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Donor Stories

Renbrook School is deeply grateful to our donors for their dedication and generosity. Below you will find stories about some of our donors who have made generous contributions to our campaign.

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The Gengras Family

Few families are as intricately woven into Renbrook’s history as the Gengrases. Edie and E. Clayton "Skip" Gengras, Jr. currently serve as co-chairs of the Grandparent Executive Committee, and Edie is a former member of the faculty and a past trustee. Edie and Skip’s sons, Chip Gengras ’85 and Jonathan Gengras ’87, are graduates of Renbrook, and all of them have fond memories of the boys' days as Renbrook athletes. Jonathan and his wife Robyn, who currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees, are the proud parents of two Renbrook alumni, Ged ’19 and Mary ’20, and a current Renbrook student, Katherine ’23, all of whom they describe as "diehard Renbrook athletes." Chip and his wife Ashley’s children, Julia ’15, Emmy ’17 and Clayt ’19, also have fond memories of their time as Hawks.

It’s these memories and the positive impact that Renbrook’s athletic program has had on their children that inspired the Gengras family’s generosity and ultimately the creation of Gengras Family Field. With Renbrook being the Gengras family’s common experience, it made sense to them to combine their legacies in a gift to the school that would celebrate the sports program that has meant so much to their family.

For their part, Edie and Skip love the "Take Flight" theme because it invokes memories of the Rentschlers yet looks to the future. And what better way to honor the future of Renbrook than with this remarkable gift? Robyn and Jonathan also wanted to give something of value to future Hawks while honoring their family’s deep Renbrook roots. The field, it was decided, would be a lasting testament to a special school-family relationship.

Renbrook is deeply grateful to the Gengras family for their dedication and generosity.

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The Manafort Family

In the past, climbing the hill to get to the Upper Athletic Fields meant navigating puddles, roots, and rocks, on a muddy, ill-defined pathway. Now, thanks to the Manafort Family, their vision of a beautiful and welcoming community space, and their dedication to Renbrook, visitors to the fields traverse an elegant stone walkway on their path to a spacious flagstone plaza that is flanked by a stone wall displaying the school name and our iconic armillary sphere.

Manafort Family Plaza is a gift from the Manafort Family Foundation, which includes current families Jim and Jolyn Manafort (Madelyn ’24 and James ’28), Justin and Tabitha Manafort (Samantha ’18, Justin ’19, and Tommi Rose ’24), and William and Heather Manafort (Olivia ’24 and Owen ’31), along with parents of alumni Jason and Sandra Manafort ( Evan '13, Jon '16 and Julia '18), and grandparents Jon and Elisa Manafort. In addition to being the proud parents of two Renbrook alumni and one current student, Justin is a Renbrook trustee and Tab is a former member of the faculty. Jolyn, who is also a Renbrook trustee, reflected on the gift, its goal, and its impact on the Renbrook community in a recent conversation with the editor of Renbrook Magazine. "Because our children and our children's cousins have all had such wonderful Renbrook experiences, we wanted to give something wonderful back to the school that had given them so much," shares Jolyn. "We envisioned the plaza as a space to bring the community together."

And bring us together it has! Manafort Family Plaza was the perfect gathering place for families and friends last October when we launched Take Flight and celebrated our community during Fall Fest. Jolyn’s hope is that "our family's donation to the capital campaign can help to improve the school so that other families can benefit as ours has for many more years to come."

Thank you to the Manafort family for their support of the Take Flight Campaign and for their love of our Renbrook community.

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The Lewis Family

On school days, you can find Scott Lewis, CEO of the Lewis Business Center, in the morning drop-off line or heading to the Mews for afternoon pickup. Scott, Rachelle, and first-grader Harper Rose have been an integral part of Renbrook’s community since 2019. The Lewises’ involvement goes far beyond just being a part of the community, though. Rachelle and Scott have a strong desire to contribute to the redevelopment of the school and the nurturing of its children. By establishing the Lewis Family Amphitheater, they are doing just that.

"We were inspired by the teachers," shares Rachelle, "by the style of education they provide and the inclusive nature of the campus. We want to be a part of this community, not just now and during Harper Rose’s time as a student here, but for the future too."

Scott says they were drawn immediately to the library when the plans for the campaign were unveiled. "A library offers the opportunity to obtain whatever knowledge you seek," he explains. "We are blessed to be able to contribute, and this gift, this amphitheater, and all that it adds to the library is part of our family’s legacy. It’s something we can do to touch people’s lives in a meaningful way."

It’s Rachelle’s wish that the amphitheater will complement events like Hawktown, the culminating first-grade project recently held in the library. "The ability to congregate, we really took that for granted before 2020," reflects Rachelle. She wishes too that, by blending the indoors and out, the amphitheater will give the community a welcoming space to come together.

"When she’s there, we want Harper Rose to feel the hope we have for her to become whoever she is meant to be. Not just hope for her but for all Renbrook students. That’s what it’s all about, right?" muses Scott. "We hope it allows her to remember what her parents mean to her and to the larger community."

Their advice for fellow donors? "Don’t just be present. Make your presence felt. When you read about how Renbrook started, in a little house, and you experience what it is now—well, if each of us took just a little step forward to add to it, can you imagine what it will become?"

For their gift and their inspiration, Renbrook thanks Rachelle and Scott Lewis. We are grateful for their support of the Take Flight Campaign and for making Renbrook a part of their family’s legacy.

Photo: Rachelle, Scott, and Harper Rose at Hawktown Bank

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Alison & Tony Scherer '82

Writing instruction transcends ages, grades, and subject areas. It’s a constant, there for every student every day, all day. Teachers rely on traditional ideas, and they adjust to new techniques. Technology encroaches and expedites.

 

How, then, to support this massive and critical undertaking? Alison and Tony Scherer '82 have established the Fitzsousa/Scherer Fund to Support the Teaching of Writing at Renbrook. Named in part for Beverly Fitzsousa, Tony’s longtime colleague and friend, the fund honors their love of writing and their shared commitment to fostering young writers. Its primary goal is to support the Director of Writing, a new position Renbrook established in 2022. The fund will allow the director to work with teachers throughout the school on writing instruction, to visit other schools and attend conferences, and to purchase supplies and materials.

 

At Renbrook, we seek to build a writing culture. We believe every teacher is a writing teacher. For that to be true, we need to give our faculty the opportunity and the time to attend workshops and to grow as writing teachers. We want to bring experts to the community and allow them to meet with teachers and students across grade levels. Authors, essayists, journalists, and poets can share their expertise and their experience. We want to publish student (and faculty) writing internally and externally in newspapers and magazines, on bulletin boards and websites.

 

In a discussion about artificial intelligence and ChatGPT, Devina Bhalla '15, an English teacher at Gilman School in Baltimore and former student of Tony and Beverly, wondered aloud why anyone would choose to use a computer program as a substitute for the creative process. "Your writing is like your fingerprint," she said. "It’s your identity." That’s true. It also helps students find their identity. What could be more important than that?

 

With the Fitzsousa/Scherer Fund to Support the Teaching of Writing, Renbrook will establish a clear vision of this goal and multiple paths toward achieving it. For that and for their dedication and service to the mission of Renbrook, we thank Tony and Alison Scherer.

Photo: Tony Scherer '82 and Devina Bhalla '15

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