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Financial Aid Donors Provide Endless Opportunities for Students

Long before Dr. Lawrence “Larry” Stifler ’53 launched a successful career in healthcare, he was a bright 8-year-old boy making the switch from public to private school, and he needed a little help.

In 1949, many schools in the area were not offering financial aid, and his mother – a young single parent – could not afford to pay tuition on her own, but Calvert School stepped up, offering Larry a scholarship that allowed him to embark on a life-changing educational journey.

He felt like “the luckiest kid in school.”

“I can definitely trace my love of science, learning, and being challenged back to my experience at Calvert,” Larry said. “From day one, I felt fortunate to be given this opportunity.”

Today, Calvert’s financial assistance program has expanded to include many more families like Larry’s. Roughly 33 percent of Calvert students receive need-based financial aid, and the average award covers close to 50 percent of tuition; however, only 5.25 percent of the School’s endowment is budgeted for financial aid.

This means that charitable gifts quickly become the lifeblood of the financial support program. These designated funds, provided by generous donors, aid the School in its mission to enroll and maintain a diverse, high-achieving student body regardless of individual means and privilege.

Larry, once the sole scholarship student in his class, is helping to strengthen these efforts and provide for students of all backgrounds through the Lawrence T. P. Stifler Scholarship Fund, which he established in 2004.

“I hope that scholarship students, especially students of color, feel like they belong there and deserve to take advantage of all the opportunities, experiences, and relationships being at Calvert provides,” Larry said. “My Calvert education was an important foundation in my life, and I am grateful for the support that Calvert gave to me.”

A Supportive Team for All Students

By the time Louise Este Bruce ’36 was born in 1924, her family’s history was entwined with that of Calvert School. Her paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather had served together on the School’s first Board of Trustees in 1897. Her parents met in class.

Decades later, Louise herself learned to read and write at Calvert School, an institution she would call “an innovative school of global fame.” Now, her legacy lives on through the Louise Este Bruce ’36 Scholarship Fund, a recurring partial scholarship bequeathed after her passing in 2013.

Jeanne Zurich, who leads the Louise Este Bruce Foundation, says that this generous gift reflects Louise’s desire to make a Calvert education more accessible for deserving students.

“Ms. Bruce would have wanted any scholarship recipient to gain the same goal that she gained from her Calvert years: a lifelong love of learning,” she said.

Former Calvert parent Ingrid Bortner, mother of Bret ’82 and Birgitta ’80, has seen the lifelong value of Calvert education firsthand, in the organizational skills Bret and Birgitta use to this day. For her, financial aid is a priority because it gave her children a solid foundation.

“I believe in giving opportunity to those who cannot afford a private school education,” she said. “My children got a great start at Calvert. I hope to give that same foundation to others.”

Alumna Annette “Teena” Bergsma ’67 believes that high-quality early education prepares students for lifelong success, and that robust financial aid offerings enable students from all backgrounds to benefit from a Calvert education.

By experiencing Calvert’s unique program, she says, more children throughout Baltimore will gain “the core building blocks needed to become self-confident citizens and strong leaders.”

“I hope that recipients of financial aid at Calvert realize that success in all aspects of life requires mental ability, personal motivation, and teamwork,” Teena said. “Donors to Calvert’s financial aid programs are a part of those students’ team, helping them to gain foundational skills and tools for a life of inspiring experiences.”

A Bright Future and Strong Foundation

Since leaving Calvert School, Joshua Perry ’96 has graduated from Princeton University, earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, and secured his JD from the University of Baltimore. Now a fixed income portfolio manager with Brown Advisory, Josh can trace his history of excellence to Tuscany Road, where generous donors helped him begin his journey.

“I wouldn’t have been able to go to Calvert without financial aid,” he said. “And the opportunities that have been afforded to me by having such a strong base of support and learning enabled me to succeed in life.”

Today, Josh is a vital member of the School’s Board of Trustees and chairs the Investment Committee, which oversees Calvert’s endowment. In this role, he helps guide Calvert’s strategy for the same funds that allowed him to enroll as a child. For current and future Calvert students, he suggests taking advantage of every opportunity.

“When they say, ‘foundation for a lifetime,’ they mean that Calvert is actually going to stick with you,” he said. “Being able to have that opportunity is something that will last your entire life.”

During her days at Calvert, Laura Neilson Lee ’52 received financial assistance after her father passed away and her mother struggled to keep Laura and her sister enrolled in private school. Years later, she is doing everything she can to give back.

“I received that aid until my graduation in 1952. So, it became a priority for me to contribute as often as I could,” Laura said.

After donating to the Calvert Fund for many years, Laura established the Laura Neilson Lee ’52 Scholarship Fund, a growing reserve that will give upcoming Calvert students the bright future and strong foundation she gained from the School.

“When I continued my education in the public-school system, I had a fundamental background that carried me through schooling, college, and career,” Laura said.

A Safety Net for Uncertain Times

Parents Scott and Kelly Foley see the value of an enriching Calvert education every day, when their three children – Alice ’24, Liam ’22, and Julia ’22 – come home from school. They understand that the opportunities their students experience at school are preparing them to lead “successful healthy lives” long after graduating.

They want that for other families, too.

“We were inspired to contribute to Calvert’s financial aid funds because those funds ensure that there is a diverse student body representative of our community and, in difficult economic times, allow all students to finish their Calvert journey,” Scott said.

This year, generous gifts from donors have allowed the School to increase financial aid offerings for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, emergency donations made it possible for Calvert to award an additional $150,000 to families at an economic disadvantage during this crisis.

For the 2020-2021 school year, the School also increased its financial aid budget by more than 30 percent, raising it to $3.05 million dollars to support students and their families.

“I want other children to have the advantage that was afforded me. I want them, in these days of hearing of such poor education, to learn, grow, and be inspired,” Laura Neilson Lee ’52 said. “That is what a Calvert education does. I wish all students could have that gift.”

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