An Inestimable Gift: Kim Abel Retires, Leaving the Lights On

Faith SandlerCommunity, Impact, Leadership, Words of Faith

It’s ironic that I can neither calculate nor estimate the value of the gifts that Kim Abel has given in her 17 years as Deputy Director of The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, as she has been the chief accountant and spreadsheet creator for so very long. This week, Kim tries something completely new; she retires to care for herself and her family. When she gets in her car to drive away on March 2, we will all miss her more than we can now know.

To the last moment, Kim tried her best to control all the details. She declared that there would be no gifts or speeches. Somehow, she expected to continue quietly working 11-hour days until she turned over the keys. Instead, the board arranged for Kim and the guest of her choosing to take the vacation she’s denied herself for 10 years. Staff choreographed a Scholarship Foundation version of Wheel of Fortune to mark the close of her career. You’ll find below the clues and the commentary I provided between rounds, and before “creative accounting” assured Kim would win the game.


Kim joined the Foundation with little exposure to nonprofits and not only quickly filled the role of Finance Director but grew her own skills and the organization’s capacities in all business and management functions. She was rightly and quickly “deputized” to direct all the aspects of the organization that are no fun for me (and that I’m no good at) – accounting, insurance, HR, facilities, investments.


Kim worked with ScholarShop management to keep things always upscale, and to sell, sell, sell. You may not know this, but NO ONE was more tortured or heartbroken at the need to close the operation than Kim. She loved the business model, the people, the impact. Kim, with full support of the staff she directed, prolonged the viability of ScholarShop’s upscale resale operations for years and years.


There are two times each year to stay away from Kim: budget season and year-end accountant review. That leaves about six months when her work days have been anything less than ten hours… “Balance”, for Kim, is a budget reference only.


Spotless work products. Meticulous research. Carefully constructed controls. Consistent and clear communication. Full responsibility. In general ledger, as in all things, Kim has not only been a leader but is hereby a fully decorated five-star one.


Now, we celebrate. Kim’s deep commitment to The Scholarship Foundation was evident every day, and well into the night. Quietly, without complaint, without mention, and without thinking twice, Kim’s average work day was 3-4 hours longer than anyone else on staff, including me. Several years ago, I gave up the practice of turning out the lights or trying to force her out the door. For Kim, this work has been a true labor of love.

Kim leaves The Scholarship Foundation having done everything in her power to prepare us for the next era. She’s worked with the Finance and Planning Committee to update all policies and to restructure cash flow management so that student programs are sustainable over multiple years. For the last six weeks of her tenure, Kim trained her successor with the same fervor that she approached every day, dedicated to excellence, transparency, and accountability. As Kim exits this time, she leaves the lights on. And we are ever grateful.

– Faith Sandler