In what was the second-largest gift ever given to an independent school in the U.S., Mercersburg Academy announced Thursday that it had received a gift of nearly $100 million from alumna Deborah J. Simon and her foundation.
The donation, which Simon said was made out of gratitude for her two years at the Mercersburg, Pa.-based institution, is the leading gift so far in the school's "Daring to Lead" $300 million capital campaign. When combined with recent campaign gifts that include support for a new student center, Simon and the Deborah Joy Simon Foundation have pledged nearly $107 million to Mercersburg Academy.
"We are thrilled beyond words for this transformational gift and the confidence that Deborah and her foundation have placed in us," said Douglas Hale, head of school. "Because of their vision and generosity, young men and women from all walks of life will have access to an extraordinary education that will allow them to realize their potential."
Simon, who is a member of the Mercersburg Academy Board of Regents, praised Hale for his "vision" for the school. "This is a place where faculty are encouraged to experiment with new ideas and technologies to engage students more fully in their education," she said.
According to a press release announcing the donation, Simon's gift will help Mercersburg Academy achieve its goal of ensuring its education is affordable for its students. Currently, 32 percent of students receive need-based financial aid, and 49 percent receive a combination of merit and need-based scholarships toward tuition. The Academy accepts students in grades 9-12.
Previous gifts to U.S. independent schools that equaled or surpassed Simon's gift include a $128 million donation to the Newtown, Pa.-based George School in 2007 and $100 million to the Hightstown, N.J.-based Peddie School in 1993. The previous high donation to the Mercersburg Academy came in 2000 by alumnus and former President of the Board of Regents H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, who donated $35 million.