Peter Henderer ’89 attended Friends for three years for Pre-1st through 2nd grades, and then returned for 10th through 12th grades. On campus, he played football and lacrosse, played in the Concert Band and Jazz Band, served on the Service Committee, and was Clerk of the Business Meeting. After graduation, Peter studied at Bowdoin College, majoring in Economics and Environmental Studies, and serving as Co-President of the Bowdoin Outing Club. After Bowdoin he studied law at The George Washington University Law School and went on to the private practice of law in Richmond, Virginia. Peter’s practice is in commercial real estate, with a particular focus on tax-credit financed multifamily housing. On the side, Peter has grown a portfolio of his own residential rental properties. Outside of work, Peter has served on numerous non-profit boards, and is currently Chair of the Board of Trustees at Richmond Montessori School, a Toddler through 8th grade school in Richmond. Peter is married to Armistead Edmunds Henderer and they have two teenage children.
How did you choose to specialize your law career in real estate development?
I landed in it quite by happenstance. In 1997 I wanted to move to Richmond, Virginia, to marry Armistead, who was living in Richmond. After a difficult job search, I was hired by my current firm to work on cell phone tower leases on a six-month, provisional basis. Twenty-four years later I am still here and serving on the firm’s Executive Committee. My practice grew by capitalizing on successive opportunities as they arose. I’ve been very fortunate.
What lessons have you learned from serving as chairperson of the board of trustees for a Montessori school?
My tenure as Board Chair has been characterized by the Covid pandemic. The pandemic has required us to re-allocate certain budgetary items, defer certain capital projects, and wrestle with the public guidance on re-opening the school. After a period of remote learning in the spring of 2020, Richmond Montessori has operated as an in-person school, five days per week, for all students for the ’20-’21 and ’21-’22 school years. I am very proud of the efforts that the Board, faculty, and staff have made to make that happen. Even so, we’ve struggled to balance the competing concerns of various constituencies as we’ve navigated an ever-changing field of regulations and guidance. It’s been a challenging time. Through it all, I’ve observed that a school is substantially helped by having a guiding philosophy—a keel in the water—that shapes its decision making and keeps it programmatically on track. WFS has Quakerism, of course, and RMS has the pedagogical theories of Maria Montessori. To maintain a school’s consistency, especially in a time of disruption, it helps to have a guiding philosophy to set the alignment of the school.
What life lessons did you learn from playing sports?
Sports at WFS are, first and foremost, an educational endeavor, and the lessons learned from them complement the academic component of the curriculum. Sports emphatically teach the value of long-term preparation. Classroom assignments in high school are typically short-term. In sports, though, as in life, we have to prepare many days and months in advance for events. The practices, drills, and training that go into an athletic season for a comparatively short number of minutes of game time are directly analogous to the preparation that goes into any major undertaking in life.
How has WFS impacted you since graduation?
When my older brother, Jeff, graduated from WFS in 1986, he told me that the most important thing that WFS teaches is patience. And truly, in my life after graduation, the patience that I learned at WFS has been immensely valuable. Even in today’s world, there is always time to think before responding. There is always time to reflect to gain understanding. There is always time to exercise patience while still working steadily toward an objective.
What are your favorite WFS memories?
Without question, my favorite memories of WFS are of the people at WFS. At WFS I had the privilege of being around a diverse array of students and faculty who demonstrated intellectual brilliance, steadfast loyalty, cheerful humor, thoughtful kindness, and, at times, real courage. I like to think that I was at WFS during a time when we had an exceptional student body and faculty, but I am not sure my era wasn’t simply representative of the school in all eras. The qualities of Quakerism that guide Friends School can really bring out the best in people in an educational environment.