Recession bypasses St. Anne's-Belfield

St Anne’s-Belfield recently ended its centennial year capital campaign, the largest fundraising drive in the school’s history.  The elusiveness of a precise founding date for the school as it presently stands—claims could be made for celebrating the centennial in 1956, 2039 or 2075, among other years—evidently did not put a damper on the efforts, as STAB raked in a haul that exceeded even the school’s lofty hopes when it began the campaign in 2009.

The $30 million renovation of St. Anne’s lower campus, which includes new athletic fields as well as K-8 classroom buildings, is winding down.

According to STAB historian Kay Walker Butterfield, the school’s pedigree dates back to 1856. That’s when the Albemarle Female Institute opened on 10th and E. Jefferson streets. In 1910, one Henry Lee bought the struggling academy and turned it into the St. Anne’s School. 

By 1939, St. Anne’s was doing well enough to relocate to a new campus, paying $40,000 for a property on Ivy Road that had been the home of Elizabeth Wetmore, a journalist noted in her day for taking on fellow reporter Nellie Bly in a race around the world. By 1975, St. Anne’s and the nearby Belfield School had merged, and the school has been spread across the Wetmore property, dubbed Greenway Rise, and Belfield property ever since.

So how does this history lesson tie into the capital campaign? STAB initiated the campaign last year to celebrate 100 years of this path to the present and make enough cash to continue it well into the future. To that end, St. Anne’s raised a staggering—and staggeringly specific—total of $44,000,407.21 (picture a Mr. Burns type scrawling out his check for $7.21). 

Luke Anderson, STAB’s director of communications, says that the campaign had four goals: bulk up the school’s endowment (and this it did, up from $2.7 million last year to $17 million at present); sustain $1 million-plus in its general fundraising coffers; build a new arts and science center on the Greenway Rise campus; and perform a major overhaul of the Belfield campus. 

The former two goals certainly may not do much to dispel, as Anderson puts it, the “rich kids on the hill” image that STAB holds among many in the area, particularly given that most of the money is from parents of current students. However, Anderson says that the push to increase the endowment is largely about stabilizing tuition. “It allows us to keep tuition steady and try to offset the 2 to 4 percent annual increase in tuition that most schools face,” says Anderson.

The endowment is also intended to assist the 41 percent of STAB students who receive financial aid. Anderson contests the notion that this is simply subsidizing the school’s athletic programs and says that financial aid at STAB is purely needs-based. 

The $30 million Belfield renovation project has likewise not been without controversy. C-VILLE previously reported on objections over the former headmaster’s house being demolished to make way for the renovation. But with the demolition well in the past and final construction winding down, STAB expects both campuses to be running at full capacity by next month. The Belfield campus’ new athletic fields and main complex of buildings, housing kindergarten through 8th grade, have been in operation since classes began in September, and the final phase of the project, the preschool building, is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month.

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