Celebrating a watershed moment for the school, last Friday evening Trustees, faculty and special guests gathered on the campus of Western Reserve Academy to mark the conclusion of The Campaign for Excellence & Access, publicly launched in the fall of 2015. Standing in one of the signature spaces enabled by the Campaign — a beautifully renovated Seymour Hall, ready for its second century — a palpable sense of excitement and accomplishment was in the air. Indeed, the $86.5 million raised for the Campaign is the most ever raised by the school in any fundraising effort.
"This is a great night and a great era for the school," said Tim Warner '69, Co-President of the Board of Trustees. "Our community is dedicated, generous and deeply engaged with this school. Together, we have advanced the mission of WRA to provide a transformative education for its students."
After guests toasted and toured Seymour, they shifted to the Wilson Reading Room, transformed into an elegant party venue enlivened by a student staff who helped run the night. Co-President of the Board Andrew Midler '79 welcomed everyone to dinner, described the goal of the Campaign — "to position the school for a third century" — announced the $86.5 million milestone and thanked our generous community, 4,285 donors strong.
Midler credited WRA's donors and Campaign leadership for achieving these monumental results, aligned by tradition, passion and perseverance.
"How we got here is a story worth sharing," said Midler. "Marty Franks, our Campaign Chairman, raised both hands and never stopped. Steve Cole was a tireless Vice Chair. The Campaign's result is the product of thousands of meetings and hundreds of miles."
Special guest speaker Lt. Gen. (Ret) Dan Christman '61 reinforced a thematic thread that ran through the night: the importance of faculty.
"The key to Reserve's success has been its faculty," he said. "They display dignity and grace. They are the ones who give meaning to our motto of Lux et Veritas, or Light and Truth. Our faculty invites students to ponder and dream here. May Lux et Veritas never be diminished."
Support for faculty was one of the three pillars of the Campaign, also including financial aid and facilities.
"Brick Row is the academic, emotional and historic heart of campus." said Head of School Christopher D. Burner '80. "Because of the Campaign, together we have transformed Brick Row for future generations, breathing life into faculty support and facilities, and ensuring excellence and access are more than words — they are promises."
In a moment deserving of its crescendo, Marty Franks '68 took the podium and revealed, perhaps without even knowing, a key to the Campaign's success: his distinctly Reserve sense of humility, crediting everyone but himself for the accomplishment.
"My mother taught me to say thank you properly," said Franks. "My biggest thank you is to you. It is extraordinary."
Franks thanked WRA's donors, Warner, Midler and Cole, Chris and Alison Burner, WRA's Advancement Office and his personal experience at the school, which was made possible by his parents.
"WRA changed the arc of my life," said Franks. "It has been a privilege to travel the world and talk about the school. Typically, within the first two to three minutes of a conversation, I hear this same sentiment: 'Reserve changed my life.' This is a remarkable bond we share as alumni."
As The Academy Choir prepared to end the night with the alma mater and their own version of "Don't Stop Believin'," Franks told donors: "I want to thank you personally on behalf of the school and on behalf of the kids. The students here tonight are Reserve kids. They are what the school is producing. During the Campaign, any time I got discouraged, I made a beeline for Hudson."
As the students sang to close the night, Reserve was, as Christman had suggested, "sparkling," looking forward to its next chapter. When Saturday morning came, donors and members of the community gathered in Seymour Hall to formally dedicate the building, a fitting bookend to Friday's event, as a testament to academics at the cornerstone of the school's history and future.
Thank you to everyone in our WRA community; together we have made tremendous impact today and will leave a legacy for tomorrow.