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.