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If you believe in a boarding or independent school and you can afford to make a financial contribution, give now. Independent schools- just as colleges and universities- are working through endowment decreases and pressure. With increased financial aid demand, creating an even greater strain on institutional savings and finances.

If independent school is part of your or your family's nature and you can do it, make sure to make any gift possible this year.

The New York Times recently ran a piece titled "Colleges Ask Donors to Help Meet Demand for Aid." The higher ed situation and independent school situations are similar.

"Faced with one of the most challenging fund-raising environments anyone can remember, colleges and universities are appealing to donors to help meet the swelling demand for financial aid...

The incoming student body for the fall of 2009 will have higher financial needs than in the past," said Clay Ballantine, Hampshire's chief advancement officer. "I tell donors these are excellent students and we want to take financial concerns out of their decision-making process, and we're looking to you to provide a gift that will help us do that."

Photo credit: vanhookc

Boarding School Podcast Sustainablity Series

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In light of the economic downturn, school sustainability and adaptive strategies have been hot topics for a number of months. No one is spared from the realities of a shrinking economy- schools, families, students- we're all impacted.

To encourage a conversation about the options available to families and schools, AQ's Boarding School Podcast hosted a four part sustainability series featuring leaders in the private school world. Each interview provides history, current thinking and insights regarding adapting for the future. I encourage you to listen and share.

Boarding School Podcast: Sustainability Series

Boarding Schools Adapting To A Changing Environment
Pete Upham, Executive Director, The Association of Boarding Schools

The Value of Working with an Educational Consultant in a Tight Economic Climate
Mark Sklarow, Executive Director, Independent Educational Consultants Association

Exploring School Sustainability Directions & Ideas with Patrick Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools
Patrick Bassett, President of the National Association of Independent Schools

Approaching Financial Aid in an Economic Downturn
Martin Peyer, CEO, TADS & Jamie Miller, Director of Financial Aid, Blue Ridge School

John McPhee Spotlights Lacrosse in The New Yorker

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John McPhee- perhaps our finest non-fiction describer, boarding school alumnus and boarding school chronicler (The Headmaster)- published "Spin Right and Shoot Left" in the week's New Yorker. If you've ever been part of that boarding right of spring- lacrosse, you'll find much to warm your heart and reminisce over. The piece is a nice primer on lacrosse history, development and dissemination.

"Lacrosse and basketball are the siblings of soccer, hockey, and water polo...

Of these five games- with their picks and screens, their fast breaks and rotational defenses, their high degree of continuous motion- water polo, in its sluggish medium, is surely the most awkward, and lacrosse, at the other extreme, creates the fastest, and crispest accumulation of passes and is the prettiest to watch."
McPhee touches on the game's roots and history, international spread, a bit of coaching, some minutae- like the FOGO (Face Off, Get Off) specialist, modern equipment, his own playing experiences and the constant fiddling and re-engineering of one's stick. He requisitely mentions one of the great pieces of lacrosse trivia. The game's greatest player? Syracuse's Jimmy Brown, yes, that Jim Brown.

You can hear Princeton coach Bill Tierney talking pure lacrosse to English national team players- pure coaching and lacrosse tempered with diplomacy and respect for learning players.

Pure, feel-great and fun. Spring is here.

Photo credit: psmithy
The annual fund, donor contributions and the capital campaign go on even during this unsettled economy. The New York Times published an interesting piece yesterday- 'In Uncertain Times, Donors Hold Back.'  Donors, author Jan Rose points out, are as fearful about economic uncertainty as the rest of us.

Richard Kohan, a partner in the private client services group of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston told Rose a "psychology of conserving assets at present" creates a conflict in which preservation can trump a potential donors' desire to give.

However several potential strategies for soliciting donations allow potential donors to retain high comfort levels- multi-year pledges, donating professional services, creating larger donor pool making smaller donations, planned giving and the tax benefits of loss taking contributions.

Donors are currently inclined to answer no when asked. But, with some creativity and perspective, there are ways to bring the solicitation to yes.

A suggestion that I've made in conversation with advancement officers that I know- (a variation on the more- but smaller donation theme)- is that this is a great time to broaden your donor base. Communicate the need; make the case for participation; and ask for smaller amounts. These kinds of strategies build community fiber- inclusion, and participation that make the institution and future giving stronger.

Rosen closes her article with a comment from William G. Droms, professor of finance at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University  "People who need charity need help now, dig deeper to give if possible.

Catholic Schools Struggle to Find Their Raison d'être in a Changing World

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American catholic schools' enrollment has dropped by more than half from its peak of 5 million more than 40 years ago (New York Times - For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis). If you pay any attention to numbers and the health of institutions, a decline of more than 50% gets your attention. In the case of catholic and parochial schools, the Church, catholic families, and parishes are asking a multitude of questions about the nature of catholic education, catholic schools, and how they- all- should, plan for, and move into the future.

"....recently, after years of what frustrated parents describe as inertia in the church hierarchy, a sense of urgency seems to be gripping many Catholics who suddenly see in the shrinking enrollment a once unimaginable prospect: a country without Catholic schools.

From the ranks of national church leaders to the faithful in the pews, there are dozens of local efforts to forge a new future for parochial education by rescuing the remaining schools or, if need be, reinventing them. The efforts are all being driven, in one way or another, by a question in a University of Notre Dame task force report in 2006: "Will it be said of our generation that we presided over the demise" of Catholic schools?" (New York Times - For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis)

Everyone involved believes that catholic education matters and contributes to the American educational and social fabric. The trick is and will be to create a niche for catholic schools that keeps them bright, viable and of high quality.

As is often the case the best solutions are creative and responsive to local needs. Alumni are being asked to play larger roles. Student financing has become an openly discussed and planned for topic. Lay boards are being created to oversee educational matters. In Memphis, the diocese cultivates private donors and foundations for funding. And, in the most jarring local change:

"The Archdiocese of Washington was so desperate to save seven struggling parochial schools last year that it opted for a solution that shook Catholic educators to the core. It took down the crucifixes, hauled away the statues of the Virgin Mary, and -- in its own word -- "converted" the schools in the nation's capital into city charter schools." (New York Times - For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis)

I'm certain that this struggle is no fun for anyone involved. But, I can't help but believe that long term good will come soul searching and creative solutions. As an interviewee intimated in the article, many catholic and non-catholic school families and alumni assumed that catholic schools would be around forever. But changing times and circumstances always pressure and challenge the viability of all institutions.

Surviving schools will come out of these challenges sharply focused, with sound educational and financial plans and able to communicate the value of their education to families.

The challenge for any and all private schools is maintaining and building a viability to the ever changing world. If you don't stay connected and relevant to what families and children require, you become irrelevant and families can find a more valuable education elsewhere. As a private or parochial school you've got to do two things:

  1. Make yourself the best choice

  2. Stay affordable to your constituency
For the past few months, Brian tracked Florida State's (& The Hun School's) Myron Rolle and his application for a Rhodes Scholarship during the heart of the college football season. If you missed his posts, you can read them here & here.

Just this week Myron formally announced his decision to postpone entering the NFL draft in favor of accepting the prestigious scholarship and heading to Oxford for the year to pursue a Masters in Medical Anthropology.

ESPN's Chris McKendry caught up with him during yesterday's SportsCenter and they discussed his plans for the next year at Oxford, the NFL and his post-playing career ambition to become a Neurosurgeon with the intent of creating a free health clinic in the Bahamas.

He's a young man with a clear vision on how he can positively impact communities around the world- to demonstrate such a sharp focus at his (or any) age impresses me to no end.

You can watch the entire interview below:

Faculty Who Connect: Perhaps the Greatest Private School Strength

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It's a bit of a feel-good story- student who was a complete pain in the a**; returns to his alma matter after becoming successful; thanking the faulty member who reached out and connected; and making a sizable donation.

From Dirk Johnson's New York Times article:

"In the early 1980s, James J. Liautaud was a trouble-making student at Elgin Academy who ranked near the bottom of his high school class. He drank beer. He smoked cigarettes. He skipped class.

The dean, James Lyons, recognized the rebellion as insecurity, and saw what others did not - a student from a financially struggling family, trying to fit in at a prestigious school among wealthier, more polished peers. The dean, who had a working-class upbringing himself, put his job on the line. "If he goes," he told the faculty, "I go."
Faculty connection is a great strength of private schools- boarding and day. Faculty connect; nurture; and find the diamonds in the rough- even when it takes some patience, effort and risk.

As Mr. Liautaud told the Times, "It's a real simple deal...Jim Lyons believed in me."

The rough diamonds don't always turn out to be as wildly financially successful as Mr. Liautaud, but the number of rough diamonds uncovered, nurtured and smoothed by dedicated private school faculty is countless.
Michael Cooper, Brewster Academy's Head of School, sent the extended Brewster community (I'm a 1991 grad) a letter yesterday detailing a Lakes Region land gift valued at $6.3 million.

The gift, made by former Fidelity Investments President James C. Curvey and his family, consists of over 11 acres of lakefront property. The Curvey family intends the gift to provide scholarships to students in the greater Alton/Wolfeboro area.

Dr. Cooper wrote about the scholarship program and additional opportunities made possible by the gift:
Scholarships will go to three local students (in the greater Alton & Wolfeboro area) per year for their four years at Brewster, starting with the first three in the fall term of 2009. Ultimately, 12 students at a time will benefit from this gift.

In addition to honoring the Curvey family legacy of supporting educational opportunities for talented students, the donation expands the Academy's lakefront resources and provides the setting for more hands-on educational opportunities that will enhance current offerings such as Fresh Water Ecology, Environmental Science, Character Leadership, and other experiential learning programs.

Congrats to the folks at BA. The generosity of the Curvey family is sure to benefit the BA community over the years to come.
Culver AcademiesFrank and Jane Batten have made a two part gift to the Culver Academies that could total $70 million. $20 million of the gift goes toward the creation of the Batten Fellows program which will insure competitive faculty salaries and development opportunities. $50 million of the gift sets-up the Batten Leadership Challenge which will match endowment gifts up to $50 million. Successful completion of the full match will bring the Batten's Culver commitment to over $100 million.

Mr. Batten cites Culver's positive influence on his life as motivation for the gift:

"Culver was a very positive influence in my life at an impressionable age with its unique emphasis on individual responsibility, ethical decision-making, and student leadership. Jane and I are pleased to give back to present and future students what was given to me."
John Buxton, Culver's head told an interviewer:

"This is the gift every head of schools in the country dreams about. The Batten Fellows Program may be the most generous gift for faculty salaries in the history of secondary school philanthropy. The gift benefits those who make the real difference in students' lives: the faculty. Culver may be the first school in the country to have such an endowment. We are extremely grateful to Frank and Jane Batten for making such a program possible for Culver. This gift will allow us to recognize excellence in teaching and to promote its faculty in a more appropriate way."
Mr. Batten is Culver Alumnus, an emeritus member of Culver's board and the retired CEO of Landmark Communications which recently sold The Weather Channel to a consortium of NBC, Blackstone Management Partners and Bain Capital Partners.

You can read Culver's news release on Marketwire.

Photo credit: Devonaire Eye

Myron Rolle's Academic-Athletic Balance

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We live in close proximity to a Bowl Championship Series football program (Ole Miss). Even though we love it, we have to admit that athletic priorities sometimes get out of whack and leave you shaking your head.

Alas, the world isn't crazy all the time. I grinned ear-to-ear yesterday afternoon when I read Stewart Mandel's column. Myron Rolle, (The Hun School graduate, 2006) Florida State's great safety and scholar, missed Saturday's game against Maryland because he had to be in Birmingham, AL to interview with the Rhodes scholarship selection committee. We wrote about Rolle's academic achievements and looming tough choices a few months back.

The academic football conflict is rare. But the beauty lies in Rolle's commitment to his studies and his coach's support and belief that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes first. Even for coach Bobby Bowden, athletics don't always come first.

Coach Bowden told SI: "We couldn't be more proud of this happening for one of our players. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance and you wouldn't dare deny him that. I just hope he wins it."

Photo Credit: Lance McCord

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