Headmaster’s Thoughts – December 2007

In the middle of the November parent-teacher conferences, my secretary informed me that a father wanted to see me. The day had been so positive – so many wonderful things had been said to me as to how great our teachers are – that I assumed that there must be one complaint and that this would be it. Although I teach ethics to the seniors and a course in philosophy to the 10th grade Scholars class, parents rarely see me during conference days. It is just unheard of for a student to fail ethics (I am the headmaster after all) or for a Scholar to fail philosophy.

The father came in and sat down. He then told me how happy he was with his daughter’s education and that he would like to donate a full tuition so that another child who otherwise could not afford York could have the same experience. And he gave me a check to the Scholarship Foundation for a full year’s tuition with a request for anonymity. Impressive and unexpected! He became an “angel” for a child. We are blessed in having several of them.

These angels sometimes meet the children they sponsor (we have an angel who sponsors three and stays in touch with them during and after their time at York, meeting them once a year for lunch, available by phone or e-mail when they need mentoring) and sometimes leave it all to us. Either way, they have given the great gift of education, sometimes anonymously.

By now, new parents will have discovered that there are no galas or auctions or glossy catalogues for the Foundation, and that I spend no time fundraising. I like to think that I spend all my time running the operations of the school, but I have serious moments of doubt. Are we shortchanging our parents by not having glamorous events where money is raised? Do parents think less of us because we do not produce beautifully photographed pamphlets with the names of the big givers on it? Does this affect the perception of the school?

It should be the mission of every educational institution to be responsible for helping underprivileged students rise above their surroundings through free (or greatly reduced) tuition at their institution. We should help prepare leaders from all strata of society. And it is tangibly beneficial for an educational community to have a student body where students from diverse backgrounds are represented. The way to do this is through a foundation such as ours, a 501(c)(3) charity, where every penny raised goes to funding scholarships, not buildings or facilities, not pools or more gyms (though they would be nice). No, I believe that if you ask the parents for help, it should be in one area only, and that is to give deserving children the gift of a York Prep education. Everything else should come out of the school budget.

So this month I will send out my once-a-year letter to parents asking for their help. It may not raise as much money as galas and auctions, it may not be as flashy as the glossy catalogues, but, without a penny’s cost to the Foundation, we will find a number of parents willing to act as angels in some way. This display of generosity is gratifying and heartwarming, and I thank all of them on behalf of those students who can only come to York Prep because of it. Our scholarship students rarely know who helped them and, as a result, may not directly express their gratitude, so, on their behalf, and with as much appreciation as I possibly can express, I thank you.

Happy Holidays to all!

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section In the News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.