Skip To Main Content

Fanikos Returns for Second Stint as St. John's Prep CFO

Fanikos Returns for Second Stint as St. John's Prep CFO

After three productive years in a boarding school environment, the finance pro reenters the Prep’s uniquely “touching and empathetic” school culture

Second verse, same as the first? Probably not. After all, the financial realities of 2024 are distinct from those of 2020 during COVID, different than those when Cindy Fanikos helped launch Prep’s Middle School in 2015, and fundamentally unlike the economic climate of the Great Recession’s runoff in 2011, her first year at the School. Fiscal year 2025 presents its own challenges and possibilities, and working through those details is what Fanikos P’24 does best. Starting July 1, after three years at Governor’s Academy, she’ll do it in a very familiar setting with an even more familiar title: Chief Financial Officer at St. John’s Prep.

“I missed the people at the Prep a ton,” said Fanikos. “That’s what I’m most excited to return to. I love working with them and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. I chose to leave, and that was really difficult for me to decide. For the leadership team to say, ‘We want you back in the fold,’ I couldn’t pass that up. I learned so much being with them the last time around.” 

Fanikos previously served as St. John’s CFO from 2011 to 2020 and Chief Finance and Operations Officer from 2020 to 2021. During her first tenure, she helped lead the creation of a middle school on campus, which involved hiring 100 new employees and the addition of two new buildings. She oversaw the construction of the Leo and Joan Mahoney Wellness Center which opened in 2017, adopted new technology to improve the management of business operations, created a long-range financial plan, refinanced the school’s debt, and developed the school’s first disaster recovery plan. 

Within the Prep community, Fanikos received the Martin Luther King Jr. Justice and Equity Award in 2017 for her work to support students on tuition assistance, and she was integral to the School’s successful navigation of the operational and financial challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She served as CFO for Governor’s from 2021 through the end of this past academic year.

“What stands out about Cindy’s multiple roles here at St. John’s is that she always brings a team focus to everything she does,” says Head of School Ed Hardman P’19 ’21 ’26. “She’s supportive, caring, passionate, and professional. She’s a leading voice and serves as a confidant, a coach, a challenger, and an advocate. And, she still finds time to be a yoga instructor.

“Cindy is a tremendous school finance professional,” he added. “She’s focused on stewarding our resources in a manner that advances our values and ensures that our mission is a lived and palpable experience amidst and beyond our community.”

Fanikos received her B.S. in accounting from Boston College. She owns a wealth of experience in both the financial services and nonprofit realms. She’s worked in higher education as the tax and debt manager at the University of Virginia, was an auditor with the accounting firm Ernst & Young, and was a senior manager with Capital One Financial Corporation before becoming the CFO of North Hill Ventures, which is Capital One’s venture capital firm. 

In 2020, she was recognized with the Will Hancock Unsung Hero Award by the National Business Officers Association (NBOA). The annual award recognizes business officers who have made a significant difference at their school with contributions exemplified by exceptionally high standards of integrity, knowledge, and motivation to help the institution succeed. 

Fanikos says her time at Governor’s was “extremely valuable” and that working in a boarding school environment was instructive, especially the key learnings that resulted from the reality: ‘Wow, this place is open 24/7, seven days a week.’ “It was a massively community- and family-oriented environment amongst the adults. That was so cool to see.” 

Naturally, Fanikos could bring her ample skill set to bear anywhere. Why come back to St. John’s?

“I love the people of the finance office here and the people of the Prep community in general,” she says. “There’s just something really special about it. As a parent, I got an extra level, but as an employee, there are things that happen here that are so touching and empathetic that you don’t always find elsewhere. I’m excited to be back on that team, but I’m excited just to be a part of the whole atmosphere of the school again.”


Fanikos is quick to acknowledge she’ll need to sharpen her pencil and roll up her sleeves as soon as she arrives at her desk. She notes that private secondary schools are navigating shrinking populations and a massive amount of competition in the Metro Boston area. Post-COVID, the well-known escalation of ancillary costs has impacted operations budgets, especially with regard to meals, transportation, and third-party cleaning services, among others. 

“We have a lot of expenses and we need to make sure we’re catching up with inflation in that regard,” she said. “At the same, that impacts all of our people. So for me, it’s also looking at the compensation and benefits models and how we stay transparent and competitive at the same time. We outsourced a lot of stuff in the wake of COVID because we were so inundated with the day-to-day. Do you bring anything back in-house and if so, when? How are you trying to find some cost savings that will have minimal impact on the school environment?”

Indeed, there is no shortage of dimension and dynamics involved in balancing the equation. And there’s always the possibility of a new capital campaign.

“The academic program space, the student life space, gym space, admissions numbers—all those things are among the many different levers that we’re pulling,” said Fanikos. “The great thing is, I just have to be a partner in all of it. What I most love about St. John's is the ability to do that. Everybody collaborates and it’s their preferred approach.

Among Fanikos’s front-of-mind passion projects is building the School’s endowment in order to become less tuition-dependent.

“Endowment is never sexy as a fundraising principle, but that will help so much because the more you increase tuition, even if conditions demand it, you need to increase accessibility, which means increasing tuition assistance,” said Fanikos. “What I think we need more of is tuition assistance to expand access to a Prep education. That’s what we strive for at St. John’s, but it’s also the biggest challenge. It’s all about pulling the right levers to become less tuition dependent. Bigger endowment. Auxiliary programming revenues. It’s a delicate calculus, but I do think we can get there.”