columbia, Peyton serves on the boards of the Babcock Center Foundation, the Midlands Housing Trust Fund, and the Leadership Columbia Alumni Association. He also serves as Chair-Elect of the United Way of the Midlands’ Young Leaders Society and Immediate Past President of the Columbia Lions Club, and is an active member of Eastminster Presbyterian Church.
Peyton holds the distinction of being Heathwood’s second “graduate of a graduate.” His mother, Sharon Walters Bryant, graduated in 1979. His sister Paige, also a lifer, graduated in 2014 and currently attends USC.
—What was your most memorable Heathwood experience?
I was a student at Heathwood for 14 years and have tons of memories to choose from. However, I would say my commencement ceremony in 2006 is the most memorable. I sat beside Wills Bryan (Barbara’s son), who is also a Heathwood lifer. It seemed the reality of the occasion hit us both at the same time as we walked out of the church after receiving our diplomas. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the traditions of Heathwood and grateful for the relationships I had built through my time at the school. You can’t get much more traditional than our commencement service. Sitting in the audience during my sister’s graduation in 2014 and hearing the bagpipes took me right back to the feelings I experienced in 2006 and remain fond memories to this day.
—What Heathwood teacher made the biggest impression on you? And how do you feel your Heathwood experience prepared you for college and/or your career?
Heathwood’s all-time most impression-making teacher is James H. Gasque in Room 17. However, I have to give credit to someone still teaching at Heathwood, Nadege Keller, the Upper School French teacher, as the person who made a lasting impression on me as a student at Heathwood. Although I remember very little French now, and nothing about the French language has earned me a dime as an adult, Mrs. Keller (which isn’t nearly as intimidating as her then-maiden name Nadege Vauthier) was very tough on us. We were not allowed to speak a lick of English in her class. It was all French, all the time. She wasn’t simply a tough teacher; she truly cared and she wanted us to succeed. She taught us the value of working hard at something even when it seemed too difficult to master. As a result, I was more prepared to take French Grammar class at Wake Forest than any of my peers. I breezed through it all thanks to Mrs. Keller.
With respect to how my Heathwood experience prepared me for college and my career, generally speaking, I would say Heathwood helped me understand the value of community. There is a place for individualism, competition, and self-reflection. However, when members of a community support one another, the community as a whole functions much better and certainly Heathwood facilitated a community among its students, faculty, and administrators. I’ve tried to apply this same community-minded approach to the organizations and activities I have been involved in as an adult.
—What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done since leaving Heathwood?
Thanks to Stan Wood and the PEAK program, I became very interested in outdoor education and took that passion with me after graduating from Heathwood. In college, I took a sea kayaking and backpacking trip through Costa Rica and it was probably one of the most interesting things I’ve done.
—What do you think your Heathwood classmates would be most surprised to learn about you?
My jokes were much better received in college than in high school. Heck, I was even “cool” at times, and I haven’t worn a kilt since Heathwood Homecoming senior year.
—Why has it felt worthwhile to you to stay connected to Heathwood after you graduated?
Heathwood played a significant role in my childhood, so staying connected even after graduation was a no-brainer for me. It was also helpful that I moved back to Columbia after college and had a sister still enrolled at the time. Once Paige graduated, my good friend Meredith Walker started working in development at Heathwood, which made it easy for me to stay engaged and aware of what was happening at the school.
Although it has been easy for me to stay connected to Heathwood, maintaining relationships has always been important to me. Regardless of where I am or who I know amongst the staff, I will always want to see Heathwood prosper. I want to know that the students now are being challenged, motivated, and inspired in the same way I was as a student.
—What excites you most about serving as the alumni representative on the Board?
As I get to know some of the other Board members, I recognize that each of them brings something valuable and unique to the table. Collectively, the Board is an awesome group of very accomplished people. I am humbled to have been included within the Board’s ranks this year.
As an alumni representative on the Board, it is important to me that the other Board members realize the importance of alumni outreach. Heathwood’s alumni efforts have been minimal in the past, but that is changing. I am excited to help the Board understand the value in allocating school resources and time to building a strong and active alumni network. The benefits will be extraordinary in the long run.
—How does it help both alumni and the school and its current students when alumni are connected to Heathwood?
Wouldn’t you agree that when folks “speak from experience,” it’s often the most powerful review of a product, place, or experience? Well, alumni of Heathwood can, themselves, speak from experience in order to promote Heathwood to the broader Columbia community. It only makes sense that the more supported, engaged, and included the alumni feel, the more advocating they will do on Heathwood’s behalf. Also, as the alumni network grows and remains connected to Heathwood, they will, in turn, provide a resource for current students to build their own networks and call upon when searching for “Winterim” internships, applying to colleges, and looking for careers.
—How are you, as the board representative, available to support alumni?
Our alumni network isn’t very large, relatively speaking. If alumni want to know what’s going on at Heathwood or have a comment, question, concern, or even better, an idea, I would welcome a conversation anytime. The school can provide my contact information to anyone who needs it. Otherwise, I hope alumni know I am advocating on their behalf during my board term.
—How can all alumni help support the school?
We need alumni support. We encourage alumni to be as active as possible, whether through hands-on efforts or advocating from afar. Meredith Walker, Erin Pope, and the rest of the Heathwood development staff are working very hard to help grow the alumni network, but it takes effort from all of us to make sure that the network is meaningful and worthwhile.