A Lifelong Connection
Rory Byrnes ’01’s Potomac story began in 1988, when he made his first walk from his McLean home to a Potomac kindergarten classroom. His older brothers, Carter ’95 and Spencer ’98, were already students, and Rory quickly found a circle of friends and plenty of interesting things to do at school. In what seemed like no time at all, Potomac became his second home.
Looking back, he counts celebrating May Day, playing sports, and singing with a cappella groups and the Upper School chorus among the highlights of his student days. He remembers many teachers fondly, including Mr. Rich in the Music Department and Mrs. Anderson, whose history classes made a lasting impression. As a Potomac “lifer,” Rory had the opportunity to experience all four academic divisions, and his open, genial personality helped him forge bonds with classmates, teachers, and coaches all along the way.
He recalls, “I had a great time at Potomac. One of my most treasured memories is from Upper School, when I was on the football team. The work that my peers and I put in truly bonded us for life – we even made it to the State Championships for the first time in school history. Many of my former teammates are still my close friends today.”
After graduating, Rory majored in history at the University of Pennsylvania, went into real estate, and attended business school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Upon returning to the Washington, DC, area, he realized that he wasn’t content to have his Potomac experience remain a mere memory.
He explains, “My family had always been committed to supporting the school. One way we did that was by funding professional development grants for faculty; another was by supporting service learning work. But we had been talking about finding some new ways to get involved. So I met with John Kowalik to learn about his vision for the future. I was impressed with the ways the school has grown, and this prompted me to join the Alumni Governing Council. It has been great to have that birds-eye view into what’s going on at Potomac. I was especially excited about the development of the new Spangler Center for Athletics and Community because I have such high regard for Potomac’s athletics program.”
In Rory’s early days with the AGC, he joined the group’s Professional Networking Committee, which focuses on reaching out to alums about their professional paths and helps to organize the Upper School’s annual Career Day. He later became that committee’s chair and was subsequently elected to serve as AGC secretary and then vice president. This fall, Rory stepped up his leadership game – and his service to Potomac – by taking on the role of Alumni Governing Council president.
He reflects, “The AGC has been such an opportunity! I have reconnected with so many people who went to Potomac at the same time I did. When I joined, the president was Sandy Gentles ’94, who used to play football with my brother Carter. I’ve also appreciated the opportunity to get to know alumni from other generations. Everyone I meet has a wildly different story about what they’re doing now and how they got there, and I find that fascinating.”
Rory puts those relationships front and center as he works to connect the Potomac alumni community at all levels. And he sees inherent connections that the AGC can build upon.
Rory reflects “A few years ago, the school created a document called Portrait of the Potomac Graduate. It lists the various skills and attributes that Potomac works to help its students develop. That document is a great expression of the school’s goals, and I have found that it accurately describes so many of the Potomac alumni I’ve come to know.”
He concludes, “Our school has undergone many physical changes over the years, but the character of the place, and the kind of people who make up this community, haven’t changed. To me, those are the things that give Potomac its magic.”