Meet our Donors
Why I Give
Colin Gardner ’88
—By Kathy Smith
Though Colin Gardner ’88 lives in Brooklyn, New York with his family, his ties to Shipley are as strong as ever. Gardner recognizes with great appreciation the lasting effects of his Shipley education, from the enduring relationships with school friends to the multiplicity of ways in which Shipley’s influence manifests itself in his career choices in television news and later, landscape architecture and urban design. As such, this alumnus makes it clear that Shipley factors large among the institutions that he supports each year.
Gardner came to Shipley as a high school freshman. “I wanted to change schools after eighth grade. I recall deciding on Shipley because of its smaller size and the warmth that I saw between the teachers and the students. It really suited my learning style, so I was able to take advantage of what Shipley had to offer and make great relationships along the way.” Giving to Shipley is one way in which Gardner feels he stays connected with the extended Shipley community.
From Stage Fright to Television
One would think an individual with a career in television news would be a natural in front of large groups. That was not always the case for Gardner, at least until his mother convinced him to try out for Shipley’s musical Li’l Abner. “I was scared to death,” he admits with a laugh. “I had a fear of speaking in front of people, but I did the musical and I absolutely loved it. It gave me a good dose of confidence that I took with me throughout the rest of my life.” Gardner also participated in Mr. Brewer’s theater class, an experience Gardner considers one of his most memorable experiences at Shipley. “Mr. Brewer was energetic and very humorous. He was very serious about his craft, but he didn’t take himself too seriously,” says Gardner.
A Lifelong Love of Photography
Gardner always looked forward to going to Ms. Wagner’s art classes. “She created an atmosphere that allowed me to take risks and explore a new medium in which to express myself. She also encouraged an environment of open and honest discussion, and I always looked forward to that,” he says, laughing knowingly with the memory. “There is no other art program in high school that I’ve learned about that has rivaled Shipley’s,” says Gardner. For him, photography became a lifelong interest, leading Gardner to take classes in college and beyond. “Even if I’m not practicing photography all the time,” he says, “I always come back to it.”
Gardner’s interest in theater and studio art is all the more interesting given that Gardner had had no exposure to either before coming to Shipley. “Shipley allowed me to learn about myself and my interests and to explore things I hadn’t experienced before, which in turn helped me decide what I wanted to do later in life.” That courageous and curious spirit buoyed his success as a writer and producer of the news for Bloomberg, CNN, and CNBC, then allowed him to switch course and pursue a career in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning.
The Motivation to Give
When asked what motivates him to give to Shipley, Gardner is quite clear. “My years at Shipley were important and memorable,” he explains. “They were instrumental in my development. Shipley gave me a solid foundation for a really good work ethic, problem solving skills, and a life-long love of learning. I learned how to work independently and collaboratively, tools I use every day.”
Gardner is a member of Shipley’s Leadership Council, a small but especially generous group of annual donors, and that’s important to him. “I realize that many institutions, like Shipley, rely on contributions to be able to fulfill their missions.” When Gardner gives to Shipley, it is in deep appreciation of his shared past, an acknowledgment of the friendships and skills he’s carried with him, and an investment in the future of a school he grew to love.
Why We Give
The Tortella-Fitzpatrick Family
—By Kristina M. Jenkins
For the Honorable Maureen F. Fitzpatrick and her husband Dr. Bartholomew J. Tortella, choosing Shipley as their son Luke Tortella’s educational home was simple. “Steve Piltch met with us and spoke about the educational philosophy of the School, even though we were just Pre-K applicants,” says Fitzpatrick. “I really felt it was the best fit for him in so many ways, and that’s been profoundly proven over and over again.”
Like their decision to send Luke to Shipley, the decision to give back to Shipley came easily to Fitzpatrick and Tortella. “We love the School. It’s just as simple as that. It’s been a wonderful place for our son to have grown up and learned,” says Fitzpatrick.
Starting in Pre-Kindergarten and soon completing the 11th grade, Luke is a lifetime Shipley student—or a “lifer,” as Pre-K through grade 12 students are affectionately dubbed—thanks to the affinity Tortella and Fitzpatrick, and most especially Luke, have felt for the School from the very start.
As busy working parents, it was incredibly important to Fitzpatrick to find a school that was a good fit across the board for her son. “You want to make sure that the school your child is going to is both nurturing and academically strong,” she says. “It really felt like a home from the very beginning; there was never a sense of worry.”
Now retired, Fitzpatrick worked as a nurse, an attorney and as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas in the county seat in Media for more than 20 years. Tortella is a seasoned, Harvard-trained trauma surgeon, having served as the Director of the Hahnemann Trauma Center in the early 2000s, he now works in the pharmaceutical industry at Pfizer, but still takes on-call duty at Hahnemann, hosting high school and college students for “Nights at the Trauma Center.”
As parents, they sought a well-balanced coeducational independent school for their son, but it was the Shipley ethos that ultimately appealed most to the couple. “The integrated, hand-crafted educational approach to learning, with a student-oriented focus on service to others, sets Shipley apart from the other independent schools in the area,” says Tortella.
Throughout their son’s Shipley experience, Fitzpatrick and Tortella have seen the exceptional ways in which the Shipley ethos manifests. “The school’s motto, Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing, says a tremendous amount: action oriented, service directed, leadership focused. It infuses everything at Shipley, from the classrooms in Bryn Mawr to the boats on the Schuylkill River where Luke rows for Shipley crew,” says Tortella.
The family has had first-hand experience with the many ways in which the Shipley motto is reflected at the School, from an extraordinary trip to Italy with Latin teacher, the late Dr. Lynn Iozzo—“It wasn’t just education; it was the quintessential life experience,” says Fitzpatrick—to a memorable, influential bond with teacher Jessie Willing, who motivates biology students by emphasizing the wonder of science and taking teaching beyond the straight facts.
On a recent European summer vacation, Fitzpatrick again witnessed how Shipley stands apart from other independent schools and merits continued financial support. “We were unpacking in London, our first stop, and noted Luke reading his Modern European History notes from Dr. Emily Pickering’s class! When asked why he brought them, he replied that he wanted to read again about the historical places he was about to see in person,” says Fitzpatrick.
Truly, the investment Fitzpatrick and Tortella have made in Shipley throughout Luke’s tenure has been not out of obligation, but out of affection. “There is a spirit and sense of total community. From Pre-K all the way up, you’re part of an exceptional educational journey.”
And it’s with that community in mind that Fitzpatrick and Tortella continue their support. “There’s always the expectation that if an individual wanted to participate, but funds were an issue, a way would be found,” says Tortella. “There’s a can-do attitude to include people, regardless of their financial ability, by being flexible, accommodating, and compassionate. All are able to contribute and feel one-hundred-percent involved.”
Moreover, the way in which Shipley allocates funding inspires confidence in Tortella. “They are good stewards of money,” he says. “It’s really a blend of having a great affection for the School, and also realizing that the administration takes funding and fiscal responsibility quite seriously by not overextending itself while being sensitive to the students’ needs."
Both Fitzpatrick and Tortella know that there are many, many ways to give back to the School, recognizing the value of education and the important role of both financial and hands-on aid to Shipley. “Parents are very committed to Shipley, each in their own way.” says Tortella, “It’s invariably about finding the optimal blend of one’s time, talent, and treasure to support and grow the Shipley community.”
Now that Luke’s time as a student member of the Shipley family nears the end, and his parents look towards the future, the value of his Shipley education is clear. But just because their son will soon be an alumnus rather than a student doesn’t mean Fitzpatrick and Tortella will stop their support. “I plan give to the School for many, many years to come!” says Fitzpatrick.