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Academy launches fund drive

October 06, 2000

Academy launches fund drive



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Mercersburg Academy Headmaster Douglas Hale plans to do a lot of traveling in the next two years crisscrossing the country trying to raise $35 million for his school.

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The academy's board of directors this week announced a $100-million capital campaign dubbed "Mightily Onward," a theme taken from the 108-year-old private prep school's alma mater.

The school kicked off the campaign with $65 million already in pocket thanks to several large "leadership" gifts and a lump-sum $35 million donation announced in April from H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite, of Philadelphia.

Lenfest, an academy alumnus, is the former publisher of Seventeen magazine. Earlier this year, he sold Suburban Cable of Lebanon, Pa., in a $7.2 billion deal. His $35 million gift is believed to be the second largest to an independent school, Hale said.

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Lenfest donated $6 million to Mercersburg Academy in 1993 for a new library.

The school hopes to raise the remaining $35 million by tapping the academy's estimated 10,000 living alumni. A committee has researched their whereabouts and is setting up eight regional fund-raising events over the next two years in parts of the country where alumni are concentrated, Hale said.

The first will take place in January in West Palm Beach, Fla. "There are a lot of retired alums there," Hale said.

Others will be organized in New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia and locations in the Midwest and West Coast.

Each event will consist of a cocktail party, a video presentation on the academy's needs and remarks by Hale; Edgar Masinter, chairman of the academy's board of regents; and Charles Moore, an alumnus who is heading up the national campaign.

Scholarship programs will receive $21 million and endowment programs $10 million of the $100 million.

Another $17 million will be spent improving salary, living conditions and educational opportunities for the academy's 75 faculty members.

Housing is provided for the teachers in dormitory apartments, houses on campus and in 20 houses that the school owns in the Borough of Mercersburg, Hale said.

He said $12 million will be spent to modernize the school's computer and technological systems.

The remaining $40 million will pay for renovations to campus buildings and for a proposed new 50,000 square-foot building where fine arts and performing arts will be combined under one roof. Early estimates place the cost of the building at around $14 million.

Tuition and board at Mercersburg Academy are about $26,000 a year, but that doesn't mean it's just "an enclave for spoiled rich kids," Hale said. "It's not just for the privileged. Four out of 10 of our students receive heavy financial aid. We have a good mix of racially, religiously, economically and ethnically diverse students," he said. Mercersburg Academy has to be accessible to students with academic ability but who lack financial ability, he said.

"That's why our scholarship and endowment programs are so important," he said.

While many of Mercersburg Academy's 430 students come from around the country as well as abroad, some come from the Tri-State area. Some area families have more than one child attending at a time, like Kelly Fox, 17, a senior, and her sister, Katie Fox, 15, a sophomore, daughters of Gerard and Joyce Fox of Waynesboro, Pa., or Nigel Sussman, a senior, and his sister, Adriene, a freshman, children of Andrew and Sally Sussman of Smithsburg.

"We chose Mercersburg because it has a tremendous academic reputation," Andrew Sussman said. "I don't know what to gauge that against, but we have been happy with the education our children are receiving."

Joyce Fox said the capital campaign should take the academy to a new level of leadership in the world of private prep schools. "It's always been prestigious. This will make it even more attractive internationally," she said.

Fox said her daughter Kelly's time at Mercersburg "has been exceptional. Kelly started the family tradition, but Katie wanted to go there too. She worked hard in middle school to get the grades."

The Fox family moved to Waynesboro in 1992 when Kelly was 9. "One day we were exploring the area and drove through the campus at Mercersburg, Joyce Fox said. "When Kelly saw it she said, 'If this is a school you can come to then I want to come here.'"

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