The loss of a “Renaissance Man:” Remembering CFO Bud L. Sinclair

Sophie Rukin and Anya Mirza

“There’s very little about HM that Mr. Sinclair wasn’t involved with and eager to support,” Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly wrote in an email. “He had a genuine interest in making life better for those around him. And he committed his life to doing so.”

Edward (Bud) L. Sinclair Jr., husband, father, grandfather, and the school’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) passed away on January 15. Sinclair passed after a battle with stage four cancer and further complications due to COVID-19, Kelly wrote.

Sinclair was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. He earned his undergraduate degree from Lafayette College and later obtained his Masters degree from Columbia Business School.

After he graduated from Columbia, Sinclair worked at the accounting firm KPMG in corporate for-profit and nonprofit client auditing and consulting. 

Sinclair later became the Vice President of Finance and Administration and Treasurer of Manhattanville College, then Treasurer of Nestlé before he became the school’s CFO in 1995.

“[Sinclair] was responsible for almost all of the budget, purchasing, payroll, insurance, and money management protocols that allow a large and complex school, like ours, to operate well,” Kelly wrote.

Over the past 16 years, Kelly worked with Sinclair on the final budgets for the upcoming financial years. Sinclair frequently spoke to Kelly about how proud he was of everyone’s engagement and intelligence in the community, Kelly said. “I loved that about Mr. Sinclair. Rarely did a day go by when he didn’t find the time to celebrate the employees and families who consider HM home.”

Sinclair liked to think everything through, Comptroller David Roberts said on behalf of the Business Office. “He believed in analyzing a situation in a careful, methodical way so that all potential ramifications of a decision were considered,” Roberts said. “His ability to analyze a situation from every possible angle was legendary, and that mentality served him well over his long, successful career.”

The Business Office also appreciated Sinclair’s sense of humor. “He always had a good line or funny comment about every situation,” Roberts said. As CFO, Sinclair made sure “things got done” and brought a positive attitude to the Business Office through his constant encouragement, Director of Admissions Jason Caldwell said. “Horace Mann is a massive organism, and it takes a lot to make that organism run,” he said.

While Sinclair was a colleague, he was also a friend, Caldwell said. When Caldwell came to the school as a young administrator, Sinclair was a helpful resource. “He was always very encouraging, and just somebody who really cared about people,” he said.

“What stands out more than anything as I think of Bud Sinclair was his remarkable kindness, as well as the joy he brought to those around him,” Registrar Chris Garrison said. “He has been such a constant positive presence at HM and the school has gained so much from him over the years.”

Along with his financial expertise, Sinclair had a passion for teaching, Roberts said. “Whether he was explaining the history and reasoning behind the accounting treatment of a transaction or mentoring a student as part of an independent study course, he just loved imparting information to others.”

Outside of work, Sinclair was an active singer in his church choir. Sinclair loved to sing and he had a great voice, Roberts said. “His renditions of Happy Birthday will be missed by all.”

He was also an accomplished sailor, the president of his condominium association, and cared deeply about his family, Kelly said. “[Sinclair is] the kind of grandparent every grandkid should have,” he said. “In short, he was the epitome of a Renaissance man.”

Sinclair will be remembered as the person who stepped up when the school needed new financial, risk, insurance, budget, and money management protocols, Kelly said. “We’re able to celebrate our 134th year as a top tier independent day school in large part because of Mr. Sinclair’s good work.”

For 26 years, Sinclair did great work for the Head of School and the Board of Trustees, Roberts said. “He [Sinclair] often commented that the main goal of the Business Office is to provide information and support to the Head of School to ensure that HM continues to be a top notch school.”

The Business Office has prepared for Sinclair’s retirement over the past few years, Kelly said. As a result, they have the resources to redistribute his workload and maintain the productivity of the Business Office that Mr. Sinclair would have wanted, Kelly said. With Sinclair’s help, the Business Office chose Roberts as the Comptroller to help lead the schools’ finances in the future.

“[Sinclair should be remembered], as a friend, as a leader and as an example of class and professionalism,” Caldwell said. In the future, he hopes to honor Sinclair with a memorial to commemorate his memory.

The school will remember the care and generosity that Sinclair extended to his community. “For the last two decades, we were the focus of Mr. Sinclair’s life and [HM was] the medicine he most preferred when feeling under the weather,” Kelly said. “While we will move forward, and be well served by the foundation he laid, Mr. Sinclair will never be replaced; there is only one Bud Sinclair.”