Samuel Phillips Hall
October 06, 2023

One quiet donation at a time

Anonymous giving helps to illuminate Andover’s past and shape its future
by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

The dedication of the Chandler-Wormley Vista this past spring brought to light the power of “quiet philanthropy.” The donor who made the naming possible chose to remain anonymous, and in doing so, focused attention on the intersection of Andover’s complicated history and its enduring ideals.

“We gather here together because of the generosity of a donor who believes, as we do, that our past matters a great deal,” said Head of School Raynard S. Kington, MD, PhD, P’24, ’27. “And how we recognize that past speaks to our values and who we have become as a school today.”

This same person joined with the school in 2018 (under the leadership of former head of school John Palfrey P’21) to establish the Richard T. Greener Quadrangle, which honors the legacy of one of America’s trailblazing advocates for racial equality. A member of the Phillips Academy Class of 1865 and a deeply loyal alumnus, Greener was an active and notable voice for the rights of Black Americans.

Additionally, the donor had previously named Chase House in honor of Barbara Landis Chase’s 18-year leadership and her commitment to the “education of the whole student.” Chase was Andover’s first female head of school.

If we’re serious about creating a community of belonging, people need to be able to see themselves in the history of Andover and Abbot.

Returning to campus to speak at the Vista dedication, Palfrey admired the artistry of philanthropy. “Sometimes,” he said, “that art takes the form of using the power of one’s wealth and imagination to put a name on a front door.” He highlighted the Tang Institute, the Pan Athletic Center, and the future Falls Hall music building. “Other times, that artistry takes the form of not putting one’s name on the front door.” When a donor takes this path, he said, the honor is often passed to someone else who deserves to be known and remembered.

Other iconic buildings, including the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center, were also funded by anonymous lead donors. The state-of-the-art student health facility opened in 2016 and honors former associate head of school Becky Sykes P’92, ’97, ’01, who set a legendary standard for nurturing the growth and intellectual development of all students.

Follow the thread of anonymous giving and one discovers that this unassuming yet powerful approach extends to endowed scholarships, locker rooms and lobbies that laud classmates and teachers, and stretches of land that now include the Chandler-Wormley Vista.

The Vista celebrates Beth Chandler and Sheryl Wormley, the first Black alumnae of Abbot Academy and graduates of the Class of 1955. Without this gift, it is likely these two women would have remained a brief mention in Susan McIntosh Lloyd’s A Singular School: Abbot Academy, 1828–1973. Now they will be remembered as an essential piece of the school’s history.

Not surprisingly, the donor’s priorities have long been focused on equity and inclusion initiatives. “If we’re serious about creating a community of belonging,” they said, “people need to be able to see themselves in the history of Andover and Abbot.

“We have always celebrated our excellence and accomplishments, and we should continue to do so. Wisely, we have also been willing to explore and reveal the parts of our past that are deeply disturbing and unappealing,” they added. “It’s a sign of Andover’s strength that we can talk openly about our failings while recognizing our institutional progress and honoring the individuals who overcame obstacles.”

Kington agreed and observed that, appropriately, both green spaces figure prominently into Andover’s traditions, most notably Commencement—when seniors process along the Chandler-Wormley Vista to the Greener Quad and take their seats in front of Samuel Phillips Hall. “It is fitting,” he said, “that our capstone ceremony to honor our newest alumni will now forever embody our expansive view of youth from every quarter.”

Of course, there are unique challenges when someone chooses to give anonymously. “The nature of this kind of gift means that it can be hard to know the intention behind it,” the donor said. “A donor doesn’t have the opportunity to tell their full story or motivation and, therefore, they risk being misunderstood.”

For this donor, the risk is worth it. They do not want to be at the center of the conversation around equity and inclusion at Andover or suggest that only this issue is worthy of recognition. Hence their decision to name other spaces for distinguished faculty and alumni who have served Andover in different ways.

“It’s a very personal decision,” the donor said. “I totally respect that what makes sense for me may not make sense for others. All forms of giving are admirable.”

Anonymous giving continues to enhance all aspects of Academy life. Recently, another donor gave two trusts to the Addison Gallery, both for the acquisition of American art from the 20th century. The first, an endowment, will provide steady funding for years to come. And the second, designed with great flexibility, will allow the Addison director to spend the entirety if an exceptional work of art becomes available.

“The Addison has benefited from this donor’s discerning eye and generosity for decades. Building on that support, these trusts ensure the continued growth of this remarkable collection that serves the campus and greater community so well,” said Allison Kemmerer, Mary Stripp and R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison Gallery.

Similarly, a family whose children attended Andover has funded three fully endowed scholarships. About this benevolent gift, the donor said, “It wasn’t until we saw our son at Andover—how happy and connected he was—that we knew what made this school special. The Academy levels the playing field, and that goes well beyond socioeconomic boundaries. We want to help create an environment that is a win-win for all.”

Back at the naming ceremony for the Chandler-Wormley Vista, Beth Chandler’s grandniece Lizzie Skurnick told the crowd she wasn’t surprised by the honor. “In Beth’s family, being an educational pioneer was not the exception but the norm,” she said. “The Chandler-Wormley Vista is not only a monument to Beth’s successes, but to the brilliance, kindness, and indomitable perseverance of the entire Chandler family. Andover is very lucky to have them as part of its lasting story.”

And that’s exactly what the anonymous donor—perhaps what every anonymous donor—hopes. That their gift will contribute to a story that will last.

Categories: Philanthropy

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