Below you will find testimonials from alumni, parents, teachers and friends of Blair who have chosen to support the School by including Blair in their estate plans.
We hope the following stories will inspire you to join others who have provided for Blair's future. Blair is grateful to these individuals and families who have made thoughtful commitments to the School through planned gifts that fit their individual financial needs while allowing them to make a meaningful impact at Blair.
- A Gift From the Heart Keeps Family Close to Students & the School
- Blair Education Prepared Alumna To Roll With Changes
- Navigating the Waters to a Comfortable Retirement
- World War II Hero Helps Shoulder Responsibility for Blair’s Future
- How One Year Led to a Lifetime of Giving
- A Unique History Inspires a Lasting Resource for Blair Students
- Two Generations Help Pave the Way for Blair's Future
- Unlock the Power of Your Retirement Plan
- Gifts that Help Secure Blair’s Future: Alumnus Makes a Bequest
- Parents Who Lead by Example
- Planned Gift Impacts Blair Today & Ensures a Promising Tomorrow
- Looking Back & Giving Forward: Generous Alumnus Plans for Blair’s Future
- Bequest Helps Blair Sail to a Secure Future
- Son's Blair Experience Inspires Parents' Estate Gift
- 'You Can't Take It With You!': Blair Alumnus '61 & Wife Make Bequest to Blair
- A Good Deal: Establishing a Charitable Gift Annuity
- Scholarship Bequest Impacts Students’ Lives
- Teacher’s Legacy Lives on in Scholarship
- Loyal Alumnus Planned for Blair’s Future
- A Brighter Future: Class of ’54 Establishes New Horizons Scholarship
- Young Educator Takes Passionate, Proactive Approach
- Seize the Day! A Blair Supporter Takes Action
- Blair Alumni Give Back to Blair with CGAs
- 35th Reunion Inspires Bequest from Loyal Blair Alumna
Cheryl Clutsam, Hon. '65, married into an enthusiastic Blair family more than 40 years ago and found herself adopting its passion for the School as her own. Her father-in-law, Henry "Og" Clutsam, graduated in 1938 and served on Blair's Board of Trustees, while her late husband, Henry "Hank" Clutsam, graduated in 1965 and followed in his father's footsteps to Blair Trusteeship. Cheryl became a proud Blair mom when their son, Henry, class of 2001, came to Blair, honing his talents in the squash program and ultimately making the sport his profession. Their daughter, Neely, while never attending Blair, can't help being part of the Blair family!
Henry went on to college, and Cheryl and Hank stayed connected to the School through the class of 1965 and many Blair friends, but they missed the deeper connections they developed as parents of a current Blair student. "Henry graduated," Cheryl remembered, "and we still needed to be involved with Blair!"
So, in 2013, the couple established The Clutsam Family Scholarship to honor their family legacy and give others the opportunity of a Blair education. Since then, the relationships with Clutsam Family Scholarship recipients have been rewarding and worthwhile. Cheryl has loved seeing how the students grow through their experiences at Blair, which include a wonderful combination of academic rigor, a nurturing environment, recognition of each student's uniqueness, and development of the tools that encourage them to realize what they stand for and where they can go in life. Seeing the impact of this opportunity gives Cheryl great satisfaction.
Before Hank's passing in 2017, the Clutsams established a charitable gift annuity (CGA) through Blair that now pays Cheryl a guaranteed income for life. It will ultimately support their family's scholarship and is another way to stay involved with the School. Cheryl feels the CGA was easy to set up and is glad Hank made the decision to do it. "This gift came from our hearts, and, now that it's just me, I always feel good about being a part of the Blair family," Cheryl reflected. Blair is truly grateful for the devotion of the entire Clutsam family.
Denise Stocker Current '74 came to Blair in 1970 as one of the first female students at the Academy since 1916. With only 21 admitted as day girls, there were no women's sports teams, wearing pants was forbidden and, in Denise's experience, it was assumed girls, not boys, would pitch in to do some dorm cleaning chores. To the School's credit in those tumultuous times, things changed quickly and girls, though smaller in number than boys, were soon fully integrated as equal, thriving members of the Blair community. As pictured on the previous page, Denise was a member of Blair's first girls' field hockey team! As both a day and boarding student, she embraced the changes, challenges and opportunities that Blair offered.
Denise loved going to school – not even wanting to take a break to have her tonsils removed – and was impressed by the amount of time teachers spent with the students compared to her prior experience in public school. She appreciated the dedication of the faculty and staff who were "completely committed and on call 24 hours a day," noticing not just what they did for her, but for everyone. She fondly remembers Mr. "Ferd" Marcial looking after the welfare of so many students. She knew that if she needed extra help in a class, a teacher would be there to help, no matter what time – day or night. The faculty taught many life lessons outside of the classroom without her realizing it at the time, allowing her to prove that she could follow a schedule, study and get good grades, which prepared her for college and life beyond Blair.
After graduating, Denise, again, found herself in a "man's world" when the running of her family's business suddenly fell to her. Her father started The Stocker Bus Company but Denise had to take over the reins in 1988 when her father suffered a massive stroke. She purchased the company in 1991 quickly expanding her responsibilities from bookkeeper to owner. She had to learn the ins and outs of a tough business: negotiating new contracts; hiring staff; learning to drive a bus. Her husband Dave, and son, James helped, but she was in the driver's sear, learning as she went. Like when she was at Blair and needed extra help in a class, Denise knew how to search out resources to get the help she needed. To quote Denise, "Life evolves, and I roll with it!" which is an apt phrase for the owner of a charter and school bus company.
Even with the demands of family and business, Denise has always strived to give back by volunteering with many organizations. Her work with Rotary International in particular, "opened my eyes to see that others don't have the opportunities that Blair gave me." Denise saw firsthand when donating her company's older buses to orphanages in Mexico, or to organizations in Africa and South America, that, "So many people don't even get an education." It is deeply satisfying for Denise to know that someone will benefit from her charitable giving and volunteer work that she is "paying forward." In fact, she says, "When you give to others, you get a wonderful feeling. You don't have to be wealthy to give a helping hand."
When her granddaughter, Carissa '16, came to the School in 2012, Denise was impressed by the increased reputation of the School, the wise investments by the Trustees, the quality of the students, the positive comparison to peer schools and the enduring value of a Blair education. All of these considerations moved her to take a step beyond her annual giving and john the John C. Sharpe Society of planned givers.
Her goal was to plan a gift to support the organizations that mean the most to her, including Blair. Since Denise had paid-up life insurance policy she did not need, she named the organizations as beneficiaries of the policy that will benefit their missions in the future.
She looks forward to the upcoming reunion with her class - alumni and alumnae, serving on the reunion committee to encourage her classmates to come back to celebrate what they learned and uniquely experienced together. "Blair is a part of who I am, and no one can take away what Blair gives you."
John Alden ’63 has been a chief financial officer at boarding schools for more than 25 years. We are lucky at Blair that he has served on our Board of Trustees since 1975. Currently, he is an Emeritus Trustee and member of the John C. Sharpe Society Advisory Council who never misses a chance to stay involved with his classmates and life at Blair.
He and his wife, Sherry, dipped their toes in the estate-planning waters by setting up a charitable gift annuity (CGA) with the School to enhance their income throughout their retirement. Then, they took the plunge and set up another one! Why two?
John has often made this recommendation to his classmates and others: “Consider creating a legacy for you—something that will ensure that you have a steady stream of income for the rest of your life and, if designed accordingly, for your spouse, significant other or for a dependent who may need support throughout her or his life.”
In a letter to his classmates during their 50th-reunion year, he provided further explanation. “A means of achieving this steady income stream is an annuity. You can realize a significant present-day tax advantage by establishing an annuity with a charity such as Blair. Income for life and a tax deduction now—not a bad idea. Taxed-favored income to you makes it an even better idea. Some portion of the payments back to you will be tax-free (return of principal), some portion will be taxed as capital gains and the balance will be ordinary income. Any residual after supporting you (and any other beneficiary) for life goes to Blair. The actuarial calculation of the residual creates your immediate tax deduction.” John took his own suggestion and established his and Sherry’s first CGA.
But, again, why two? John explains that, in looking at their options and their situation with some highly appreciated income stream and more security without the capital gains tax on the securities. Plus, the larger residual will have more impact on a fund or activity at Blair that he and Sherry are passionate about supporting.
John also recommends "laddering" CGAs. This means setting them up to defer payments over different intervals in order to increase the income stream with the same investment. John notes, "As the donors age, the factors that determine payout become more beneficial." He recommends that someone considering a CGA should "dip your toes in the water—try it, and, if you like it, you can do it again and again!"
Although we've mentioned John's retirement, he has yet to take THAT plunge. He continues to work tirelessly as Northfield Mount Hermon School's CFO after having "retired" from 23 years in the same role at the Berkshire School. When Sherry manages to convince him to finally close his Excel files, they will have a little more peace of mind financially through their CGAs, and they will know their philanthropic oars are in the water. Blair is very grateful for their generosity.
If you ever met or read about Archer Martin ’42, you know he is one of Blair's treasured alumni who served in World War II and fought for freedom in Normandy and in the rest of Europe. His sacrifices and bravery have been acknowledged by a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, four campaign stars and, recently, France’s highest award, the French Legion of Honor.
While Archer attended Blair for less than a year because of the war, his enduring love for the School is visible in his support of the Blair Fund. Also, he founded the relationship of Blair with the Normandy Allies program (which so far has sponsored about 20 Blair students to go to Normandy to learn first-hand the role of the historic Allied landings there in 1944.) He donates as well to The Charles H. Breed Memorial Scholarship in honor of his aunt, Frances Martin Breed, and her husband, Dr. Charles Breed, Blair’s 10th Headmaster who led Blair through the hard times of the Depression and World War II.
In 2005, Archer took the next step in his relationship with Blair and became a member of the John C. Sharpe Society of planned givers by establishing three charitable gift annuities over several years. Archer began to think about setting up a charitable gift annuity (CGA) when he went to a "sparsely attended" workshop about charitable gift annuities held on Alumni Weekend. He credits Dennis Peachey '62 for arranging for the event that, despite the low turnout, inspired him to research this tool more on his own. "I started to think about my investment portfolio, deciding I'd like to assure my income with something certifiable, you might say. You aren't going to get that with bonds, because they mature, or, to a lesser extent, stocks because they vary in price." He decided the task could be done with a charitable gift annuity, or CGA, - “an attractive investment” - that would ensure a constant income for him in his retirement years and, ultimately, benefit Blair. Archer points to the improvement and expansion of academics, the strong faculty and the impressive strides made on Blair’s beautiful campus for his continued interest and affection for his school, not to mention strong bonds between classmates. As his class celebrates its 75th reunion, we are thankful that Archer has shouldered so much responsibility for the betterment of students and the future of Blair.
- Robert Kiley ’51 spent just one year at Blair, but it was enough to change the course of his life.
A three-year day student at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, New Jersey, Mr. Kiley was intent on attending Blair after watching his brother, Joseph Kiley ’50, embrace life on campus as a boarder. Ready to write his own Blair story, during his first semester in Blairstown, he quickly immersed himself in the community, securing a role in the fall theatre production, something the long commute from his home in Union Township to his old school had rendered impossible. “Living on campus gave me the chance to take advantage of a myriad of opportunities, and Blair helped foster my interest in acting and singing,” Mr. Kiley said.
Track was another area in which the thespian and athlete displayed his considerable talent. Like so many of his peers, he recalls the steady support and encouragement he received from longtime faculty member Henry Cowan. “Henry took me under his wing and gave me a lot of strength and confidence as I was adjusting to Blair as a new senior,” explained Mr. Kiley, noting that Mr. Cowan and his dedicated colleagues ensured he learned the skills necessary to succeed at college and left Blair with a more expansive world view. “He once highlighted my name on a poster announcing an upcoming track meet, and I’ll never forget how that made me feel.”
Crediting Blair with setting him on a path to success, Mr. Kiley continued his studies at Lehigh University, graduating in 1955 and joining the Army as a first lieutenant. He later enjoyed a prolific career in the insurance industry with Prudential Financial as a managing director overseeing the northeast region. Throughout his professional life, he was deeply involved in the leadership of several insurance-related organizations and, of course, remained an ardent and loyal supporter of Blair.
As class representative for more than three decades, he has helped keep his class connected and engaged. From 1984 to 1992, Mr. Kiley assumed an even more active role in the School’s leadership as a Trustee, having served on and led the Alumni Board of Governors for many years. Knowing firsthand how much the Blair experience prepares students for success later in life, Mr. Kiley and his wife, Lynne, sent their daughters, Susan ’80 and Patricia ’82, to the School and later paid forward the benefits of a Blair education by establishing the Kiley Family Scholarship and supporting the Class of 1951 Scholarship.
When asked why he decided to include Blair in his estate plans, Mr. Kiley replied humbly, “Because it’s a worthy thing to do; simply put, I believe we should give back to those who have given to us.”
Neither Mr. Kiley, his family nor even Blair could have predicted the impact one year at the School would make on his life. But through his planned gift,
his family’s scholarship support and his many years of service, Mr. Kiley has made sure that one year continues to impact the Blair community by creating a lasting legacy—one that supports a strong and sustainable future for his alma mater.
When Jeff arrived at Blair as a junior in fall 1963, it was his fourth school in as many years following the death of his mother. With his father frequently away on business, the once-studious Jeff, lacking structure and supervision, had settled into bad study habits and struggled to stay motivated. His father hoped that boarding school would remedy this by providing a more constructive environment. “I really enjoyed Blair that first year and made great friends, but I certainly didn’t apply myself,” Jeff recalled. Henry Cowan ’59, then director of studies, took note of Jeff’s lackluster performance and suggested military enlistment as an option after graduation. “With the Vietnam War ramping up,” Jeff continued, “his comment caught my attention!”
Jeff made considerable academic progress, graduating from Blair and matriculating at The College of Wooster, where he majored in psychology. While home for spring break in early 1966, he met Ronnie McLean, who was delivering newspapers in his neighborhood. Ron had just turned 15 and confided in Jeff that his stepfather’s abusive treatment had left him essentially homeless. Jeff gave Ronnie $5 and the number of the pay phone in his dormitory in case the young boy needed support. “I understood what it was like to be on your own with no one to turn to,” Jeff reflected. “I was impressed with Ron’s resilience. He was a nice kid who was circumstantially caught in a terrible and lonely situation.”
Three days later, Ronnie used the money to buy a bus ticket to Wooster, Ohio, making the four-hour trek alone, intent on finding Jeff—the only person he knew who might help him. Over the course of that spring and summer, the two became close friends as Jeff sought to help Ronnie navigate his difficult circumstances, calling him “the younger brother I never had.”
Seeking a longer-term solution for his friend, Jeff called Blair to see if the School would consider Ronnie for enrollment in the fall. According to Jeff, Ron had all the ability to succeed at Blair, but the two lacked the funds to pay tuition; still, Jeff assured the School that he would somehow raise the money and pay the bills. “We were driven by necessity and determination with an added measure of teenage ‘can-do’ confidence,” he recalled.
Having been appointed Ronnie’s guardian at the age of 18—essentially his parent in Blair’s eyes—Jeff drove Ron to Blair in early October. The School housed Ronnie in a spare bedroom in the Marcial’s home until space opened up in Locke Hall. Ronnie had the additional good fortune of having Henry Cowan as his advisor less than two years after Mr. Cowan counseled Jeff.
Unfortunately, Ronnie was only afforded that one year at Blair and consequently had no choice but to return to his local public high school and fend for himself at the age of 16. Jeff graduated from Wooster and moved to Massachusetts to teach at a private day school. He and Ronnie stayed in touch, although their separate paths and distance made frequent communications difficult. In November 1970, Jeff learned that Ron had died tragically at the age of 19. “I was more than devastated; Ronnie was such an incredible person,” Jeff said of his reaction to the news. “He found joy in each day, no matter the hardships that he faced, and was eager to share his enthusiasm for life with everyone. We had become spiritual partners in life—a bond that escapes description even now.”
Another 41 years passed before Jeff returned to Blair. “I avoided reconnecting because it was just too painful,” he explained. “I had never really accepted Ronnie’s death or faced the grieving that was still waiting for me when I emerged from that denial.” During that first visit to Blair in 2008, as Jeff talked with Chan and Monie Hardwick, he found an opportunity to carry forward Ronnie McLean’s inspiration by establishing the J. Ronald McLean Memorial Endowment, which provides financial resources for an on-staff professional counselor. Its mission references “the vital importance that individual counseling may provide for current and future generations of Blair students as they negotiate the dynamic emergent paths of adolescence.” Even just recognizing the need for such support is a step toward helping students who are struggling, allowing them to fully embrace all that a Blair education offers.
Jeff’s planned gift through his living trust will add to the size of the J. Ronald McLean Memorial Endowment, ensuring that it carries forth in perpetuity the Blair experience for future generations of students. “The more you give of yourself, the more that comes back to you, often in unexpected ways,” he said. “Taking the time to listen and giving just those few dollars to Ronnie started a sequence of events that would change and greatly enrich my life. For me, including Blair in my estate is a way of expressing my appreciation of what Blair did for me. It also allows me to focus on a constructive purpose, rather than simply on the pain of a difficult and tragic loss. Blair is dedicated to developing the whole individual with a special emphasis on service to others who are often less fortunate. The School is teaching kids to reach out, get involved and make a difference. I believe that Blair students are going to carry forward that vision and influence.”
A recent chapel talk by Sophie Shoemake ’15 underlined the importance of Jeff’s gift now and for the future. Addressing the mental health issues that young people face, she advised: “Teens struggle with mental health issues more inwardly than outwardly. I want people to know that if you need help, ask for it! There are people out there equipped to help you and many of your peers share the same struggles you do.”
With his 50th reunion approaching in June 2015, Jeff wants to ensure that Ronnie’s legacy is carried forward. As for his part, Jeff explained, “By my own measure, I would like to be able to feel that in the course of my lifetime, I have put back just a little more than I have taken out. The J. Ronald McLean Memorial Endowment at Blair will be a part of that measure.”
Jeff’s role as a proud parent to four children, who were each without a permanent home or family at the time he adopted them at the respective ages of 12, 10, 9 and 6 months, is another integral part of the legacy he will leave. They are now 43, 38, 33 and 15. “I believe that you can make a difference, one person at a time,” he concluded. “Ronnie’s spirit and inspiration lives on in each of them.”
By the time Marianne Lieberman ’79 arrived on campus as a new junior in 1977, the Lieberman family was already a well-known Blair entity. The youngest of four children, Marianne has two brothers, Michael ’71 and Mark ’74, who took advantage of the athletic and academic opportunities Blair offered to put their stamp on the wrestling and football programs and become successful student-athletes. And their Uncle Jack—John O. Doern ’48—paved the road for all three of them, having graduated almost three decades before. Since then, scores of Lieberman family members have attended Blair, each sharing in the family legacy and making Blair their own.
It’s no secret that letting your children leave home is no easy task for a mother. But Jean Doern Lieberman, Jack’s sister and the mother of Michael, Mark and Marianne, witnessed firsthand the positive impact Blair had made on her brother—and later her own children—so including Blair in her will seemed like a natural response. Simply put, “Blair helped raise my kids.” Everyone knows the expression “actions speak louder than words,” and for a mother who worked hard to teach her children the importance of giving back, Jean’s decision to make a planned gift came as no surprise.
For her part, Marianne—herself a mother of two children with her wife, Carolyn Grant—shares Jean’s faith in the School and takes pleasure in watching her daughter Meghan ’17 grow up on the Blair campus. Naming Blair in her will, alongside her mother, merely underscores her belief in the value of a Blair education. “There is no greater joy than having the opportunity to help an institution that is making a meaningful contribution to society. Blair is about the work of educating our future leaders by teaching them critical leadership skills and equipping students to serve their communities and the world at large with their own distinct talents and gifts.”
Recalling her own Blair experience, Marianne credits the School with exposing her to a much larger world view. “Interacting regularly with students from all over the world, engaging in meaningful intellectual discussion with caring, dedicated teachers, debating articles in The New York Times—these all helped me to discover my own passions and gave me the confidence to express my ideas and opinions unapologetically,” she said. “I learned that if you really want something, you have to go for it.” And that she did.
As the parent of four Blair graduates—Claire ’05, Craig ’07, Graham’10 and Jane ’12—Stacey has spent a lot of time on campus visiting her children’s classes, watching sports contests and attending a wide variety of school-related events. She eventually joined the Board of Trustees in 2005, serving as chair of the education and school life committee until just a few months ago. So when it comes to inquiring about Blair and the value of the Blair experience, she’s armed with a well-informed reply—a response developed from observing the impact Blair had on each of her own children.
“When I received Claire’s first advisor letter in the mail, I thought to myself, ‘wow, they really know my child,’” she recalled. “Adolescence can be a very difficult period for children, and it was clear to me early on in our relationship with the School that the faculty were not just preparing my kids academically, but were educating them in every aspect of their life, socially, emotionally and in terms of their overall character development,” she explained.
The diversity of the student body and her children’s exposure to kids from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds was also extremely valuable. “Blair helped my children develop more empathy toward others; it changed their view of the world, cultivating in them a cultural sensitivity and global perspective that is hard to find in a typical suburban-private-school setting,” she added.
Therefore, when approached with the opportunity to support Blair through an estate gift, the decision was easy—and not just because she’s a lawyer. “It’s as simple as naming Blair as the beneficiary of a percentage of your retirement assets by writing Blair Academy in the blank space when you do the paperwork; it’s that easy!” she exclaimed. And, while retirement assets are clearly not the only way to make a planned gift to the School, the experienced lawyer and mother of five points to the tax advantages of such a gift. She explained: “Naming Blair as a beneficiary of a retirement account is a tax-effective way to leverage your gift to the School: Blair gets every dollar to add to its endowment, which acts as an insurance policy that guarantees a healthy future for the School.”
Why make an estate gift to Blair now? Ask Stacey McConnell. She’s already thinking of her grandchildren and making choices to ensure that they have the same educational opportunity that her own children did. “The valuable lessons my children learned at Blair will be with them the rest of their lives, which is something worthy of paying forward to the next generation,” she concluded.
Michael Cleavenger ’69 knows the value of planned giving. He’s in the business of fundraising and is passionate about his work—work that enables him to give back to his community and improve the infrastructure of his hometown of Chicago, Ill.
A professional fundraiser for nearly two decades, he has spearheaded successful campaigns for a long list of noteworthy Chicago institutions, such as the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago History Museum, Victory Gardens Theater, La Rabida Children’s Hospital, and most recently, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. As for including Blair in his will, Michael explained that, “Blair gave so much to me and is an exemplary institution which deserves my support.”
Michael arrived on Blair’s campus in the mid-1960s, a particularly turbulent time in America’s history and a time when many parents—like his—felt that boarding school would be a safe place for him to come of age. What he got, though, was much more than just a safe haven to finish high school. For a midwestern kid coming to an east coast boarding school, Michael found Blair to be a genuine place that he could call home. As he put it, “Blair is so much more than just a school where you go to study and play sports. An important part of the process was learning to live in a community. Looking back on it, I think it was the experience of communal living that helped cultivate a maturity in my classmates and me that is hard to duplicate elsewhere.” To underscore his point, he recalled a time when then-Headmaster James Howard allowed him to lead a chapel during which he addressed a number of controversial topics, describing it as a valuable opportunity to create a healthy dialogue between his characteristically rebellious generation and the School’s administration. He continued, “Blair was truly the centering of my life; it provided the academic discipline and grounding that I needed to succeed down the road.” And that realization, years later, inspired Michael to include Blair in his will.
Armed with the knowledge that planned gifts are an easy and important way to provide a lasting legacy for future generations, Michael can envision what his gift will do for the School, which has a smaller endowment than many peer institutions. “For individuals who cannot make an outright major gift, a planned gift is a perfect way to support the School and help secure its future,” said Michael, who noted that his bequest does not replace his annual commitment to the Blair Fund or his involvement in other ways, such as volunteering to mentor Blair graduates and to host Blair events in the midwest. In fact, over the years, supporting Blair has become a family affair: the tradition continued when his daughter, Cormany Kelly (Cleavenger) Koeppen ’01, arrived on campus in 1999. And having just added a new generation to the mix—Kelly’s daughter, Grace, just turned 1-year old in late January—the Cleavengers have their eye on what their careful planning will do to support the class of 2031.
Like many Blair parents, Nora and Maddy Grose, parents of Jordan ’12, cite Blair’s student-centered focus and quality of academics as key factors that helped shape their son’s successful experience at the School. They went one step further, however, and decided to include Blair in their will so that future generations of students can enjoy the same benefit. In short, they took a simple step that has a lasting impact.
While Jordan was a student at Blair, the Groses remained closely connected to both him and the School. They served as co-chairs of the Parent Fund Group and were also members of the Board of Trustees from 2010-2012. Most recently, Nora served on the Search Committee that led to the installation of Chris Fortunato as Blair’s 16th Head of School.
When asked why they chose to make a bequest to the School, Nora’s response was straightforward: “We felt it was important to lead by example, and quite frankly, Blair needs more funds to grow its endowment in order to keep pace with its peers and ensure the School’s future success.”
Maddy and Nora describe Jordan’s enduring friendships with both faculty and students as one of the most important aspects of his Blair experience. “Jordan enjoys a network of support that began at Blair but continues today, even as he attends Boston College,” noted Maddy. “Blair understands the unique role it plays in helping students prepare for college and beyond. The students come in as kids and leave as confident, mature adults who, along with the help of others, are ready to face a challenging world.”
A final word of advice from the Groses: “Don’t let the busyness of life prevent you from including Blair in your estate plans. It’s quick and easy to add a provision to your will.” After all, quipped Maddy, “There is no U-Haul on the hearse.”
- Mark Gottesman ’62 is a talented, humorous fellow with a big heart for Blair. Best known for his witty letters to classmates filled with entertaining tales of suburbia alongside pleas for Blair Fund gifts, Mark has served the School faithfully as a class representative extraordinaire since 1969. A gifted communicator, his annual letters and personal outreach helped keep his classmates connected to the School and to one another, fostering the spirit of the Blair community with poise and grace for over four decades. For these and other efforts, the School honored Mark at his 50th reunion by naming him the 2012 Alumnus of the Year.
Those who know Mark personally, however, know that it is not public recognition he seeks, but rather an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others. For this reason, Mark took the lead in spearheading his classmates’ efforts to fund two important gifts to the School: the Class of ’62 Scholarship and the Class of ’62 Teaching Fellow. Soon after his reunion, Mark and his wife Janet established a Charitable Gift Annuity, in part to help his class reach their reunion class goals. When asked why he chose a CGA (apart from the fact that he was simply taking the wise advice of a good friend), his response was twofold: “I like the fact that I’m still alive to appreciate the impact my gift is making on the School and financially, it just makes good sense. The gift helps reduce my overall taxable income and the money I receive on a quarterly basis in return is tax-exempt.”
Grateful for the Blair education he received “way back in the sixties,” Mark also cites the School’s visible progress and forward momentum as another motivating factor towards his decision to give. “I feel good about the School’s overall growth in terms of its expanded facilities, excellent teaching faculty and increased financial strength. It’s certainly not the same school as when I attended, but I can personally identify with the impact it has on young generations of students.”
With inimitable style and generosity of heart, Mark’s decision to establish a planned gift helps both Blair and himself—a wise investment for a loyal alum and a top-notch school.
Like so many Blair students, when Keith Patten ’69 first set foot on Blair’s campus, he had no real idea what he was getting into or where he was heading. Just making it to class on time in proper attire and managing the hectic daily schedule of practices, meals and homework were challenge enough. Not until many years later—indeed nearly 40—did Keith gain the perspective of time and distance to fully appreciate the impact of his Blair experience.
An avid swimmer, capable student and East Hall prefect during his three years at Blair, Keith went on to the Naval Academy and performed eight years of active service before moving into the business world to establish a successful career in health services. Looking back, he remembers being “far better prepared than the vast majority of his peers” to adapt to the demands of college life. “It was at Blair that I acquired the academic foundation and crucial life skills that enabled me to succeed in college and beyond.” Keith credits Paul White, his college counselor and swim coach, with taking a personal interest in him, offering steady guidance and encouragement to attend the Naval Academy.
With the demands of naval service and developing business ventures garnering his attention, Keith gave little thought to Blair until his 40th reunion, where he reconnected with the School and former classmates. “After a long hiatus from any contact with Blair, being on campus opened an unexpected floodgate, bringing back a steady stream of vivid memories and the realization that Blair was the school that laid the foundation for my future success.” That is when Keith and his wife, Debbi, made the decision to name Blair as part beneficiary of the family’s trust.
By doing so, Keith has made a planned gift that serves to strengthen the School’s endowment, while also helping to guarantee the valuable benefits of a Blair education for future generations. What Keith enjoyed all those years ago—a personal connection with a faculty member deeply invested in his growth and success—has long been a distinguishing characteristic of a Blair education.
But the story doesn’t stop there. Keith found a way to mentor other Blair graduates through his role as a U.S. Naval Academy Foundation Trustee: he and Debbi sponsored recent Blair graduates and current Naval Academy midshipmen Austin Branch ’11 and Sean Reilly ’12 by hosting them at their home in Maryland. And so it is that these two young men enjoy the privilege of connection with a seasoned Blair alumnus who once traveled a similar path.
“I’m not as wealthy as some, but in planning my estate, I wanted to put my money where it would have the greatest benefit.” So says Jon Ten Haagen ’62, avid sailor, jazz aficionado and Certified Financial Planner (CFP), reflecting on his bequest to Blair. “The School can use it for scholarships, to increase faculty pay—really, whatever is needed.
”Jon’s establishment of a planned gift followed a lifetime of support for the School. He has loyally contributed to the Blair Fund, and he even made a special gift to dedicate the ceiling fans in the dining hall in memory of his parents, Elizabeth and former Trustee Roy Ten Haagen ’35.
What inspired this generous support? “Blair is a special place,” Jon says. Coming to school here gave him the opportunity to meet friends from all over, study with a unique, eclectic faculty, play sports that were more intense than any he’d ever experienced, and take part in some pretty memorable pranks. All of this—especially the camaraderie that is alive and well among his classmates to this day as they celebrate their 50th Reunion—contributed to an overall “fabulous” experience.
“My Blair experience was instrumental in developing my ability to work with all kinds of people and in shaping my feelings about morality and life,” he noted, “and my life has definitely been better because of it.” And by providing for the School’s future, Jon has helped to ensure that students will continue to benefit from the Blair experience that has meant so much to him.
- Like many Blair parents, Richard and Chrysa Graber, parents of Alex ’06 and Nick ’09, give high marks to the School for their sons’ outstanding experience here. However, Richard and Chrysa are somewhat unique among Blair parents—they have helped make that experience available to future students by including the School in their will.
Part of the inspiration for the Grabers’ gift is the “core feeling” so evident on Blair’s campus. Chrysa describes it as an encompassing sense of community, family and caring. “As a parent, when you send your children to boarding school, you want to know that there is someone there who cares as much as you do. At Blair, I know this is true.” Richard agrees wholeheartedly. “Blair’s faculty and staff are remarkable,” he notes. “Their focus is always on the kids!”
The Grabers describe how the academic foundation, study habits and time management skills both Alex and Nick gained at Blair served them well in college, as did their participation in a wide variety of Blair activities. “Blair gives students an amazing opportunity to grow, yet still have fun and be kids,” Chrysa remarks. “It’s a great balance.”
While their sons were Blair students, the Grabers volunteered on campus and served as members of the Parent Fund Group. Then Richard joined the Board of Trustees in 2009, and he became well aware of what he terms the School’s single “glaring weakness”—a relatively small endowment, which limits Blair’s ability to secure its financial future and to provide crucial scholarship aid. To help the School build the endowment, the Grabers decided to include Blair in their estate plans.
“We considered several giving options when we made our will, but Blair is where the money is needed, so this is where we decided it should go,” Richard says. “Besides, I’ve seen firsthand how careful and conscientious the School is about spending and investing. Blair is where our money will be put to the best use.”
A final word of advice from the Grabers to Blair parents: “Enjoy your children’s time at Blair—it will flash by before you know it!
Jonathan Paul ’61 describes his life as an “unbroken chain of fortuitous events” set in motion by the incredible opportunity of his Blair experience. The son of former faculty member Gordon Paul, he came from a family of modest means, but Blair gave him the foundation to achieve his dreams.
Jonathan enjoyed a long career in computers that began with his first job out of Columbia University as an IBM systems engineer and concluded with his recent retirement as chief technology officer of Global Weather Dynamics, Inc. He traveled the world, visiting over 100 countries for business and pleasure. And, as pilot of his own small plane, he logged thousands of flights over the years, including a 13-hour, non-stop, coast to coast trip—in his words, “a feat!”
Recently, Jonathan and his wife, Gayle, reviewed their estate plans to decide how they eventually wanted their assets distributed. As Jonathan’s 50th Blair reunion approached, and having supported the Blair Fund loyally for years, the Pauls decided to make a bequest to Blair.
“It was something of a revelation to realize that you don’t have to be a ‘fat cat’ rich guy to make a bequest, and this gift is advantageous both to us and to Blair,” Jonathan said. He noted the tax benefits that charitable giving will have for his estate and the fact that the bequest will likely be a bigger gift to Blair than he could make in his lifetime. In addition, making this gift now allows Blair to “plan ahead a bit,” as he put it, since most estate gifts help to build the endowment.
Jonathan noted that the School has expressed great appreciation for his bequest, but, he quipped, “It’s really the most painless way to give. After all, you can’t take it with you!”
“I’d hate to think where I’d be today if I hadn’t been to Blair,” said Trustee Jeff Seubel ’63. “Even though I wasn’t the best student, the School provided the foundation that helped me succeed in college, in graduate school and in my career.”
A retired finance professional, Jeff, together with his wife, Sally, recently established a charitable gift annuity (CGA) at Blair. Jeff candidly described this planning option as a “good deal.” “Eventually, Blair will get a great gift,” he said. “But in the meantime, Sally and I receive an income stream that’s better than anything on the open market because of its tax deductibility.”
The CGA is the latest gift from the Seubels, who have long supported the School through contributions to the Class of 1963 Faculty Chair, the Blair Fund and capital projects. Recently, they gifted the School with a timeshare in Hawaii, providing a much-needed vacation each year for a member of Blair’s dedicated faculty.
The Seubels were on campus in May to celebrate the graduation of their granddaughter, Allie Reed ’11, and they are looking forward to visits with their grandson, Andrew Booth ’15, over the next four years. As Jeff considered the School’s future, he noted that he is pleased his estate gift will eventually help build the endowment. “Blair is the perfect size and composition right now,” he said. “Strengthening the endowment is the key to financial sustainability and enduring success.”
Estate gifts for scholarship aid have an enormous impact on the lives of Blair students. Case in point: The bequest of Mrs. Agnes T. Millard, whose late husband, Charles W. Millard Jr. ’22, was a Princeton University graduate, M&T Bank Corporation Chairman and Blair Trustee from 1964–70. Mrs. Millard’s will specified that the bequest to Blair be used to establish a scholarship, and since 2001, The Charles W. Millard Jr. ’22 Scholarship has been awarded to students whose involvement in all aspects of School life enhances the quality of academic, athletic and extracurricular programs at Blair.
- Ashley Strunk ’11
- Stephen Patane ’09
Stephen is in his second year at the U.S. Naval Academy. He recently declared an ocean engineering major and is considering EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) or Marine Air as his eventual service selection. He credits Blair’s unique extracurricular opportunities and outstanding teachers, “hands down,” for his USNA appointment. Stephen served as a Flight Deck prefect, was captain of the varsity swimming and crew teams, and a founder of Blair’s cycling/triathlon team. He has continued his successful rowing career at Navy. Receiving The Charles W. Millard Jr. ’22 Scholarship was an honor that influenced Stephen to work even harder in his classes and activities. “I’m grateful for every opportunity I had at Blair,” he wrote in a thank-you letter to Charles W. Millard III. “And without this scholarship, none of it would have been possible.”
- Wilfred Jones, former faculty
Wilfred Jones was devoted to his students. A math teacher and football and basketball coach at Blair for over two decades, his patient, down-to-earth manner and remarkable teaching ability made a lasting impression. Norm Beatty ’58 remembered Mr. Jones as an “extraordinarily competent, easy to understand mathematics instructor,” while Courtney “Pete” Fritts ’56 praised him as a great athlete and coach. The Class of 1957 even dedicated the ACTA yearbook to Mr. Jones.
After his retirement in 1975, Mr. Jones traveled the country and taught for a few more years. An expert with numbers, he loved the challenge of making his money grow. He lived frugally and invested cannily in the stock market, amassing a significant nest egg that he was reluctant to spend on himself. (True story: At the age of 93, Mr. Jones, whose failing eyesight made TV viewing difficult, was hesitant to purchase a big-screen TV because, as he told a friend, “The price may come down!”)
Over the years, Mr. Jones followed Blair’s progress through frequent correspondence with the Headmaster and faculty members, and he especially delighted in letters and phone calls from former students. Finally, in 1995, Mr. Jones wrote to inform the School that he had included a $100,000 bequest to Blair in his will. “I am always pleased to recall my happy years at Blair,” he said. He continued to enjoy visits and calls from Blair friends to the end of his life. Mr. Jones passed away on July 20, 2004, at the age of 93.
Today, Mr. Jones continues to positively impact the lives of Blair students. In addition to the original bequest, the School receives a generous annual contribution from a trust Mr. Jones established with the proceeds of a lifetime of wise investments. These contributions fund the Wilfred Jones Memorial Scholarship. Each year, one or more deserving young people receives the opportunity to attend Blair Academy, thanks to the legacy of this exceptional teacher.
In a thank-you letter to the trustees of Mr. Jones’s estate, a Blair junior wrote, “When I came to Blair, I wanted to try new things beyond my academic work, so I became actively involved in the Blair Academy Dancers, field hockey and theater. Without the gracious gift awarded by the Wilfred Jones Memorial Scholarship, my family would not have been able to afford Blair, and without Blair, I would not have been granted these amazing opportunities.”
John H. Van Kirk ’42 is the very definition of a loyal alumnus, having maintained close ties to Blair throughout his life. A 1947 graduate of Yale University, he enjoyed a long and distinguished career with North European Oil Company and its successor corporation, North European Oil Royalty Trust. He shared his business acumen with Blair, serving on the Board of Trustees from 1989-95. He supported the School with generous annual gifts, many of which were designated for scholarship support or construction projects that were near and dear to his heart, such as the Class of ’42 golf hole. John also established a family legacy at the School, as two of his children, John R. ’70 and James ’73, and—much to his delight, five of his grandchildren, Che de Bruin ’93, Joshua Van Kirk ’95, Rebecca Gruber ’97, Samantha Sintros ’99 and Carly Gale ’06—were educated at Blair. “My father loved Blair and was happy to see his children and grandchildren there,” John ’70 remarked. “He was a man of diverse interests, but throughout his life, when he made the decision to support an organization, he did it with all his force. This is evident in his strong, lifelong connection to Blair.”
John not only supported Blair during his lifetime but also planned for the School’s future by designating it as beneficiary of a life insurance policy. When he passed away in 2009, the School received a substantial gift, half of which went to support scholarships for Blair students and half to support continued improvements and renovations to Blair’s buildings and grounds. John’s loyalty to the School will live on not only through his family legacy, but also through the many students who will benefit from his vision and support.
- N’Keesia Vaughn-James and Kiara Vaughn ’11
In 2008, an anonymous member of the Class of 1954 established the Class of 1954 New Horizons Scholarship, so named to reflect the class’s goal of opening a world of opportunity to recipients through the outstanding education offered at Blair. The income from this endowed scholarship will be awarded annually to a promising young person who otherwise would be unable to attend Blair.
The scholarship’s founder views the New Horizons Scholarship as the Class of 1954’s legacy to Blair. It provides classmates with a means both to support deserving young people and strengthen Blair Academy. The scholarship has already inspired $275,000 in gifts and bequest intentions this year from members of the class as they celebrated their 55th reunion, and Class Representative Hoby Van Deusen ’54 hopes to see more in the future.
“Many members of the Class of 1954 could not have attended Blair Academy without scholarship assistance,” Hoby remarked. “We received scholarships because the school and alumni were willing to invest in our future, and as a result, we received an education that formed the foundation of our future success. A contribution or bequest intention to the Class of 1954 New Horizons Scholarship fund is a fitting way for our class to give back to Blair and to invest in the next generation of Blair students.”
Kiara Vaughn ’11 (pictured below with her mother) is the inaugural recipient of The Class of 1954 New Horizons Scholarship. An exceptional student, Kiara stands at the top of her class academically and is involved in a number of extracurricular activities including soccer, softball and the Blair Academy Players. In a letter to the Class of 1954, Kiara wrote, “I am able to attend Blair Academy in large part because of this scholarship, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” Her dreams for the future are big. She hopes to attend an elite university, and from there she aspires to a career in law. “I’m sure that when I become a junior and senior, my choices will change and broaden,” Kiara wrote. “I’m also positive that whatever choice I make, I’ll be well prepared because I attended Blair.”
Linda Fellows ’86 is passionate about Blair. Her fondest memories of her years here include time spent playing field hockey, the close relationships she developed with her classmates, and the great rapport she felt with the faculty. “I had a wonderful time at Blair,” she said. “It is a fantastic community and an important part of my life.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Linda has included a bequest to Blair in her will. What may seem surprising to some, however, is that she made this bequest at the young age of 40.
With a master’s degree in education, Linda’s varied career has included positions in both teaching and fund raising. Through her work, she realized the importance of a proactive approach to estate planning.
Linda currently works one-on-one with students, teaching phonics, reading and spelling using the Orton- Gillingham approach. She is also forming a non-profit organization in an effort to help parents and teachers find the resources they need for dyslexic students. As a teacher who gives of herself every day, Linda said it just “makes sense” to her to give back to Blair.
Linda’s bequest is unrestricted, allowing the School to focus its use on an area of greatest need. As an educator, however, she deeply values scholarship and is well aware that an increased endowment will give more students the opportunity to receive a Blair education. “Blair has a lot to offer students,” she said. Her support of the School leaves a lasting legacy to ensure Blair continues to provide educational opportunity well into the future.
Jim Naisby’s Blair days were packed with activity. He played football, basketball and baseball, sang in every musical group on campus, and worked in the dining hall. One of the most important lessons he learned at Blair came on the football field, as the Bucs faced arch-rival Peddie. With Blair poised to score the winning points in the fourth quarter, the quarterback wanted to hand off the ball to him, but Jim deferred to a bigger player. Bad move—the ball was fumbled, and Blair lost the game. Lesson learned? “Be careful what you delegate,” Jim stated emphatically.
As the years went by, Jim seized the opportunities that came his way and made the most of them. After graduating from Moravian College, Jim married his wonderful wife, Diane, spent six months in the Army, and began a successful 20-year career with Sears. In 1984, Jim established a self-storage business in Sussex County, NJ, which prospered under his expert management. He and Diane moved back to New Jersey three years ago, after 28 years on Long Island. Their three grown children, three grandchildren, a new home and their businesses keep their daily schedule full. Jim serves on the Blair Board of Governors and is Class Representative for the Class of ’57.
Recently, the Naisbys attended an estate planning seminar and began to assess their planning for the future. They learned that by including charitable giving in their plans, they can avoid estate taxes and pass more assets on to their children. With that in mind, they decided to focus their charitable priorities on academics and medicine and have established a charitable trust that will fund a new teaching chair at Blair Academy. “It’s important to educate yourself on the possibilities presented by estate planning,” Jim remarked. “Phenomenal opportunities are out there to protect your estate and pass its value on to family and charity. Before we started this process, we never thought we’d be able to make a gift like this to Blair.”
Jim and Diane are well aware of the importance of an excellent faculty at Blair. Jim said, “By providing an Endowed Teaching Chair, we hope to enhance Blair’s ability to attract distinguished, talented teachers. Leaders are the most important part of the institution. We want teachers who can engage and challenge students academically and who are truly interested in their students as well. Teachers who can recognize students’ unique qualities are the ones who can best prepare them for anything they want to do in life.”
- Estate planning can be complicated, but one vehicle that simplifies the process is a charitable gift annuity (CGA). Classmates Peter Black ’56 and John Hatfield ’56 have established CGAs at Blair, and both are pleased with the result: Not only have they been able to give to the School, but they remain closely connected to Blair and receive quarterly income checks for life.
Establishing a CGA “was very easy to do,” according to John Hatfield. It was so easy, in fact, that he recently established a second one. John was inspired to join the John C. Sharpe Society by class representative Pete Fritts ’56 at their 50th Reunion. “Somehow, I got in the photo of planned givers before I ever made the gift, so I knew I had to do it,” he remembers with a laugh. Nevertheless, John views his gift as “an easy way to give something to Blair and get something back.” He remembers his time at Blair fondly but is impressed with the many improvements he has seen over the years when he returns for Alumni Weekend. “It’s nice to see the School doing so well,” he said. “The campus is more beautiful than ever—even the students are better!” A volunteer 1848 Society caller, John enjoys keeping in touch with other alumni and encouraging them to give back so the School can continue to “keep up the good work.”
Peter Black echoes John’s admiration of the great improvements Blair has seen since his days at the School. “Blair had a lot back then,” said the former football and baseball team captain, “but it has a lot more now!” Even with the remarkable improvements to the physical plant, Peter feels that Blair’s people, both faculty and administration, are its most valuable assets. “I felt I owed something to Blair for the great experience my teachers and coaches made possible for me,” he said, citing Steve Kuk, Cap Steckel, Ferd Marcial, Henry Cowan and Dick Rouse as his mentors. Peter established his CGA in 2007, deferring payments until 2011 and thereby receiving a larger quarterly check. “A Blair education goes beyond academics, creating a well-rounded person,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be at Blair.” Both Peter’s and John’s estate gifts are making that same opportunity possible for today’s students and for the students of the future.
- Jenny Woltjen ’75 has a box full of Blair memorabilia. In their recent move to their new home in Endicott, N.Y., Jenny and her husband, Larry Lepak, realized they had accumulated a great deal of “stuff” that could be donated, recycled or pitched. But Jenny’s box of Blair mementos was definitely a keeper. “I have Bulletins going back at least 20 years,” she says. “Every now and then, I enjoy looking through them, reading Class Notes and seeing how Blair has changed.” But even with all the recent changes the School has undergone, Jenny values the fact that the mission and the Blair experience remain essentially the same.
Her belief in Blair’s educational goals and her desire to see that the opportunities of a Blair education are available to future generations sparked Jenny’s decision to make a bequest to the School. The fact that she will celebrate her 35th Blair reunion in June was another catalyst for the planned gift as was the need to re-do her will following her recent marriage.
“At this point in my life, I wanted a concrete way to express my dedication to Blair. And I know from my work as a class representative and reunion co-chairman that Blair needs the support of its alumni,” she says. Her bequest puts her commitment to the School “down in black and white.” She adds, “This is the perfect way to give back to Blair and to make sure that someone else can have the same experience I had.”
In a word, Jenny describes her life at Blair as “great.” She has fond memories of sharing meals in the dining hall, living in Locke Hall and developing close relationships with roommates and friends. To this day she remains in touch with Ron Czajkowski, faculty advisor for the Blair Breeze, of which Jenny was editor-in-chief. Both Jenny and Larry are anticipating a terrific 35th reunion for the Class of ’75 in June. “Of course, I’ll continue to support the Blair Fund every year,” she notes, but she is happy to know that her bequest will help Blair continue its mission beyond her lifetime.