Education Funding

A Philanthropic ‘Angel’ Rescues Private School

By Catherine Gewertz — April 04, 2001 1 min read
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To keep their small Episcopal school in Philadelphia open, children had been dropping pennies into a jar in the school office. But St. Barnabas was still far short of the money it needed.

Until Patricia Walsh decided that instead of buying a new Mercedes, she’d give $50,000 to the school.

“I thought to myself, my car is perfectly good,” Ms. Walsh, a 73-year-old Philadelphia woman with a history of philanthropic work, said in an interview last week. “I’d rather use the money to help keep that school open.”

So she’ll drive her 10-year-old Chrysler Concord a while longer.

A Blessing

Cynthia G. Wright, the head of St. Barnabas Episcopal School, which enrolls 70 children in preschool through 6th grade, said that when Ms. Walsh called last month to offer the money, she couldn’t believe her ears.

“She said she had seen the article about us in the newspaper, that she’d been here on another occasion, and thought it was such a wonderful school, and that she wanted to offer a small donation,” Ms. Wright said.

“When she said $50,000, I stuttered and I had to whisper, ‘Did you say 5-0?’ She chuckled a moment and said yes,” Ms. Wright said. “It was a spiritual moment. I knew for sure that God is listening to us, that he sent us an angel.”

The 33-year-old school, in a middle-class Philadelphia neighborhood, had gone $100,000 into debt in the past few years as enrollment declined, driven in part by the presence of local charter schools, Ms. Wright said. The church that houses the school was having financial difficulty of its own and considered closing the school to save money, she said.

In February, the school appealed to its families to help. Parents and children dropped coins and bills in a big jar. Since Ms. Walsh’s March 13 donation, though, two other donors have offered $10,000 each, Ms. Wright said.

Ms. Walsh, who attended a private school as a child, said she wanted to help St. Barnabas because its students come from families who struggle to pay tuition.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2001 edition of Education Week as A Philanthropic ‘Angel’ Rescues Private School

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