Boarding School Was My Parents’ Greatest Gift

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Clare Dame, Director of Enrollment Management

When I was barely fourteen my parents gave me the opportunity to go to an excellent boarding school for high school. Though I say “opportunity” now, at the time I said my parents “sent me” to boarding school. I was the oldest of five children in a very close-knit family and had younger brothers who were very cute at the ages of three and four. I wanted to be at home with the rest of the family and not miss out on all the goings-on – and there were plenty of those with so many children.

Though I objectively understood why my parents wanted me to attend a challenging boarding school for the stronger curriculum and better chance at an excellent college, at the young age of 14 subjectively I felt I was being “sent away.” I have often admitted in the ensuing years that I would never have been accepted at The College of William and Mary if I had not had the challenge in the classroom and built the confidence in my abilities afforded by living and learning in a boarding school environment.

Ultimately my parents sacrificed much in the way of material things and amenities to allow all five children to attend private boarding schools and excellent colleges. Through the years they put five us through independent schools from elementary through high school and then financed college and graduate school. Two of us went to highly regarded state institutions and three of us went to Ivy League schools. All of us have graduate degrees and work in respected fields pursuing satisfying careers. My parents’ goal of giving us the best education they could afford has been fulfilled.

Many years later I was participating in a strategic planning retreat at my elementary school where my children were now students. My father was also at this retreat and was in conversation with a young father who had only one child who was at the school. As he questioned my father about his family, their educations and their careers, the young father remarked, “My goodness, you must have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on education for your children, do you ever regret it?”  Before I could make some wisecrack about how he did each year as he looked down the Thanksgiving dinner table, my father replied in a very serious tone, “No. I gave my children a gift that they can never break, they can never lose, and no one can ever take away from them.”

This holiday season, consider what you can do to give your children the gift of an education.