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Alex Howson '82

My wife Sara and I have made a commitment to Shady Side to have a portion of our assets distributed to the SSA Endowment Fund once we have both passed on. It is very important to us to do what we can to help others have the amazing Shady Side experience (that I had).

Shady Side Academy is an exceptional place. I spent my first 18 years on campus (as both a faculty kid and as a student). There is a special "culture" and "spirit" at Shady Side — a drive to be the best, an expectation of excellence in all aspects of life, a desire for continual learning and thinking beyond the obvious, and a spirit of deeply caring for others and seeking to genuinely help people. At Shady Side, there is a unique small-school intimacy that really enables students to grow and to excel in mind, body, heart, and soul.

I think of what I learned at Shady Side often, of what I learned from the rigorous academic work that prepared us all well for college and for life; and from the faculty members that so generously and passionately spent time with us to challenge us to think differently and seek out new ways to solve problems; and from the athletic coaches (for me, my soccer coaches) that inspired us to prepare well and to perform at our best and to compete hard (to beat everyone we played); and from teammates with whom we celebrated, learned, laughed, and cried together; and from fellow students (friends) who had a curiosity and drive for success that allowed us to inspire and challenge each other (this really helped me grow); and from all of the relationships that taught us how to deeply care for one another in so many different ways.

The financial landscape is challenging for private schools like Shady Side. It takes more and more money to be able to help provide appropriate financial assistance for families to be able to send their children to SSA and to pay for exceptional faculty members, and to maintain state-of-the-art facilities. That's why Sara and I want to do what we can to help in our small way by distributing a part of what we end up building in our lifetime to the SSA Endowment Fund, so that we can help ensure that Shady Side will thrive "in perpetuity", and will impact many other students for years, decades, and centuries into the future.

Glory to Shady Side and thank you for inspiring so many over the years.

What is your most notable Shady Side memory?

Soccer. Soccer was a huge part of my SSA experience starting in the Junior School in the fifth grade, and then all throughout my Middle and Senior School years; and then culminating at the Senior School being a part of two very successful varsity soccer teams that lost only 3 games (total) during my junior and senior years. In fact, over those 8 years, we didn’t lose many games at all. We were blessed with very talented players, and with coaches that really cared (especially Knepper and Fleischmann); but more than that, there was a team spirit and team confidence (and commitment to hard work) that I’ve never forgotten. SSA helped me set the very highest standards for success – in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and in forming deep social relationships.

The success our soccer teams had really stand out for me, and they played a big role shaping my overall attitude and expectations, and process for success that has carried on throughout my entire life.

Who was your favorite Shady Side teacher and how did they influence your life during your time at SSA and beyond?

Joe Felder. He really made math fun. His passion for math and for us as students made the experience in his classroom one that I have tried to bring to my work teams throughout my life – make the task fun and this will attract people to truly engage and commit to doing the task really well.

How has your education at Shady Side made an impact on your life?

Set high standards, and also how to help people achieve them through caring and teaching and trusting relationships. Key here was the faculty and the coaches, and the care and time that they took to help their students reach their highest potential.

How do you describe Shady Side to members outside of the Shady Side community?

One of the best schools in the country. Not just in academic challenges, but also in “total development” of you as a person – mind, body, and spirit.

What influenced you to make your very first gift to Shady Side?

The desire to help other (current) SSA students to have the same opportunities that we had when we were students.

What made you consider a planned gift to Shady Side?

I would like my legacy to be to both help my family thrive, and to help the institutions that I care deeply about to be able to thrive after I am gone.

Why should others consider putting SSA in their estate plans?

In my opinion, we should all ask how we can use any wealth we accumulate during our short time here on earth to be of use to those people and institutions that we care deeply about.