- Bulletin Features
How the Campaign for the Second Century Is Changing Taft
Photography by Robert Falcetti
In simple terms, the goal of the Ever Taft, Even Stronger campaign was to sustain excellence in the future—to invest in and support Taft's faculty, students, campus, programs, and endowment. That goal was met—and exceeded— with a final total of $188 million raised, $13 million above the campaign's $175 million goal. "Thank you to everyone who participated," said Headmaster Willy MacMullen '78, "to the thousands of donors and volunteers who have supported Taft and made this such a successful campaign. Your belief in Taft is evident and your support of the school is already having a significant impact."
Supporting Taft's Faculty
Teachers are, and have always been, the single most important resource at Taft. Every graduate can tell a story about a Taft teacher who made a difference in his or her life. Taft teachers are tasked with opening minds and challenging students inside and outside the traditional classroom. For faculty, "going home" means sit-down dinner, dorm duty, extra help, and advisee meetings. Taft teachers are never really off duty.
Being able to offer faculty a comprehensive package of salary, benefits, professional growth, and housing is necessary to allow Taft to be competitive with peer schools and to attract and retain the best teachers. Ensuring that those teachers also have the tools and support to meet the ever-increasing expectations in delivering an unparalleled education of the whole student is critical.
Gifts from the campaign are already helping to attract, retain, and grow a diverse, talented, and passionate faculty who are committed to the education of the whole student. Relative to peer schools, Taft has greatly improved compensation of faculty over the past decade, and has made a deliberate commitment to improving faculty housing and quality of life for teachers. Gifts from the campaign have already impacted professional growth opportunities for faculty, including the addition of six new faculty chairs and 13 new professional education grants that allow faculty to further their education and hone their teaching skills.
Like all Taft faculty members, Laura Monti '89 wears many hats. From teaching, to overseeing a dorm, to serving as an advisor and mentor and leading school service trips abroad, there isn't much that Monti hasn't done in service of Taft and its students. She spends the bulk of her days in the biology classrooms in Wu, surrounded by beakers, petri dishes, microscopes, and models of cells—the textbook example of what a science classroom should look like.
Monti adds a little extra sparkle to the room, though, with her well-known laugh and red hair. Last year, she dressed as everyone's favorite cartoon science teacher—Ms. Frizzle—for Halloween.
In addition to being just downright fun (she even leads a casual knitting circle for Taft students in her home from time to time), Monti is a fierce scientist, advising students on independent projects on topics such as the effects of genetic inbreeding in fruit flies and methods for making plants bioluminescent.
Besides her regular teaching, advising, and dorm duties, Monti takes the Non ut sibi motto to the next level. Each summer, she and her husband, Academic Dean Jeremy Clifford, administer a free, four-week enrichment program for academically talented students from the Waterbury area in conjunction with the local Police Activity League.
Monti is also in charge of Taft's informal "lending library," a basement library of odds and ends (everything from bed risers and shower caddies to textbooks) that any student can borrow from. And for several years, Monti and Clifford have led Taft students on a service trip to the Dominican Republic to help elementary-school students in the impoverished country learn English.
Monti, who currently holds the Parish Family Chair, is just one example of a faculty member who has given so much of herself to make Taft a better place and Taft students better people.
The first time he visited Taft, Fernando Fernandez '14 decided the school would be a great fit for him. "I was right," he says now, "and I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend Taft. The school gave me both structure and freedom to grow."
And grow he did. Fernandez—who came to Taft from the Bronx as a scholarship student—excelled in Taft's classrooms, on the fields, and on the stage. He served as a tour guide, played football and track, cofounded the Latin dance club, sang with Collegium Musicum and Gospel Choir, and led charity efforts to support orphanages in the Dominican Republic, where he had spent summers with family as a child.
He was the first recipient of Taft's Frederick H. Wandelt III '66 Scholarship, which was created by Ferdie's family and friends to honor his four decades of leadership at Taft. Since being established in 2013, the fund has already benefited five Taft students, including Fernandez.
Fernandez is now a student in the prestigious Huntsman Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is majoring in marketing and minoring in Latin American and Latino Studies. Fernandez has participated in Penn men's rugby; the International Affairs Association competing in Model UN and the Special Events Board; and 180 Degrees Consulting as an international consultant to nonprofits and NGOs. He also represents the Grupo Quisqueyano, the Dominican group on Penn's campus, and is part of the university's dance trouped Onda Latina. Fernandez works at the Penn Law Legal Clinic where he serves as a student clerk and translator to Spanishspeaking clients. As for possible future career choices, Fernandez is keeping his options open, but is interested in working at the United Nations or studying business law.
Fernandez is just one of the hundreds of Taft students who receive financial aid each year. This year, 38 percent of students are receiving some form of financial aid.
Impact on Taft Students
The school's commitment to financial aid, while always strong, has grown considerably thanks to the generosity of campaign donors.
At the beginning of the campaign, the group of students applying to Taft was large and competitive. The campus was diverse, with students from 21 countries and 33 states, from a full range of socioeconomic classes, and representing a spectrum of races, ethnicities, and religions. But the school still faced a great challenge. As tuitions have risen and increasing numbers of families need financial aid, how can Taft admit the best and the brightest, have the ideal diverse student body, and compete with peer schools? Taft has historically committed more of its resources to financial aid than at peer schools with larger endowments. Put simply, the school's commitment to financial aid has meant that every year we give a larger slice of a smaller pie. Each year we must turn away highly qualified students because we do not have enough scholarship dollars.
Since the campaign's inception, Taft has added 36 endowed scholarships and has grown the diversity of the student body. This year, students hailed from 47 countries, making Taft one of the most diverse secondary schools in the world. Thanks to the campaign, the school will add in excess of $55 million to the endowment in support of financial aid.
With this renewed commitment to financial aid, Taft can now better attract and enroll an even more diverse and talented student body, enriching the lives of all Taft students.
Bingham Auditorium has been home to some of the most important moments in the life of Mr. Taft's School. Generations of students have met each week in the auditorium for Morning Meeting— formerly called Vespers—and for special presentations and assemblies, where they have heard new voices and been introduced to new ideas. Students have rehearsed, performed, listened to, and spoken before their peers in Bingham. And they have met there in times of loss, as they did on December 7, 1941—the day Pearl Harbor was bombed—and immediately following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In many ways, Bingham Auditorium is a sacred space for the Taft community.
Thanks to campaign donors, Bingham has been renovated in preparation for the next 125 years of Taft students. Last summer, the auditorium's wood paneling was cleaned, treated, and refinished, giving the space a lighter, softer feel. Damaged wood sections and decorative pieces were repaired and the walls painted. Bingham's historic light fixtures were refurbished and the blackout panels on the windows were removed, allowing natural light into the auditorium for the first time in many years. LED lighting was installed, as were remotely controlled window treatments. The balcony has a new brass railing, and a soundboard was built into the rear of the auditorium's lower level.
Stewarding Taft's Campus
Taft is a stunning place to live, teach, and learn with one of the most beautiful secondary school campuses in the nation. A combination of new and historic buildings, the campus has been constructed, brick by brick, by the collective generosity of generations. Many of our buildings are historic, and we have an obligation to care for them. For these reasons, the campaign raised more than $31 million in support of Taft's facilities.
Gifts from the campaign have already helped sustain, steward, and improve this historic campus in ways that encourage the best teaching in and out of the classroom. The acquisition and renovation of historic properties such as Woodward Chapel have added beauty and functionality to the campus, as have the renovations of some of Taft's oldest spaces, including the Martin Health Center, Congdon House, CPT, HDT, and Bingham Auditorium.
Thanks to generous support from campaign donors, the school has completed or is currently undertaking significant renovations of the following important spaces where students and faculty live and learn:
- Moorhead Wing, including new dining rooms and academic spaces
- McIntosh House
- Congdon House
- Laube Auditorium
- Bingham Auditorium
- History Classrooms
- Pinto Language Lab
- Health Center
- Baseball/Softball fields
- Tennis Courts and Donaldson Pavilion
- Library Archives
- Telling Study
- Wu Biology/Botany Classroom and equipment
- Former Alumni and Development Office (now faculty apartments)
And Taft has been able to purchase facilities that will help support and grow the school, including:
- Baldwin School
- Woodward Chapel
- 25 The Green (Alumni and Development Office)
- 39 The Green (Business Office)
- Morris House (faculty residence)
- Hillman House (faculty residence)
- Keyless door locks/security system
Growing Taft's Programs
Taft has extraordinary and continually evolving academic and extracurricular programs, particularly in areas such as global studies, environmental stewardship, and community service. The campaign has impacted these programs, helping to raise funds and grow programs that prepare students in and out of the classroom to develop the skills that will prepare them to be thoughtful and informed citizens and leaders in the 21st century.
Among Taft's signature programs is The Center for Global Leadership and Service and its partnership with the city of Waterbury. At the core of the Center's mission is the conviction that in order to become global leaders and thoughtful citizens after graduation, our students require rehearsal now. Campaign donations are already helping support travel experiences that build understanding of global issues; talks by visiting artists, writers, scientists, and renowned figures from a variety of fields; and other curricular and extracurricular experiences that allow students to gain a thoroughly international perspective.
Similarly, the school's commitment to service and service learning has never been more vibrant or robust than it is today, thanks, in part, to support from campaign donors. From local efforts that include the schoolwide Community Service Day and thriving year-round partnerships with nonprofits and public schools across the greater Waterbury area, to summer travel grants, and service trips around the world, students are learning about service and global connections through real world experience.
In addition to this commitment to global leadership and community service education, Taft has introduced new courses in environmental science and partnerships with groups like The New York Botanical Garden. Today there are schoolwide efforts to lower our carbon footprint, to construct LEED-certified buildings, and to reduce overall fuel consumption. Again, these partnerships and initiatives have been strengthened by the generosity of campaign donors.
Students benefit from a number of growing academic programs, among them (clockwise, from far left): an expanded STEM curriculum; special programs in environmental science, including an aquaculture lab; internships with The New York Botanical Garden; and a global leadership program that melds leadership training with service learning and travel opportunities, such as to New York's United Nations headquarters.
Commitment to Taft's Legacy
One of the most powerful and telling results of the campaign is that it has engaged so many people—more than any of Taft's past campaigns.
This increased engagement is evident not just in the dollars raised or in the number of donors, but also in the growth of planned giving through the school's Legacy Society. In fall of 2010, there were 93 living members of the Horace Dutton Taft Legacy Society. Today, the Legacy Society numbers 229 living members. In all, both living and deceased, 522 intentions have been or will be realized. Bequests and other planned gifts are critical in supporting the school's endowment and ensuring the future of Taft.
The Annual Fund, which was part of this comprehensive campaign for Taft, has also exceeded its goals at every stage, allowing the school to meet the gap between the operating costs and tuition revenue. Annual Fund dollars help both reduce Taft's dependence on tuition and limit how much we draw from the endowment. This allows us to offer our students a superior education while keeping tuition costs lower than many of our peer schools. Taft has always been a disciplined and efficient institution, especially relative to its peer schools.
The school provides an excellent education, offers significant financial aid, generously supports faculty and staff, and stewards its campus prudently—all of this with an endowment half the size of that of peer schools. The campaign's support of endowment will help sustain Taft's excellence and bolster our security for the future.
Thank you to all who gave and volunteered their time for this campaign. Your generosity has been transformative for Taft.