Tuesday, October 28, 2014
UPDATE (adds school quotes) A $40 million bequest from Westporter Ruth Bedford has stunned a small boarding school in northern Virginia hunt country.
“Ruth’s gift is the largest gift ever given to an independent girls school,” said Cathy McGehee, head of Foxcroft School. “It inspires women to support the institutions that have helped to form them, in the same way men have been doing for hundreds of years.”
Bedford, who died at her Beachside Avenue Greens Farms estate in June at the age of 99 (see WestportNow June 19, 2014) had informed her alma mater in Middleburg that she planned to remember it in her will.
But school administrators were astonished when they learned the Standard Oil heiress had bequeathed $40 million, doubling the school’s endowment. Bedford never married and never had children.
The 157 students and staff learned of the gift today at a meeting in the school’s library, prompting a sustained “WOOO!” from the girls, according to local news reports.
McGehee, the school head, said the values of Foxcroft, “integrity, responsibility and service are manifest with what Ruth went on to do with her life.”
She added that the school’s board of trustees has designated that the majority of the $40 million gift “go to our endowment.”
“That will guarantee that girls of generations to come will have the benefit of a Foxcroft education,” McGehee said.
Noting that Foxcroft just celebrated its centennial, McGehee was eager to point out a touch of irony in that “Ruth was born the first year Foxcroft was founded.”
“It’s incredible!’ Marion Couzens, the school’s director of institutional advancement said of Bedford’s gift.
“It is something that a school of our size dreams of,” she added, noting that Foxcroft currently has just 157 students enrolled.“It is a transformative moment.”
Couzens said that over the years Bedford checked in on her alma mater, “and one of the things that was so exciting was that she recognized in them, the girls now, the same girls when she went here.”
“She always wanted to make sure all was right with her school,” she said.
Bedford was the daughter of Frederick T. and Lucie Thomas Bedford and the last surviving grandchild of Westport philanthropist Edward T. Bedford, founder of the Westport Weston Family Y.
She attended Foxcroft School from 1928 to 1932. At today’s ceremony, students saw pictures of Bedford during her time at Foxcroft, showing her on the basketball team and with friends, news reports said.
Upon graduation, she worked in social services. She served with the American Red Cross in the European theater during World War II. She had a great interest in the New York theater and worked for Rodgers and Hammerstein as a stage manager on several Broadway shows.
She was a licensed seaplane pilot, an accomplished sailor, golfer, tennis player and horse woman. Upon returning to Connecticut she volunteered at Norwalk Hospital for more than 50 years.
Her four-bedroom home on 7.13 acres at 66 Beachside Ave. currently is the highest priced home for sale in Westport at $25 million.
—James Lomuscio contributed reporting.
Posted 10/28/14 at 03:29 PM Permalink