The idea of providing scholarships to Washington-Lee students was first conceived in 1990 by three W-L teachers: social studies teachers Mrs. Peggy Jeens and Dr. Thomas Schelstrate, and science teacher Mr. Ron Revere. Their choice for a fundraiser to collect funds for at least two $1,000 scholarships was a variety production that would star faculty members. The Faculty Follies showcased individual and collective talents of the staff participants —some serious and some quite humorous. The event was a huge success, and continued as an annual fundraising event until Mr. Revere, the last of the three faculty originators, retired in 2010. In the ensuing years of the 1990’s, a variety of fundraising events also contributed funds for scholarships, such as car washes, silent auctions, and eventually, personal donations. From 2000 until 2010, the proceeds from the Faculty Follies, at least $1000 and up to $2500 each year, were given to the Foundation for student scholarships.
In 1998, Mr. Andrew Barr, a Washington-Lee alumnus, introduced the idea of establishing a foundation as a more stable entity for raising money for more scholarships. The idea was enthusiastically received, and in 1999 Mr. Barr, working with then principal Dr. William J. Sharbaugh, set up the Washington-Lee High School Education Foundation. The initial Board of Directors consisted of Mr. Barr; Mr. John Harocopos, English Dept. Chair; Mrs. Peggy Jeens; Mr. Bruce Hickey, W-L alumnus; and Dr. Sharbaugh. Mr. Barr was the first president and the main contributor to the Foundation for the first two years; however, other contributions were sought, and enough funds were raised to offer seven scholarships to the Class of 1999. Mr. Barr was the first to attempt the creation of a database mailing list to solicit contributions.
In the second year, the Foundation was able to offer four $1,000 scholarships after receiving additional donations from staff, parents, special organizations and community members. Additionally, Mr. Barr set aside a large sum of his personal money to begin an endowment for the Foundation, thereby ensuring a minimum number of scholarships each year. Over the years, that endowment has grown to over $300,000, thanks in large part to the generosity of Mr. Barr and the wise fiscal stewardship by Dr. Sharbaugh and the Board of Directors.
In 2001 Mr. Barr resigned from the Board because of other commitments and Dr. Sharbaugh was selected as president, while four new faculty members joined the board: Ms. Anne Ledyard; Dr. Tom Schelstrate; Mr. Mitch Adylette; and Mr. James Crawley. Later that same year, long time active parent Ann Felker joined the Board of Directors. The new board set out to raise money in hopes of funding several scholarships and also add a new dimension to the Foundation—a Fellowship of a minimum of $1,000 for at least one staff member who wished to pursue a special project for professional growth. At the Awards Assembly in June, 2001, $5,900 in scholarships were awarded along with the first Faculty Fellowship of $1,000.
Around this time, it became clear that outreach to the entire W-L alumni community was the way to establish a robust fundraising strategy for the Foundation to continue its mission. Through the cooperation and assistance of the newly established Washington-Lee Alumni Association, an offshoot of the W-L 75th Anniversary event in 2000, a database of class lists with addresses formed the Foundation’s annual mailing list. Ed Peetz, W-L class of 1970, undertook the enormous task of managing this comprehensive alumni database. With the target audience defined, the Board took on the annual task of creating an early spring W-L Foundation Bulletin, an appeal for supporters that affirms today’s still high-achieving W-L High School, with a financial report, a list of donors, and photos and bios of scholarship and fellowship recipients.
In 2003, the Foundation recognized the need for renewal scholarships to recipients completing their undergraduate education. Foundation scholarship winners can now compete for a maximum of $4,500 over a period of four years. As of August 2020, the Foundation has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships and fellowships, with a continuing endowment enriched by annual donations.
Board membership of the Foundation has changed over the years, with several members retiring from service as new faces came on to take their place. Our longest serving member, however, was Dr. William J. Sharbaugh, who actively served from the Foundation’s beginnings until July of 2012. Dr. Sharbaugh remains on the Board as an Emeritus Member, for without his hard work and direction, the Foundation might never have come to fruition.
Currently, the Board has ten members, all with strong ties to W-L, who volunteer their time and skills to perpetuate the good work of the Foundation. They include: Sarah Becker, ’05, Paul Bui, Tom Chisnell, ’69 (treasurer), Sarah Congable, ’95 (vice president), Ann Felker (secretary), Keith Klein, Philip Krauth, Erica Lawson, ’00, Atiya Rehman, and William Sharbaugh, Member Emeritus.
Thanks to the generosity of W-L alumni, faculty, and community friends, the number of scholarships awarded has continued to grow. Of course, the Foundation would like to be more generous, because the need is growing, but that possibility depends on an active community of consistent contributors from all generations of Generals.