“This is a real opportunity for the entire community
to get behind this campaign, from the
parents to the grandparents to the alums, to
get involved and support St. John’s School.”
Isabel ’83 & Ransom Lummis
SJS Campaign Chairs
Congratulations to the St. John’s Community! You did it. The Opportunity of a Lifetime Campaign hit the $100 million goal on time this June. This is a wonderful reflection on the St. John’s community. Led by campaign Co-Chairs Isabel ’83 and Ransom Lummis, this comprehensive campaign produced levels of generosity not previously seen at St. John’s and rarely seen in day schools across the United States. A strong culture of philanthropy is alive and well at St. John’s. The Annual Fund grew consistently throughout the five years of the campaign. This will ensure the highest level of program delivery and student experience possible. Multiple capital and endowment objectives were met that will have profound strategic impact for decades to come.
Scores of volunteers made the success of this campaign possible. In addition to an outstanding Campaign Steering Committee, all of the Annual Fund Volunteers over the last five years have been important in the campaign’s success. Students, faculty, parents, current and former trustees trustees, alumni, grandparents, parents of alumni, faculty emerita, and staff all helped and participated in the success of this historic effort. The campaign’s success stands on the shoulders of those leaders who came before and ensured that St. John’s School would continue to strive for and attain lofty goals in the full spectrum of the mission as developed by the founding families and headmaster Alan Lake Chidsey.
To date, the success of the Opportunity of a Lifetime Campaign has already had a significant impact on St. John’s School. The completion of the construction of Flores Hall and Campus Center at the start of this school year has created a sense of excitement and has already changed daily life on campus, as we had hoped and imagined. The acquisition of 13 acres of land known as Taub Campus was truly a once-in-a-lifetime strategic opportunity that has had and will have a profound impact on the future of St. John’s School. The property is already being put to use for parking and office space. The Business and Advancement offices were moved there from the Quadrangle allowing for the construction of six new innovative classrooms in their space. Endowment funds have provided important financial aid dollars and enhanced financial footing to help secure the future of St. John’s. The final objectives of the capital portion of the campaign are focused around campus development and student safety and are outlined on the Campus Development section of the campaign website and materials.
The breakdown of objectives are as follows:
Commitments to date:
Winston Hall and Arnold Student Center served the St. John’s School community well for nearly 50 years. Memories and relationships were forged there. Accommodation of current and future growth, however, requires a much larger facility.
In the spring of 2014, Winston Hall was demolished and construction began on a new facility that has already immediately impacted the life of the School and the community. Construction was completed and the doors opened to Flores Hall in August 2015. Architecture and facilities directly impact the building of community. The extended school family will come together in the new Campus Center just as families gather and bond, it is said, in their kitchens.
The centerpiece of the Campus Center is the 10,000 square-foot grand dining hall, a facility complemented by the Fondren outdoor dining areas and a café. College Counseling and Admission Offices and additional fine arts instructional space are a part of the facility as well. Heritage Hall and a spirit store are part of the entry area and celebrates the spirit and history of St. John’s. A large green space, known as the Great Lawn, adds charm, and underground parking adds convenience. The Chao Assembly Room, Conference Room, and Frankel Balcony also provide important meeting and gathering spaces.
In addition to serving students, faculty, and visitors daily, this facility is a focal gathering point for alumni, grandparents, current and past parents, and others in the community. It will host major community events and be a place in which people come together, interact, and build and sustain relationships.
In December 2012, St. John’s School acquired the 13 acres of land bordered by Buffalo Speedway, Westheimer, and West Alabama, property St. John’s had hoped for decades to include in the campus. This land increased the footprint of the campus by 46% for a total of 41 acres.
The Taub family of Houston had owned the property since the 1940s and was leasing much of it to the School for parking and playing fields. Learning of the availability of the property and urged by a strategic conversation regarding long-term vision, the Board of Trustees seized the chance to acquire the land and claim it for the School in perpetuity.
While St. John’s has grown consistently over most of its history, school size has remained the same during the most recent ten-year period. During that time, the number of St. John’s alumni has grown, Houston has grown, and pressures on admissions have increased further.
Leaders among the St. John’s family strongly encouraged and supported decisive and bold action. With the promise of pace-setting support, the Board took action and St. John’s School seized the Opportunity of a Lifetime. The strategic implications of the acquisition of the Taub property will span generations.
FIELD DEVELOPMENT AND PEDESTRIAN CROSSING
Initial campaign plans called for the construction of one or possibly two tunnels. However, engineering reports revealed that tunnels would need to be located three stories below the surface of the street. The construction of tunnels that deep created concerns about the practicality of use as well as other complications associated with building a structure so far below the utilities and sewer lines. Further discovery uncovered that the city plans to do major renovations for Buffalo Speedway and West Alabama in the next 5-10 years. This information negates the option of moving utility lines now in order to construct tunnels that are closer to the surface.
Finally, until plans for the Brown and Taub Campuses are finalized, the construction of tunnels and their landing areas could compromise designs of future facilities. This does not mean that St. John’s will not strongly consider building a tunnel or sky bridge in the future. However, the timing was deemed to be less than ideal considering all the factors involved. This is why an alternative approach to student safety has been explored.
Currently, many Middle School students cross West Alabama to access Caven and Finnegan Fields for practice. As part of the overall priority to enhance pedestrian safety, near-term plans call for the development of multi-purpose practice field space on the Taub property. In addition to accommodating the growth of the School and future schedule changes, the development of these fields would have a significant impact on student safety. The development of the practice fields on Taub Campus would redirect a vast majority of students from crossing West Alabama to crossing Buffalo Speedway, where there is a median, cones, a school zone, and a pathway being used regularly for crossing. Complementing the re-direction of foot traffic, near-term plans call for the installation of a pedestrian-activated traffic light utilized in similar settings around the city.
St. John’s has reached an initial agreement with St. Luke’s Church for the construction of a shared-use parking garage on the far northwest portion of the Taub Campus. St. John’s would allocate $2 million of campaign funds and would have parking access Monday through Saturday.
Importantly, this agreement would ensure critical access to the garage from West Alabama and Westheimer through St. Luke’s property, thus eliminating the need to construct road access on existing St. John’s property.
FINE ARTS ADDITIONS
The goal of this project is to create additional spaces to keep up with the increasing demand for Fine Arts programming both in the Middle and Upper Schools. Over the past five years, the Fine Arts department has seen a nearly 50% increase in the number of students participating in the program. As an example, several years ago the dance program in the Upper School consisted of approximately 50 students. Today, those numbers have increased to well over 100. Numbers in band, orchestra, and choir continue to swell, and the current facilities are unable to accommodate this growth. Added to this growth pressure is the fact that 75 more students will be added over the next three years to the Upper School.
At this time, the objective is to build an additional dance studio and to construct a new and more flexible theater space that can accommodate 300-350 people. The best way to visualize this new space is to think about a black box theater concept that does not have permanent seating but provides the flexibility of use that the Chao Assembly Room in the Campus Center has provided. With highly intentional design features, this space can also be used for band and orchestra practice. In addition, this space has the potential to accommodate larger group meetings (faculty and parent) and be used for functions like Middle School dances, a reception area for school-wide events on South Campus during bad weather, and a more intimate space for community-wide guest speaker events, where attendance would be too small for the VST.
It is anticipated that this flexible theater space will be used from 7AM-7PM on a daily basis. Building this new space also allows the School the opportunity to reprogram some existing fine arts spaces. This is an immediate need, and one that will serve the entire school-wide community.
The current space available for the library is approximately 10,000 square feet. Over time, about half of that space has been utilized for classrooms, including a computer lab and two math classrooms. In addition, there has been a decrease in books being checked out; and yet, print material has been added each year to the collection. The bottom line is that the current use and configuration of the library is no longer consistent with the delivery of the School’s academic program.
The intention of the project is to renovate the entire space and work toward the goal of creating a “learning commons” more in line with what library spaces have evolved into on college campuses. The new space will be programmed for larger group and interdisciplinary learning. At the same time, it will also allow for quiet and contemplative reflection spaces. The overarching goal of this project is to create a new intellectual hub for the Upper School.
Perhaps the best way to imagine this space is to think about the current size of the dining area in Flores Hall and Campus Center (10,000 square feet) and then to process that this is roughly the same footprint for the US library. There is tremendous potential to create a signature space that will enable the type of collaboration, innovation, and the coordination of multiple disciplines that we feel will be possible within the context of the new schedule. The faculty and staff are energized at the prospect of recreating this space.
Endowment gifts are often referred to as “ultimate gifts” because their impact is permanent in nature. These gifts, because they support St. John’s in perpetuity, often have profound meaning in the lives of the donors. Endowment gifts can be directed in a number of different ways.
Accessibility – Financial Aid and the Headmaster’s Student’s Assistance Fund
Rice University’s Dr. Stephen Klineberg has documented Houston’s growth and rapidly changing socio-economic demographics. A growing number of highly talented students are unable to afford a St. John’s education. St. John’s has a long history of being able to support all financial aid needs while using a need-blind admission process. In order to continue to meet the growing need, we hope to increase financial aid endowment.
In addition to tuition, numerous costs associated with a St. John’s education go beyond the reach of financial aid students and families. The Headmaster’s Student Assistance Fund was created in order to allow the School to be responsive to the needs of financial aid students and be able to provide a full student experience. Field trips, SAT prep classes, extra-curricular activities, and other costs not covered by financial aid can be prohibitive.
Supporting the Faculty and Strengthening Programs
Attraction and retention of the best faculty, fine arts instructors, and coaches are crucial because of the faculty’s impact upon programs and, thus, the student experience. A strong professional development program will attract talented prospective faculty and will help our current faculty develop further.
For more details on named endowment funds, named and restricted endowment funds, fully endowed scholarship funds, master teacher endowments, endowed chairs, and endowed department chairs, please contact the Office of Advancement at 713.850.4120.
Unrestricted annual support continues to be the ongoing philanthropic priority essential to ensuring the quality of a St. John’s education. It is the measure of difference that helps sustain the level of excellence that has been the hallmark of St. John’s School. This quality would not be possible without these funds, which represent 8% of the operating budget. That budget’s largest component is an investment in people through salaries and benefits.
Student safety, campus security, current technology, and financial aid are significant recurring operating expenses met in large degree by the St. John’s Annual Fund. The Annual Fund also enhances accessibility to a St. John’s education by helping fund financial aid and by mitigating pressures on tuition. Philanthropy funds 15% of the annual operating budget through the Annual Fund and the Endowment.
We strongly encourage all members of the community to continue their level of Annual Fund support and consider capital and endowment pledges that are above and beyond annual support. This comprehensive campaign includes support for capital, endowment, and Annual Fund. Thus, donor giving levels for the Opportunity of a Lifetime Campaign will include the cumulative giving of these categories.
Board Chairman Ann Stern summarizes the campaign in these words: “We get to participate in the opportunity of a lifetime for this school, and the opportunity for a lifetime of this school. We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, and we are thinking towards the future and can only imagine where those who come after us will take this magnificent school.”
We are called upon to uphold the mission and values of St. John’s School by embracing the tradition of enlightened action and unflagging forward motion. This campaign and its transformational outcome will be fundamental to future advancement of the School, advancement aligned with the mission and open to all that is possible. We remain as determined and vigilant as our founders were as we look to an even brighter future.
For inquiries or for a current list of named gift opportunities, please contact Mark Dini, Director of Advancement at 713.850.4120.
Isabel Stude Lummis ’83 & Ransom Lummis
QUADRANGLE CLUB CHAIRS
Carrie ’89 & Ernie Miller ’87
PAST QUADRANGLE CLUB CHAIRS
Randa & K.C. Weiner ’72
Carson & Arthur Seeligson
Martha & John Britton ’82
Nicole & Jim Perdue ’87
Eddie Allen III ’78
Isaac Arnold III ’76
Mark Desjardins, ex officio
Mark Dini, ex officio
Jenny Arnold Elkins ’76
Bob Graham ’64
Rand Holstead ’86
Johnny Johnson ’63
Andrew McCullough, Jr. ’86
Christopher Sarofim ’82
Ann Stern ’75
David M. Underwood †
Carl Vogt ’54
Download the Campaign Brochure PDF here.