Linda Oppelt

St. Mary’s High School Foundation reaches $1 million in endowed funds

by Deacon Rob Rysavy

COLORADO SPRINGS. In 1885, when nine girls enrolled in the school that is today St. Mary’s High School, the Sisters of Loretto were not thinking about an endowment to support students 137 years in the future, they were simply trying to find land for the school they just opened.

It would be over 100 years before St. Mary’s had its own foundation with endowed funds to support the school and its mission. Three original board members, Leo Smentowski, Tom Kelly and Ralph Schulz, chartered the foundation to support the operations of the school as well as “to defer tuition, costs, books, or other school activity fees.”

The foundation operates by establishing endowed funds that pay a percentage of total assets each year without eroding the principal. Director of Development Joe Trechter spearheads the effort to both raise funds for the foundation and steward funds from estate gifts and generous benefactors to build assets.

 “The St. Mary’s community is very generous,” said Trechter, “and to be the best stewards possible of that generosity, we have to balance the short-term, immediate needs of the school with long-term stability. We want St. Mary’s to thrive for another 137 years and beyond.”

That commitment to thrive has taken on new life in the last two years. In 2006, a goal of $250,000 in foundation assets was established. With a myriad of other needs competing for resources, it took a dozen years to achieve that modest goal, and by 2020, there were $319,000 in seven endowed funds in the Foundation.

The school’s effort to grow the foundation then ramped up in the summer of 2020 during the pandemic. The community funded an Emergency Relief Fund, and several new family funds and new memorial funds were established. The foundation also benefitted from several generous estate gifts.

In addition to the new funds and estate gifts, the school raised funds during the 2021 gala to grow the Tom and May Kelly Fund in honor of the Kellys’ generous efforts in helping keep St. Mary’s open in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The St. Mary’s community also raised funds to honor JT and Grace Joyce for their 30 years of selfless service in maintaining the school facilities. Most recently, the foundation established a New School Fund to invest several gifts earmarked for a new campus.

The community responded with amazing generosity, and the foundation now has new life. How much new life? Just over two years after this renewed focus, the endowed funds in the foundation have exceeded one million dollars and are closing in on $1.1 million. During that same timeframe, the number of endowed funds within the foundation grew from seven to 15, with two more in the works.

“I could not be more pleased with the work of Joe Trechter and foundation president Randy Cloud,” said St. Mary’s President Deacon Rob Rysavy. “They set some aggressive goals, and then attacked those goals with thoughtful passion and energetic joy. Their work will benefit current students, future students, and generations of students yet unborn.”

The school owes a debt of gratitude to the handful of humble and visionary people who established and initially funded the foundation. In the past several years, another group of humble and visionary alumni, parents and community members re-energized the foundation.

“The St. Mary’s community has many faithful and generous family members whose commitment to our school and our students is inspiring,” said Trechter. “We couldn’t do it without them, and their generosity will change lives for decades to come.”

If you would like to participate in any of the St. Mary’s endowed funds, or establish a new fund to honor a loved one, please contact St. Mary’s Director of Development Joe Trechter, jtrechter@smhscs.org.

(Deacon Rob Rysavy is president of St. Mary’s High School.)

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