The School launches a historic campaign to light the way forward.
Homecoming Weekend at Sidwell Friends School always brings alumni, students, and families together to enjoy an array of athletic events and social gatherings. But this year it also marks a historic moment in the School’s history: the public launch of a $152 million fundraising campaign called Together We Shine.
The campaign is the largest ever for Sidwell Friends and thanks to the generosity of its donors, the School already has raised more than $118 million—nearly 80 percent of its goal. The campaign will end on June 30, 2024.
Roughly two-thirds of the money raised during the campaign will fund the renovation of its Upton Street property into a new Upper School, which Sidwell Friends expects to open in the fall of 2026. The School purchased the property, a former nursing home, in 2015 after the company that owned it decided to transition its business to become a provider of in-home hospice care. Opening a new Upper School will enable Sidwell Friends to consolidate all its programs on its Wisconsin Avenue campus later in the decade.
Head of School Bryan Garman, in an email to faculty and staff on October 13, noted that the campaign has had a significant impact even before today’s launch. “Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have benefited greatly from this campaign already,” he wrote. “We have endowed two faculty chairs and are close to funding a third. The directorship in Equity, Justice, and Community has also been endowed, and we have begun programming through the Center for Ethical Leadership. The $20 million we have raised for the endowment is restricted largely to support faculty salaries and financial aid.”
As outlined on a new campaign website the School debuted today, the campaign will focus on three thematic pillars that will help to define the School’s future: Reimagining the Future of Learning, Welcoming a Wider Community, and Building a More Ethical World.
Reimagining the Future of Learning centers on the many benefits the environmentally responsible, renovated Upper School will bring, including new science labs, an enlarged robotics center, more classrooms, open areas to foster collaborative learning, and outdoor spaces for students and faculty to gather and observe nature. The Upper School also will be the home of the new Center for Teaching and Learning, which will be a focal point for faculty to share best practices and study new pedagogies.
Welcoming a Wider Community will strengthen the School’s endowment to ensure that a Sidwell Friends education is financially accessible to students from across the region without regard for their ability to pay. It also supports the addition of three endowed chairs—in Spanish and Latin American Studies, African and African American Studies, and Asian American Studies—to ensure that teachers with deep expertise in these fields are a permanent part of the faculty.
Building a More Ethical World is guided by Thomas Sidwell’s vision to educate each child to think independently and act ethically. The Center for Ethical Leadership will help students frame and explore ethics in the Quaker tradition, facilitate conversations that connect academic study to social challenges and opportunities, and encourage leadership through new programs. The School’s partnership with Howard University has already led to the creation of this year’s inaugural LEAD (Leadership in Equity, Action, and Discourse) Conference that brought together educators to discuss issues of race, equity, education, and workforce preparation.
Over the next year, the School will host gatherings in major cities across the country where alumni can come together to reconnect and to hear more about the campaign and its goals.
“As the only Quaker school in our nation’s capital, it’s important that we continue to invest in our campus, programs, and community,” said Charis Menschel Drant P ’25, ’27, ’29, a co-clerk for the campaign. “We are contributing now so future generations will continue to grow and thrive in an ever-changing and challenging world.”
In the CTL, faculty will model an openness to new approaches that will elevate their instruction, inspire students, and promote togetherness as a School. The CTL will provide opportunities to support the continuing growth of teachers who seek to hone their craft of teaching, deepen their content knowledge and expertise, and explore new approaches to engage student learning.
“Teachers will focus not just on what students learn, but how they learn best,” says Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs Min Kim. “Our community is fortunate to have a talented group of dedicated teachers. Our hope is that this center further enlivens the intellectual life of the School and offers a uniquely valuable resource for every teacher.”
If it seems like there is something in the new Upper School renovation to excite everyone in the community, it’s because the entire community has had a hand in its design. And through the Sidwell Friends Challenge that the two lead Challenge donors have generated with their historic gifts, everyone has an opportunity to participate in bringing this design to life.
Perhaps even more than the funds themselves, this is the true gift that the lead Challenge donors have given to the Sidwell Friends community: a chance to transform the spaces that they most value from intricate renderings on an architect’s table into thriving, energetic places where students can safely explore, try, fail, grow, and thrive.
“We invested in this challenge now because we know that now is the time for instrumental change at Sidwell Friends,” one of the lead Challenge donors said. “And the impact of the Challenge gifts will go much further than the walls of our campus. The generosity that Sidwell Friends community members show today will touch every student, parent, alum, parent of alumni, community partner, and friend.”