Best in Class

The Class of 1966 and the Class of 1971 are transforming shared values into more opportunities for more students at Sidwell Friends.

The Class of 1966 is a class of firsts. After all, they pioneered the 52.5 Year Reunion, a gathering for classmates who had so much fun at their 50th Reunion, they could not wait until their 55th to reconvene. Yet it was in 2016 that they set a standard that subsequent classes have followed: The Class of ’66 became the first to establish an endowed fund in celebration of their 50th Reunion, with theirs supporting in perpetuity financially deserving students.

“We have a genuine liking for one another, and even though we come from very diverse backgrounds, there’s something special we share that has everything to do with the School. It’s where a lot of our shared values came from, and we wanted to acknowledge that in our Reunion gift,” Chris Dematatis ’66 said.

The Class of ’66 delighted in meeting the first beneficiary of their scholarship fund when she led them on a campus tour during their 52.5 Year Reunion. They continue to follow her progress in college while supporting their current scholarship recipient. This elevated their fundraising efforts: “We were able to say, ‘Look what we’ve already done for one student, and here’s an opportunity to do even more for another.’ Our intention to help students was no longer an abstract idea,” Dematatis said.

When presented with a matching gift opportunity in recognition of their 55th Reunion to boost their fund, the Class of ’66 launched a collective outreach effort to encourage those who had yet to make a contribution to their class endowment. Through their generosity and the match, they raised an additional $50,000 this year for the Class of ’66 Scholarship endowed fund.

The Class of 1971 took a different tack in making a gift in honor of their 50th Reunion, although like the Class of 1966, they began by reflecting on their most memorable shared experiences at the School. Inspired by an article in Sidwell Friends Magazine about the Equity, Justice, and Community (EJC) Strategic Action Plan, class agents Mary Reyner ’71 and Brian Steinbach ’71 pitched the idea to their classmates for an EJC-focused class gift.

“It just seemed like something we could relate to, having grown up during the Vietnam-era of protests,” Reyner said. “During our time at Sidwell Friends, the United States was experiencing increased awareness of sexual, racial, and economic equality. It seemed to make sense to support a program that identified and reflected what we were being taught from 1968 to 1971.”

Everyone that Reyner contacted to discuss the proposed endowed fund was interested in learning more, and the class quickly built momentum through early gifts and pledges.

The nearly $170,000 that the Class of ’71 has committed to their fund—the largest ever committed to a class fund to date—will bolster activities rooted in the EJC Strategic Action Plan goals, including community conversations led by diversity, equity, and inclusion authors, leaders, and public intellectuals, and faculty and student participation in diversity leadership programs and conferences. Because the class was inspired by the enduring nature of an endowed gift, “we wanted to focus on a specific aspect of the program that would remain the same, even if the goals of the program changed over the years,” Steinbach said. “We hope this fund will continue to expose students to a variety of perspectives or individuals—that students can continue to experience that just as we did.”

The Class of ’66 set an example for how classes can transform shared values and memories into an enduring legacy—and through their effort this year, expand it over time. By putting their own stamp on that model, the Class of ’71 has illustrated how classes can celebrate their 50th Reunion and support future generations of students in a way that meaningfully reflects their unique Sidwell Friends experiences.

More Alumni News

2022 Commencement Speaker: Baratunde Thurston ’95

This year’s Commencement speaker will be Baratunde Thurston ’95. Humorist, author, television host and producer, podcaster, journalist, and more, Baratunde is both an insightful and witty commentator on matters of race, technology, democracy, and how we as citizens can be more engaged in building a better and more equitable future.