From Alumna to Board Chair: 10 Questions for Erika Gibson ‘86

By Stacy Parker Le Melle, Current Parent and Member of the Board of Trustees
“I always felt valued at MCS. I gained the confidence of knowing, trusting and believing in myself. That is an incredibly important gift to give a child. At my high school and college, I was just another student, but at MCS, I had been Erika.”

MCS Alumna Erika Gibson, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology) has served the past year as the Interim Chair of the MCS Board of Trustees and as an MCS Trustee since 2015. We wanted to know more about her own MCS experiences as a student and if she could draw a direct line from her MCS education to her achievements today. She shared that she could draw that line in “Sharpie pen”! (Hear more about the signature experiences of MCS alumni at Big Night In! on Saturday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m.  This year's benefit honoring MCS educators is free. Please RSVP here.) 

What grade did you begin at MCS? How old were you?  I started MCS at the age of 4, in 1976.

Why did your family decide to enroll you at MCS?  My parents had enrolled my brother at MCS three years prior. A neighbor in our building had enrolled one of her sons at MCS who was older than my brother.

What were your early impressions of the school?  I loved MCS from the start!

When did you know you belonged at MCS?  From the 4-5s. I felt at home and made friends.  Lois Gelernt was my teacher!

Is there a special moment that exemplifies your time as an MCS student?  There were many moments, but I distinctly remember being at the Farm during lambing season. Our group walked to the upper field to find the sheep herd. The lamb was found, picked up to be examined, and placed in my arms! I was so excited. I must have been about 10, and already had decided that I was going to be a veterinarian due to my obsession with animals!

Looking back, what did you gain from an MCS education? I always felt valued at MCS. I gained the confidence of knowing, trusting and believing in myself. That is an incredibly important gift to give a child. At my high school and college, I was just another student, but at MCS, I had been Erika.  

Erika in the 4-5s (bottom row seated with hood)

Tell us about your professional work. Can you draw a line between your work now and your MCS education?  I am a veterinary neurosurgeon. I can draw a direct line in Sharpie pen from MCS to my career. At MCS, I was encouraged to be myself. I had the support of my teachers and peers. I had the Farm, where I could have (my own) calf, barn kittens, lambs, chickens, goats - a whole barn's worth of animals. Animals have shaped my life, and MCS only nurtured my love of them.

Tell us about your MCS Board of Trustees service. What drew you to the Board? What special perspectives do you bring? I became re-engaged with MCS when I moved back to New York from England in 2009. I first joined the resurgence of the Alumni Advisory Council (AAC), along with fellow board member Bator Kovacs, and former alumni reps to the board Blue Chevigny and Carianne Lewis, among others. That group morphed over time, and I was asked to consider joining the board. I officially became a trustee in 2015. What keeps me here is the importance of MCS. I truly believe that MCS graduates can change the world. Our community is strengthened by our commitment to the students and the mission and vision of MCS. Those things are in my mind everyday, and shape every decision I make as a board member.  

There are a lot of alumni on the board, and I think that we have a unique perspective as trustees. Having received an MCS education we are products of the progressive education that MCS provided. This type of education helps me try to hear all voices and consider all aspects during board discussions. This is also something I have to do in my daily work. If I have a patient whose diagnosis is unclear, regardless of what I may think the patient’s problem is, I have to always ask myself: What if I am wrong? What other possible issues could be at play that are leading to this patient’s condition? I have to always leave room to be questioned, and to consider other voices.

What is challenging about chairing the Board of Trustees? What is rewarding? The challenge is that there are many voices on the board. I have to make sure all are heard equally, then help steer the discussion towards a resolution. The challenge is the reward, as we all approach issues from our own perspective, but generally come out with a consensus as to the action. The board often operates as MCS does in general, with open, honest dialogue, hearty debate, and eventual resolution and consensus. I am sure this is because we are all working with the vision and mission of MCS in mind.  

Do you have any advice for alumni who wish to get more involved with MCS? Yes! Please join the Alumni Council! We have exciting new programs on the horizon for greater engagement with MCS. Hopefully we will be able to have our community events such as Farm Festival this year, and all are encouraged to attend. Big Night In! is on April 24th at 6:30pm EDT. It is a virtual event with free admission this year, so please attend and share with your classmates and networks!
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