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Community Takes Center Stage at Celebration of Giving
A collage of photos, including decorations and people in attendance at the Olander Center

Leadership donors join school leadership, members of the Office of Institutional Advancement and parent volunteers in celebrating community, philanthropy and vision at the Aug. 31 Celebration of Giving.

The many ties that bind the Ravenscroft community were on display at the institution’s Celebration of Giving, held Aug. 31 in the dining hall of the Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Activity Center.

Leadership donors — those who gave at the $1,000 level or higher in 2021-22 — were the evening’s special guests as school leadership reflected on the significance of community, philanthropy and vision in Ravenscroft’s work to deliver on its mission, from faculty salaries and professional development to rigorous academic programming to modern and welcoming facilities. 

Director of Strategic Philanthropy Ben Rein kicked off the evening’s program, welcoming guests and thanking them for the role they have played in Ravenscroft’s ongoing success.

“Everyone in attendance tonight has had an impact on this community, and together we celebrate not just your generosity as leadership donors, but your recognition of the role Ravenscroft has played in your life and the life of your family,” he said. “You have set the bar for philanthropic leadership, and for that, we offer a simple yet profound ‘thank you.’”

Rein shared his own Ravenscroft story, highlighting how a chance meeting with Head of School Doreen Kelly at a conference 10 years ago led to his family’s decision, five years later, to relocate to Raleigh and enroll his two sons at Ravenscroft. 

“We wanted them to grow and grow up in a community that reflected our values and priorities, a community that would help shape them into the young men we hope they will become,” he said. “As we thought about what mattered to us and started to poke around about what mattered to schools, we realized the Lead From Here framework checked a lot of family boxes. And so, having never set foot in Raleigh, and knowing only Doreen, we made our way South.”

Rein, who joined the Institutional Advancement team in July, then introduced keynote speaker Nell Derick Debevoise.

Photos of Justin Brandon and Nell Derick Debevoise at the podium

Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs Justin Brandon and Inspiring Capital founder and CEO Nell Derick Debevoise speak at the event.

As founder and CEO of the Certified B Corporation Inspiring Capital, Debevoise works to help people make meaning of the impact they have in their work and in their lives. She appealed to attendees to think deeply about where they can and should build connections to communities that matter — suggesting Ravenscroft as one such worthwhile community.

Following Debevoise’s speech, Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs Justin Brandon took the stage to explore Ravenscroft’s strategic plan, Framing Our Future, which will guide the school’s planning and direction for the next five years. 

“Our strategic plan was informed and inspired by the opportunities and challenges we have experienced in recent years,” he said. “The [plan] positions Ravenscroft to continue to meet the needs of our community by focusing on the head and the heart as we nurture individual potential and prepare students to thrive in a complex and interdependent world.”

He highlighted the central roles of Lead From Here, faculty recruitment and retention, student wellness, innovation and technology, and ongoing work in support of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in this plan.

Brandon — whose wife is Assistant Head of Upper School Angela Miklavic Brandon, and their daughter is a fourth-grade Raven — also reflected on what brought their family to Ravenscroft in the summer of 2021. The institution’s commitment to citizen leadership development through Lead From Here, he said, combined with Kelly’s wisdom and mentorship to give them confidence in the school’s direction. The sense of optimism and joy evident in conversations with faculty and school leaders — in the middle of the pandemic, he added — “made for a pretty easy decision for our family.”

A display of the placards recognizing donors who gave naming gifts

Placards recognizing some of the named gifts in the Olander Center as well as the enduring legacy of A.E. Finley, at top left.

The event also served as a dedication ceremony for the Olander Center and its named spaces, which opened to the community last spring. Placards across the Center celebrated the generosity and vision of donors including Carmin and Laura (’92) Kalorin, Mike and Helen Norona, Mike and Amelia Warner, the anonymous donor who named a room in honor of legendary athletic trainer Michelle Piette, and lead donors Michael and Candace Olander.

Kelly thanked each of those families as well as Geoff and Courtney Brock, whose gift established Izzy’s Playground in the Lower School, and the late A.E. Finley, the Ravenscroft trustee and visionary philanthropist whose namesake foundation continues to support the upkeep of the iconic original building.

Ending the formal program, Kelly said, “With your help, we can fully support the [strategic] vision that Justin shared. I ask each of you to think how you can impact our community through your philanthropic leadership.”


Read more about the Olander Center for Student Life here. If you’re interested in learning more about naming opportunities still available there, please contact Phil Higginson, Associate Head of School for Philanthropy, or Ben Rein.