Back in September, I received a letter from California. “Dear Mr. Rainey,” it read. “I have enclosed a modest gift for the general needs of MICDS. This amount recognizes the 75 years since I first matriculated at Country Day in 1947, aged 10. My eight years there provided a wonderful academic foundation upon which I built a solid adult life. I appreciate those years at Country Day, and hope, over time, that those at MICDS have a similar experience.”
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with the senior class about philanthropy, and I shared with them this letter, written by John Moss ’55. “I can think of few more compelling proofs of the success of our educational project at MICDS,” I told the Class of 2023, “than that, at age 85, in the year 2090, one of you would be so thoughtful, as Mr. Moss has been, to write such a letter to the Head of School—a person who has probably not even been born yet—and to give such a gift to express your gratitude for the ‘wonderful academic foundation’ provided to you here, and the ‘solid adult life’ that you have built upon it.”
I have been reminded of Mr. Moss’ philanthropy again this week as we have begun to welcome back our alumni for Reunion Weekend. Just as I observed to our seniors last week, I observed to our guests at yesterday’s Golden Ram Luncheon—a gathering of the Classes of 1943, 1948, 1953, 1958, 1963, 1968, and 1973—that the word “philanthropy” means, essentially, “love of humankind.” In our present day, when such a concept is increasingly countercultural, it is all the more important that we embrace and sustain it on behalf of future generations. To the Class of 2023, I explained that approximately 80% of the total cost of an MICDS education is funded from tuition while the remaining 20% is funded from other sources—income from invested endowment gifts most notably, as well as donations to the MICDS Fund. “One way to think about this,” I said, “is that, for as long as you have been a student here, your families have paid for every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but other people—many of them still living, but more of them now deceased—have paid for every Friday.”
In a conversation with another independent school head several years ago, when I was still relatively new to the work, I expressed my concerns about the challenge of balancing efforts in support of multiple constituencies simultaneously: students across all grade levels, teachers across all divisions and academic departments, staff across all school offices, and alumni of all ages. “On some days,” I said, “I feel like I work for everyone and no one.” He empathized, and then he offered an alternative perspective. “When I start to feel like that,” he said, “I remember that no matter whom I am working for at any given moment, I am always working for my successor.”
If philanthropy means “love of humankind,” it surely also means “working for our successors.” Before audiences of both our most senior students last week and our most senior alumnae and alumni this week, I shared the following words of the French theologian Hyacinthe Loyson in praise of the philanthropist: “These trees which he plants, and under whose shade he shall never sit, he loves them for themselves, and for the sake of his children and his children’s children, who are to sit beneath the shadow of their spreading boughs.” Planting trees that one will never climb, under whose limbs and leaves one will never enjoy shade–is there any more fitting embodiment of love of humankind than this? At MICDS, every fifth tree—Friday’s tree—is such a gift, and we are ever grateful for it, and committed to planting Friday trees for our successors.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. Happy Grandmother’s Day. I wish you all a joyful weekend ahead.
Head of School