College Advisor Laura Burrell Baxter Receives Touching the Future Award 

  • Alumni/ae/x
  • Upper School

While Edie Falk ‘17 was preparing to graduate from Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) in May 2021, she seized upon an opportunity afforded to graduating seniors to nominate an influential individual for the colleges’ Touching the Future Award.  

In her heartfelt nomination of Key’s Director of College Advising  Laura Burrell Baxter, Edie recounted her college search process while at Key and the ongoing support and mentorship she received from Ms. Burrell Baxter. “From the moment that I had my first brainstorming meeting with her towards the beginning of my high school experience at Key School, she believed in my ability to find a school that I loved and that would also fit all of my needs…. This is one of the unique qualities that Laura possesses as an educator—the ability to really connect with each student that she coaches through the college application process on an extremely personal level and find the right place specifically for them…. She is one of the kindest, most passionate and hard working people that I have ever met.”

HWS Communication Officer Andy Wickenden, who notified Ms. Burrell Baxter of the award, wrote, “Having read Edie's letter of nomination, it's clear how much your influence and support has meant to her.”

Established by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees in 2004, the award derives its name from the famous words of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to participate in the space shuttle program who died in the explosion of Challenger in 1986. Ms. McAuliffe expressed the sentiments of many teachers when she said, “I touch the future, I teach.” The award was designed to honor educators who led graduating seniors to HWS and serves to recognize the impact these individuals have on shaping the lives of its alums.

In a normal year Ms. Burrell Baxter would have been flown to Geneva, NY, to receive the award during the Commencement ceremony in mid-May; however, that was not possible during a global pandemic. Instead the college honored the three recipients in print and online.

Ms. Burrell Baxter said, “I am so honored to receive this award...I am used to nominating students for things but not having students nominate me! What a surprise this was!” 

She was able to connect with Edie in person at HWS during a spring college visit with the admission office. While there she learned that Edie had been named Phi Beta Kappa and would be graduating summa cum laude with a double major in English and political science.

During her college career at HWS, Edie was involved in running the student food bank while working on campus for the Office for Spiritual Engagement, being a member of a sorority, and serving as president of Hillel for two years. She was also the co-founder of FLX College Corps, which was developed to help local high school students with the college process. A natural leader among her peers, Edie studied abroad for a semester in Ireland and made close connections with faculty, including her academic advisor in English. As for the coming year, Edie will be living in Buffalo, NY, where she was selected to teach through Americorps City Year.