Curry Foundation: Thirty-Five Years of Support for the Curry School
During his twelve years as dean of the Curry School, Ralph Cherry was a man on a mission. He supervised the School’s accreditation from the newly formed national Council for Accreditation of teacher Education, increased the size of its faculty, and supervised its organization into departments. He also found time to borrow a new idea from one of his academic colleagues across the University Grounds.
Cherry, Curry’s dean between 1956 and 1968, had become friends with Lawrence Quarles, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Cherry watched as Quarles expanded the mission of a private foundation created by three engineering alumni a few years earlier to benefit their alma mater. Cherry saw value in establishing a similar organization to support the Curry School, but he did not have the opportunity to act on this idea until six years after he had stepped down as dean.
In 1974 Cherry approached the incoming dean, Richard Brandt, with his notion. During his first faculty meeting as dean, Brandt threw his support behind the establishment of a foundation for Curry and asked Cherry to set it up. “Ralph was the logical choice for this task because he taught higher education administration and knew many of our alumni,” Brandt recalls.
Cherry made good use of his contacts. He wrote to thirty-three alumni leaders, requesting their assistance in creating a foundation - and thirty agreed to help. Twenty-eight of the thirty ultimately served as the foundation’s first board members. In April 1975 the board held its first meeting.
Brandt decided that the first role of the Curry School Foundation should be to reengage Curry alumni by hosting an annual on-Grounds event to keep them apprised of the latest issues in education. “We hope this approach—the annual Education Day—will open up opportunities for both our constituency and the School to develop creative new relationships, new programs, and renewed hope and faith in the future for the profession of education,” Brandt wrote in the program for the first Education Day in 1976.
Shortly after the foundation was established, it appointed as its executive secretary faculty member James H. Bash (pictured at right), who held the position for ten years while continuing his teaching duties. The foundation organized Curry’s first phonathon featuring student callers and helped secure the school’s first endowed fellowship and professorship funds. Under Bash’s leadership and with Brandt’s support, the foundation began making annual awards to alumni and students. This tradition was combined with Education Day events to take its present-day form as the annual Honors and Awards Luncheon.
“I believe it’s on solid ground due to its strong leadership,” says Bash of the foundation, whose five-person staff in fiscal year 2006-07 raised nearly $6.5 million in annual, endowed, and capital gifts and $1.3 million in planned gifts.
Now retired, Brandt and Bash continue to find ways to serve Curry. In 2005 Brandt planned a conference to coincide with the school’s centennial celebration, and Bash served on the Centennial Committee. Both educators marvel at the support the foundation now enjoys from alumni, faculty, and friends.
“I urge alumni to support it without reserve,” Bash says, “because their generosity—at any level—does make a difference.”