The Webb Endowment:
Celebrating its impact - past, present, and future
One of the Webb 150 milestones worth noting is the vision in the 1970s to create an endowment. As of the 100th anniversary, the school did not have an endowment, and tuition and annual financial contributions were providing most, if not all of the funding of the school. Fundraising at that time involved soliciting annual donations and capital projects. The idea of dedicating resources to a corpus invested in perpetuity had not yet been implemented. Within just a few years after the centennial, 1974, the endowment was reported in the Alumni Bulletin to have reached $100,000. Today, the endowment provides 14% of Webb's annual operating revenues, and has surpassed $30 million in market value (including appreciation).
Impact of the endowment at the school
Webb's endowment growth is a source of pride and strength. Divided across the number of students, Webb has about $100,000 in endowment per student, a very competitive figure with respect to peer schools. On a pure financial level, the endowment helps reduce pressure on tuition to fund the entire budget; for example, tuition or other revenue sources would have to rise $4,000-$5,000 per student were the endowment payout not available each year.
Just as importantly, on a human level, the people who give to Webb's endowment do so with a strong sense of gratitude for what Webb means to them. The decision to create an endowment is often very personal, honoring someone special who has made a difference to the donor.
Every endowed scholarship brings a talented student to Webb, and helps underwrite the financial aid budget. Through financial aid, Webb has made a commitment to make it possible for many students from all backgrounds to attend. During the past 10 years, Webb has roughly doubled the amount of aid given to students. In 2018-2019, the amount of financial aid given was more than $2 million to more than 50% of the students attending.
Bringing donors and recipients together can be very meaningful, as was the case with the class of 1969. The class started a minority scholarship upon graduation, and they were delighted to attend a school-sponsored scholarship reception to meet the scholarship recipient at their 50th reunion in April. Several members of the class met the young man, and shared stories with their classmates about being pleased with how their class scholarship is impacting students today.
Webb is just as proud of its great faculty over the years: John Morgan, Webb Follin, Kelton Tidwell, Mack Scott, Imre Lagler, Sandy Truitt, L.R. Smith, Moira Smith, Larry Nichols and Ralph Jones are among the many favorites that alumni remember. Encouraging Webb's best teachers to remain is important to the school, and endowed chairs are designed to reward talented members of the faculty for their dedication. The endowed chairs recognize three of Webb's many excellent teachers, providing professional development opportunities and stipends.
Providing educational opportunities for students and faculty can be foundational, as was the case for Jim McDonnell '43. He spoke at Webb in April 2019, and related his inspiration to create the McDonnell-Follin Scholars program this past year. It was his intention to honor his mentor, Webb Follin Sr., and to create with his family an endowment that would continue the tradition of academic collaboration between teachers and students.
About Webb's endowment
The endowment has grown to more than $33 million (March 2019), and consists of more than 75 individually named funds set up by donors over the years. These individually named funds were started by individuals, foundations, and corporations, named and created for particular purposes: more than 40 student scholarships, three endowed faculty chairs, numerous academic awards, and unrestricted funds to be used at the discretion of the school.
As of June 2018, almost half of the endowment was not designated (unrestricted), another 20% restricted to student scholarships, almost 15% for faculty support, and about 15% for other purposes. The Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, led by Drew Carrington '83, provides oversight of the endowment. The Investment Committee works closely with Webb Business Manager, Joe Iorio, to manage an investment strategy that helps meet the financial goals outlined by the board. Responsibility for managing specific investments is delegated to an OCIO (Outsourced Chief Investment Officer).
Calculations are made to distribute a "payout" from the endowment to Webb each year for funding operations according to the designations established by donors of the individual funds. The distribution of monies from the endowment employs a formula based on the average of the last three calendar years of invested market values -- allowing for increased predictability and stability regarding the annual amount to be received each year.
The school follows a statement of investment policy, and specific recommendations governing the payout are determined by the Investment Committee. During this past academic year, 2018-2019, the board voted to lower the rate of spending annually to 4.75% of the market value of the endowment, which allows for additional growth of the corpus over time. Previously, the rate of spending annually was 5.0% or more. Over time, this small change (25 basis points) will help the endowment grow even more. (*See technical notes)
During the last eight years, the endowment has grown significantly. The primary objective set forth in the investment policy is to grow the endowment in inflation adjusted terms, net of fees, and net of distributions. The investment committee focuses on managing the risk of the portfolio to reduce the volatility associated with the contributions to the school's budget. In real terms, the endowment has funded about $10 million to the school budget since 2010, and has still grown a net of $10 million during the same period to the current level of more than $30 million. The endowment has benefitted from the generosity of many donors during the last campaign (2010-2016) of more than $2 million. Additional monies are being received every year -- three of Webb's newest endowments this academic year are featured on the adjoining pages of this magazine. In addition, as a testament to the power of philanthropy over time, Webb still receives sizable income from trusts and income- producing assets that were donated to Webb in the past.
The 10-year annual investment return, net of fees, is 7.1%. After factoring in the annual payments back to the school, the net growth of the endowment is about 2.0% per year, separate from donations that are added to the endowment. For a $30 million endowment, 7.1% represents more than $2,000,000 in investment growth each year.
The endowment payout budgeted for the 2010-2011 year was 5.75% and has been lowered in recent years to increase the amount of money that remains invested for growth. In FY18, the spending rate was 5.0%. For an endowment of $30 million, a difference of 0.75% means that $225,000 more was retained for investment growth in FY18, as compared with the rate 5.75%.
The story of the Webb endowment, started just after Webb 100, is remarkable. Thanks to the visionary leaders at the school at the time, the school's past, present, and future are connected.
The Webb endowment honors those who have come before, and provides opportunities for those who will come after. Through prudent financial management, and the ongoing generosity of donors, the endowment grows, bringing new opportunities each year. Behind each endowed fund is an individual story, and together, they represent the best of what is hoped for at The Webb School.
Webb to endow fund in memory of Moira Judas Smith for travel to French-speaking countries
"I am so happy that the school is doing this ( in Madame's memory, and this is just the beginning," remarked L.R. Smith, devoted husband of 35 years, and teacher at The Webb School since 1978. "My personal hope is that the fund reaches $100,000 one day. Knowing this fund will exist in perpetuity to help students is amazing...She would be greatly pleased."
Endowments making a difference
“I often tell people that Webb not only provided me with an excellent preparation for college and graduate school, but also the personal confidence and moral compass that serves me to this day,” said David LaRoche. “I feel very fortunate to have a Webb education, and my family only wishes that more people could benefit from all that Webb has to offer.”
--David LaRoche '98
Sarah Beth Smotherman' 23 is LaRoche Family Foundation Scholarship Recipient.
“Our family and friends want this scholarship to enable deserving students to have the full Webb experience -- live on campus, receive an outstanding college preparatory education, and learn the commitment to honor, integrity and character that Webb instills."
--Davis Turner '79
Alex Garrett is Andrew Stuart "Rusty" Turner '82 Memorial Scholarship recipient.