The Heartbeat of the School

A new fund honors Brittany Chase and her legacy of equity.

Brittany Chase was a bright Light in the Sidwell Friends community, a woman who guided students, faculty, staff, and families through their School experience. As the senior executive assistant to Upper School Principal Mamadou Guèye from 2015 to 2021, as a leader in the Black Student Union (BSU), and as the founding advisor of the Black Girls Society, Chase made a lasting contribution to a culture of inclusivity at Sidwell Friends. To honor Brittany, who died on January 30, 2021, parents and students have come together to establish a new endowed fund: the Brittany Chase Memorial Fund.

“Brittany Chase allowed many Black students and especially Black girls to feel empowered, to feel they belonged, to feel like they mattered, and to feel like their space at Sidwell was as valuable as anyone else’s,” says Stacey Stewart P ’21, ’23, whose daughters attended Sidwell Friends. Stacey and her husband, Jarvis Stewart P ’21, ’23, provided foundational philanthropic support for the memorial fund. “That sense of agency and empowerment is something that, even though Brittany is no longer physically here, we want to continue,” she adds.“We want the resources that come with the fund to provide a sense of empowerment and to create programing that speaks to the specific needs of Black students, especially Black girls.”

In that spirit, the new endowment will provide an enduring testament to Brittany’s leadership: ensuring that all Sidwell Friends students—particularly Black students—are valued, respected, and honored. Each year, a committee of students, parents, and faculty will designate funds to activities that promote a culture of inclusivity and respect, including a speaker series to inspire action on racial equity and an ongoing commitment to support the BSU and Black Girls Society. 

Miss Chase provided a really special place for African American girls,” says Jarvis Stewart. The Stewarts' daughter, Madeleine '21, found a safe space in Chase's office as well as a mentor and friend in Chase herself. "Madeleine and her friend group really looked up to Miss Chase," he says. "They chatted about classes, friends, parents, life, and about being an African American girl and all the challenges that may bring. Brittany found it in her heart and in her spirit to embrace these young women and get very engaged. When you have someone of that magnitude so ingratiated with your child, as parents you are invited to also love them as your child does. And we're a Sidwell family, so it's not terribly difficult to do." 

Young alumni who knew Chase throughout their Upper School journey are also supporting the endowment as newcomers to philanthropy. Spencer Tyson '21, now a student at Harvard, is among them. “People are coping with this unexpected tragedy, and the ability to have the fund is such a great thing,” he says. “The ability to have a fund to create more opportunities for people is of utmost importance.” Tyson, who has made recurring donations to the fund, remembers something Upper School Principal Mamadou Guèye once said of Chase: “He said she was ‘the heartbeat of the School,’ and I couldn’t agree more.”


 

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