Neither Mac nor Elsie Thompson holds a degree in education. Yet, for two decades this pair of Virginia Law School graduates has been tirelessly advocating for Curry, volunteering their time and giving generously in support of Curry’s goals.
Although the majority of donors to the Curry School Foundation have always been alumni, the desire to improve education is not limited to our graduates. Realizing this, in the 1980s Curry began strategically targeting a broader audience with messages about our mission and achievements.
Mac, a Charlottesville businessman and attorney, first learned about Curry’s work as a result of those efforts. A persuasive alumna invited him to visit the school’s Education Day program in 1989.
Both Thompsons have long been advocates of education and youth services in central Virginia. Elsie, who is also a lawyer, is a founding board member of the local Boys & Girls Clubs organization. Mac had volunteered in a tutoring program for inner city kids while he was an undergrad at Yale. Back in his hometown of Richmond before entering law school, he spent a summer teaching fifth- and sixth-grade English and history at the Hanover School for Boys, a juvenile detention facility.
“It was easily the hardest job I think I’ve ever had,” Mac says, but his belief that all children deserve a good education was only strengthened.
At that long-ago Education Day program, Mac was impressed by Curry’s five-year teacher education program and its emphasis on subject-area expertise. He became convinced that the Curry School needed, as he puts it, “more people on its team.”
“Education is the foundation for young people to have hope. A lot more could be done to make a difference,” Mac says. He believed Curry was on the right track to make that difference.
Mac was soon invited to join the Curry Development Committee. In 1990, he became a charter member of the Dean’s Council, pledging to give for three years in a row. He co-chaired the committee leading the Curry School’s first ever capital campaign, which raised $22.4 million between 1993 and 2000. Then, he joined the Curry Foundation board of directors, where he is currently serving his fifth three-year term, including a term as chair.
Mac and Elsie have supported a number of Curry initiatives, including a significant gift to the Capital Campaign for Bavaro Hall. Their names can be found annually near the top of the donor honor roll for their unrestricted gifts to the Annual Fund. This year, in addition to an Annual Fund gift, they designated a special donation to provide McGuffey Reading Clinic scholarships for students at Charlottesville High School who struggle with reading but could not afford the tuition.
“A little help can make a huge difference to children in our community,” Mac says.
After 20 years of supporting the Curry School, the Thompsons are pleased that the Curry mission has become more focused and that its national stature continues to grow. They are also happy that Curry has attracted so many friends and supporters—many of whom, Mac and Elsie would be too modest to say, were likely influenced by their advocacy.
“While its work has national impact, Curry is also a tremendous resource for our community, and we wish to encourage that,” says Elsie. “We invest in it. Our giving is, in part, a reflection of Curry’s commitment to its neighbors.”
By Lynn Bell
Photo by Tom Cogill