College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12

Head's Notes - The Joy of Giving

“Goodwill to fellow members of the human race.” We all, I think, want to be people of “goodwill to fellow members of the human race.” That phrase is Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word philanthropy. We talk at Holton quite a lot about philanthropy. It’s an esoteric sounding word that strongly betrays its Greek origin, almost like a scientific term or the botanical name of a plant. Indeed, it stems from a Greek word meaning loving people. While the definition of philanthropy is heartwarming, rather than philanthropy I would like to talk about giving, a word with so many positive connotations. We think of generosity; we think of the pleasure we feel when we give someone a present; we think of the satisfaction we feel when we give of ourselves to someone else. Giving is good. We all give in various ways all the time: parenting, for example, is an endless exercise in giving; teaching, likewise, represents an ongoing process of giving. We know the rewards we receive from giving, and those who give financial gifts to organizations, who participate in what we generally think of as philanthropy, know that giving makes us feel good.   

This week, we are publicly announcing The Promise of Holton-Arms: The Campaign for Our Future. We are incredibly excited to report that, during this most ambitious – and successful – campaign in Holton’s history, we have raised over $25 million for Holton. This campaign is what is called a comprehensive campaign meaning that it includes both capital giving (to buildings and to endowment), and giving for operations, which at Holton we call the Holton Fund. This means that everyone – 87% of parents last year – who has given to the Holton Fund over the last six years is a campaign donor! THANK YOU!! We couldn’t be the place we are without that generous annual support which, by the way, has amounted since 2016 to over $10.7 million.  

As is typical of campaigns, the Promise Campaign has multiple priorities: faculty support in the form of both faculty recognition and faculty professional learning; financial aid; global education; the Learning Commons, a reimagining of the Marriott Library for the 21st century; and renovation of the gym. So far, 608 donors, current and past parents, alumnae, and employees, have contributed over $14.3 million to these priorities:   

Financial Aid


Global Education


Faculty Support


Faculty Professional Learning




Programs (a variety)


Learning Commons




The gifts that make up this $14.3 million range from $1 million to $1,000. In every case, the donor or donors gave to Holton and to a program or project because they care about the school and its future. I’m confident that they feel good about that act of giving. And they are all making a difference to this wonderful School.

Taken together, the first five rows of the chart above (financial aid, global education faculty compensation and professional learning, and undesignated monies) virtually all represent endowment gifts, meaning, basically, that they go into the School’s trust fund. These donors have created 33 new endowed funds on whose earnings we draw to support their designated purposes, but do not touch the corpus of the funds. Altogether, they have more than doubled our donor-contributed endowment. These gifts include the creation of two instructorships that honor great teaching, the Sweet Instructorship in STEM which we awarded for the first time last June and another one in science which we expect to be fully funded soon. The honoring of great teaching is certainly the most important aspect of the instructorships, but the income from these funds also defrays part of the salary of the person holding the instructorship. The financial aid funds will ultimately throw off about $130,000 annually to underwrite financial aid. We have always subsidized our Junior Journeys because we never wanted finances to stand in the way of this valuable experience; the Global Ed endowment will help fund student expenses for Global Ed trips. As you can tell, creating these endowments makes a significant positive impact on the School’s budget, ultimately making us less reliant on tuition and more flexible in the programming we can provide and the students we can enroll. In these ways, these gifts benefit every member of the School community.

The Learning Commons will prove a game changer for the Holton-Arms Middle and Upper School student experience. Every architect who toured the school when bidding for the project commented on the lack of a physical “heart” in a school that clearly valued community. The Learning Commons will create that heart: a place where students (and adults) can gather to socialize, to study, and to work collaboratively or individually. In addition to comfortable, light-filled interior spaces, it will have multiple exterior spaces allowing us to take greater advantage of the out-of-doors – something we have all learned to value during Covid. Originally built in 1983, this building has received only minor renovations over the last nearly 40 years. It would be hard to describe how excited I am about this space and the impact it will have on the community.

Likewise, the gym renovation will transform that critically important facility. Our outdoor athletic spaces and our pool are top-notch, some of if not the best among our peers. Not so our gym which hasn’t changed substantially since it was completed in 1988!! Needless to say, it is long overdue for an upgrade. I am looking forward to our PE classes and our volleyball and basketball teams having a space improved from a performance perspective because of the new wood floor but also much more appealing visually. Plus, the viewing balcony and new bleachers will elevate the fan experience, not to mention the impression the more inviting and prominent new entrance will make. This renovation along with the weight room redo sends important messages about how we value our athletic program.  

Institutionally, we decided to set these priorities for the Campaign. It’s individuals’ generosity, however, that are making those priorities a reality. Yes, these donors have given dollars to Holton, but, as you can tell, they are actually giving SO much more. They will be creating top-of-the line facilities that will enhance the student experience. They allow us to celebrate our amazing teachers while supporting professional learning. They make a Holton education available to students who might not otherwise afford it, enriching our school community by their presence while also giving students the opportunity of the life-changing experiences of Global Ed trips. These gifts are truly priceless in their value and impact.

Walk around any college campus, and you realize that these institutions do not generate sufficient revenue through regular operations – tuition – to fund major capital projects like buildings and renovations. In addition, endowments ensure that great institutions maintain their quality over time, allowing them flexibility, the ability to weather tough times, and the financial security to offer financial aid and pay their employees well. Independent schools like Holton are no different. Hence, schools reach out periodically to their communities in capital campaigns, as we are doing with the Promise Campaign. These campaigns give all of us as members of these communities the chance to demonstrate our support for an institution we believe in, and do so in ways that go so far beyond the dollars we donate; as a bonus, we get to experience the rewards of giving. My husband’s and my gift to the Promise Campaign is by far the largest we have ever made to an institution. I hope that, like us, you will think about these priorities and make a gift that will help secure Holton’s excellence “far into the distant future.” I know you’ll feel good if you do.