Published Online: June 18, 1997


Private Schools

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Independent schools have enjoyed another bullish year.

Private gifts to independent K-12 schools jumped 10.4 percent during the 1995-96 school year over the previous year, according to a soon-to-be-released report from the New York City-based Council for Aid to Education.

The gain marks the fifth consecutive year in which gifts to such schools outpaced inflation.

Gifts from parents grew 9.3 percent, while donations from alumni rose 15.6 percent. Gifts from "other individuals" saw the greatest growth: 25.9 percent.

About 300 schools participated in the survey; all were members of the Washington-based National Association of Independent Schools.

The council speculates that the increases reflect continued growth in the stock market and the general health of the economy. Educators add that in recent years, many private schools have beefed up their fund-raising efforts.

"More schools are asking, and they're asking for larger gifts," said James T. Kaull, who directs the department of business and development services at the NAIS. "Independent schools have always been a little shy in that area, but they've now come into their own."

The council's full report, "Voluntary Support of Education 1996," is slated for release next month. But many of the survey's results can now be viewed on the council's World Wide Web page at

In one example of what the money means to individual schools, a new gift is helping resurrect an old tradition at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

David Underwood, an Andover graduate from the Class of 1954 and the president of the school's board of trustees, recently pledged a $10 million gift to his alma mater. The donation ranks as the biggest single donation in the prep school's 219-year history.

About $4 million of the gift will go toward renovating and expanding the school's 1930s-era chapel. The chapel was a focus of school community life for some 70 years as it regularly hosted all-school gatherings.

But in the early 1990s the school population outgrew the chapel. Since then, officials said, Andover has had to hold all-school meetings in two separate locations simultaneously with a live audio feed between them.

"The community as a single unit is not felt unless you can get everyone together at the same time," said Mr. Underwood, a stockbroker who runs a Texas oil and gas business.

Part of his gift will be used to add a new balcony, allowing the chapel to hold all of the school's 1,000 students.


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