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Jeff Varadi '66

My experience at Shady Side was a total game changer. Don’t take that wrong. I don’t mean for a moment that my life was any less full because I was a “scholarship kid”. My life was a wealth of family love and support. It wasn’t that my educators and their guidance was any less in terms of the “give” that I received. What was extraordinary is that Shady Side had everything to offer to fill up the sponge that I was. Academically it was challenging and interesting; the instructors were genuinely excited not just about the subjects that they taught, but the young people sitting in their classrooms. It was as though we made them excited about their profession.

And, many of them were genuinely sincere about sharing the life lessons that help make a boy a man. My favorite teacher (and I don’t remember if I ever took a class with him) was Mr. Thorpe. He was the Dorm Master at Ellsworth when I was a Third Former. “Jungle Jim” as he was affectionately known was the master of the backward salute tipped to his pith helmet. He showed me the way to being a man-a mensch-and take my desire to be accepted and recognized and mold it into becoming a LOC (leader on campus) rather than a BMOC. The only pay back he required was that you take responsibility for your decisions or actions. That you don’t be the kind of person who blames his setbacks or lack of achievement on others.

A class agent of another graduation year who, for whatever reason told me that “you scholarship kids get so much from SSA and don’t contribute back”. That really stuck in my craw since I had just started making modest contributions. As the years have gone by, I have continued to donate within my means, but every year. As I have said to people in my class when I urge them to contribute-“just participate with whatever amount is comfortable for you and your family”.

My wife, Laura, and I made the decision when setting up our trust that we would include planned giving to each of our high schools. We actually didn’t make potential tax benefits part of our criteria. We both shared such positive school years that we wanted to help make that experience happen for future students.

Whether your parents were prescient about your future and financially able to provide a wonderful opportunity for you or perhaps you were one of the lucky people who were able to grab the brass ring and get financial assistance, planned giving may well be the level of participation that is right for you.