By Todd Cohen
RALEIGH, N.C. — In 1862, Raleigh physician Josiah Ogden Watson left a bequest of $5,000 in bonds to “fund and employ a teacher of a Parish school for Christ Church Raleigh.”
The school opened in 1868 with 70 students, and Christ Church reestablished it in 1937 as Ravenscroft School, named for the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and the first rector of Christ Church.
And in 1968, board members Robert P. Holding Jr. and his brother Lewis R. “Snow” Holding, top executives of First Citizens Bank, offered a grant of $750,000 that challenged the school’s board to match the gift within 30 days in an effort to raise funds to build a new school that eventually was located on Falls of the Neuse Road.
Philanthropic support has been fundamental to Ravenscroft, which now provides an education for roughly 1,200 students from pre-school through high school and this fall will kick off a year-long 150th anniversary celebration.
During that celebration, the school also will be laying the groundwork for a major fundraising effort that likely will begin its “quiet” phase in 2013 and will support a strategic vision the school’s board of trustees approved in 2011.
That strategy calls for supporting professional development to help faculty teach more effectively in a world shaped by technology and the global marketplace, making the school more accessible for prospective students, preparing students to be leaders, and improving facilities.
“We’re going to prepare people to thrive in an interdependent world,” says Phil Higginson, assistant head of school for institutional advancement.
Through a partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, for example, Ravenscroft is preparing students to be leaders and engaged citizens.
And in an initiative piloted last year for all seventh- and 10th-graders, with the pilot funded through a gift from John Replogle, a Ravenscroft trustee and CEO and president of Seventh Generation, the school this year will provide a Chromebook laptop for every student in grades seven through 12.
With a $13 million endowment, Ravenscroft raises over $1 million a year, including $900,000 through its annual fund.
Under a policy the school’s trustees adopted about four years ago, 10 percent of dollars raised through the annual fund are designated for the endowment.
The new policy has added $70,000 to $80,000 a year to the endowment and raised awareness of endowment needs, with three people creating new endowments through annual gifts, Higginson says.
Ravenscroft, which in spring 2011 completed a campaign that raised $2.2 million for new entrances to its campus from Falls of the Neuse Road and Newton Road, as well as a new circle, columns and trees on campus, will spend its anniversary year celebrating its philanthropic legacy.
The anniversary celebration includes an anniversary book that was unveiled Sept. 27 at kickoff event at the North Carolina Museum of History, and a gala next spring.
“Our passion now,” Higginson says, “is making certain our faculty are given the tools they need through professional development to really be able to provide the finest educational experience.”