Fighting for Financial Aid
Fighting for Financial Aid
Tad Roach

In this Founders Day Chapel Talk, Head of School Tad Roach shares why he is determined to raise $50 million dollars for St. Andrew's longstanding, revolutionary financial aid program.

When Walden Pell received an invitation to become St. Andrew's first Head of School, the School's Founder Alexis Felix duPont surprised him by saying that in addition to buying the land and building the School, he intended to create a sizeable endowment to support the mission and operation. At first, Dr. Pell was suspicious of a School supported and funded by a generous endowment; he memorably said that he was not sure he wanted to lead a School with "a silver spoon in its mouth," a figure of speech that implied that the School would be immediately entitled, privileged, rich, and therefore he implied, weak, pampered and complacent.

After speaking with the Founder, Walden Pell discovered that every essence of the St. Andrew's experiment involved something very different. The School began, emerged, and strengthened itself as the very antithesis of the American boarding school. Our endowment gave us the unique opportunity to invest in an American principle of equality of opportunity. Mr. duPont created the first American boarding school with a mission to educate students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and together four Heads of School were given the opportunity to make sure the St. Andrew's experiment in education expanded to include the rich diversity of the American and global family.

In other words, while every other American boarding school was created for the most affluent in American society, St. Andrew's privileged financial aid students; it was and is their school, their open door, their second home, their community. And precisely because of this generous and unfolding experiment in opportunity and inclusion, we all came to St. Andrew's: teachers who sought to teach at a school with students from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences; students from all socioeconomic groups who wanted to cultivate excellence and friendship in a community that reflected the spectrum of America and the world. This is a story of hope, of meaning, of illumination, and of purpose.

What is an endowment, or to be more specific, what is the purpose of an endowment for a secondary school like St. Andrew's? As Dr. Pell's phrase teaches us, it is easy to make erroneous assumptions about endowments. You may think that St. Andrew's has a big endowment and therefore lots of money to spend. That is not really true at all.

Yes, St. Andrew's has an endowment of nearly $200 million dollars, but in many ways the audacious nature of the School's many commitments and principles make that endowment work harder than any other among our peer boarding schools for it helps support a world class faculty, an academic program featuring small classes and intensive collaboration with faculty, an all residential student body and faculty, a commitment to the creation of a small community of 310 students, a generous and transformational financial aid program, the care and preservation and development of a 21st century campus, yearly security, technological and maintenance needs.

The best way to describe the endowment at St. Andrew's is to say that it fuels the present and the future plans and aspirations of the School. It is not exactly a fund to be used only for future needs, for we depend on the endowment to generate income each year to support at least 40 percent of the School's $23 million budget. (Our Saints Fund supplies around 10 percent and tuition 45 to 50 percent of our budget.) The endowment is not an account designed merely for expenses, for the endowment must continue to grow and flourish even as if we use it significantly year after year.

If we spend too much, we compromise the experience and opportunity of future generations. If we spend too little, we compromise the diversity and progress and momentum of the community today. If the endowment does not grow through both gifts and investment returns, both the present and the future are imperiled.

The way we strike that balance each year is to use only a limited and disciplined percentage of the endowment (4 to 4.5 percent) and seek to grow the endowment both through investments and capital gifts. This year, we spend $8.3 million dollars of that endowment and seek to both replace that draw and increase the endowment. It is the only way to make the School sustainable. We try to make sure that every dollar we spend on the life of this School serves our own distinctive spirit and mission. At St. Andrew's, preserving and cultivating the endowment are vital necessities.

Think of the endowment as the source of the School's culture, values, and community. Think of it as the resource that delivers, year after year, decade after decade, on the Founders promise of a school open to all regardless of a family's financial circumstance. Think of the endowment as our way of participating in the American belief in equality of opportunity for all. Think of the endowment as the source of creativity, innovation for St. Andrew's Heads of School as they seek to define and achieve each era's definition of excellence. Think of the endowment as the means to celebrate and support this great teaching and mentoring faculty and staff, so dedicated to inspiring the energy and potential of each student. Think of the endowment as liberating the energy and creativity of graduates all across the nation and world, united as they are in a belief in generosity of spirit, integrity, service, and the pursuit of a public good. Think of the endowment as the living symbol of the generosity and commitment of all St. Andreans. Think of the endowment as the resource that calls us to be generous and faithful in our commitment to serve the needs of others. (It created St. Anne's School, the Delaware College Scholars Program, our relationship with Special Olympics Delaware, and other community commitments.)

Think of ways to save the endowment, both through resisting materialism (endemic in private schools) and practicing conservation of both natural and financial resources. Think of the endowment as the responsibility of every person who has benefitted from the experience and opportunity of this School. Think of the endowment and its cultivation, growth, and care as the responsibility of every current and graduating class within the School.

We as an extended school community celebrate Founders Day by embracing the same radical concept of generosity our Founder modeled. I encourage you as students to understand that each day here is a miracle of generosity created by people who wanted you to have this School as the foundation of your life and education.

Our Trustees, Advancement office, and I work very hard every day to honor, connect with, and inform our full constituency of the unfolding energy and narrative of the School, and then to invite St. Andreans to give back to the School that meant so much to them and their families .

Every gift to the Saints Fund allows us to reduce the amount of money we need to draw from the endowment. Last year, the Saints Fund raised over $2.5 million and covered over 10 percent of our operating budget. 100 percent of the Class of 2018 gave to that fund. The endowment we saved because of those gifts now can grow and support the future needs of the students and the School. This year our goal is to take that fund to $2.7 million. The Saints Fund is a powerful and important way for all of us to give back.

We also ask for and receive capital gifts and planned gifts to build new facilities, renovate physical spaces, and fund faculty support and student financial aid. The Amos renovation is a $13 million project, to be fully funded by capital gifts--we have already raised $10 million for the building. The field house, the Arts Center, the new squash courts, the tennis courts, the lower level of Founders were all made possible by recent capital gifts. Take the time to pause and study the plaques in those buildings noting and celebrating the many donors who gave so we would have, for instance, Engelhard, the weight room, the arts studios, the gallery, the library, the theatre.

And today, we work on a financial aid and faculty capital campaign designed to honor and protect the people who make this School so powerful and unique: our students and faculty. I will travel anywhere at anytime to explain why supporting students and faculty is the best gift St. Andreans can make. When a donor makes or a series of donors create an endowment gift of $1.2 million for financial aid, they know and I know that their gift means that a student will receive the opportunity of a St. Andrew's education in perpetuity. That endowment gift is not one that expires after the first recipient graduates. Student after student after student, life after life after life will be forever transformed.

The reality for the St. Andrew's of the future is that our endowment must grow steadily from its present value of nearly $200 million to a future value of $300 million. We will need more endowment first to protect our audacious financial aid program. We will need more endowment to reduce our dependency on tuition increases that threaten to dramatically reduce the number of families that can afford a St. Andrew's education. We will need more endowment to support the work, salaries, benefits, and development of our teaching faculty. We will need more endowment to be creative and innovative in our institutional fight for goodness in the country and the world.

When you are older and independent, I hope you might remember this talk and each to emulate the philanthropy that created this School, both by giving what you can and working with all heart and soul for St. Andrew's. By the time you graduate from St. Andrew's, whether you are a senior or a freshmen, we will be on our way to strengthening a philanthropic momentum here that will assure future students and faculty of the same opportunity we enjoy today.

I really want, with all my heart, to raise up to $50 million dollars for financial aid over the next few years. Some people might think that is impossible, but then I think of the miracle that occurred in 1929 with the creation and endowment of this School. As Hick Rowland, former President of our Board said to me years ago, "At St. Andrew's, anything is possible". And he is right--look what happened in the depth of the depression: the founding of St. Andrew's.

In 2011, at the very beginning of the financial crisis, St. Andrew's endowment's anti-fragility was tested. The endowment both provides the vital funding for our yearly budget and helps to establish the School's capacity to maintain and intensify the School's mission and momentum, no matter the challenges or circumstances we encounter.

Our endowment, like everyone else's, took on dramatic losses. Questions began to arise. What would happen to financial aid, to the stability of faculty and staff, to the families that suddenly needed financial assistance for a St. Andrew's education? Thanks the leadership of the Board of Trustees and particularly Kent Sweezey and Scott Sipprelle and thanks to the way the endowment had grown through investment and through gifts, I was able to announce in the midst of the crisis that we would maintain financial aid for all families, provide new financial aid for all those affected by the crisis, and continue to support the work of our faculty and staff. Our experience through that crisis made us stronger: we confirmed our most sacred human priorities, we studied the ways we used financial resources, we worked even harder in the School's fundraising program, we worked to re-invest in the endowment.

And we did all of this knowing that at St. Andrew's at least, an endowment is the source of liberating human potential and a commitment to goodness. We cannot ever lose the generosity, freedom, and inspiration our endowment provides.

Think tonight of all who give or who have given so much for us to have stewardship and responsibility for this St. Andrew's we love so much. Explore the opportunities they have provided. We have the responsibility now of living and fighting for the spirit of the community by the way we learn, live, and ignite individual and collective excellence. We had a great fall together, and we have the energy and momentum to intensify our teaching and learning, dedicate ourselves to learning from one another, striving for excellence in the arts and athletics, and witnessing the art of friendship and kindness. Be intentional and focused on doing your part to make sure the School of today is the best version of St. Andrew's since our founding.