New Center for Ethics, Leadership, and Civic Engagement Supported by E.E. Ford Foundation Grant

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The Gunnery has received a $100,000 grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation to establish a Center for Ethics, Leadership, and Civic Engagement on campus. The new center will expand upon The Gunnery’s longstanding commitment to character education, which stems from the ideals of school founder Frederick Gunn, while building on the success of The Gunnery’s LEADS Program, a four-year curriculum based on the mission of the school.

“The first pillar of Mr. Gunn’s vision for his eponymous school was ‘the importance of building character,’” said John C. Gulla, Executive Director of the Edward E. Ford Foundation. “The E.E. Ford Foundation believes this is as true in 2019 as it was in 1850, and we are pleased and proud to be awarding a grant to The Gunnery to support the creation of an ‘integrated Center on Ethics, Leadership and Civic Engagement.’”

Edward E. Ford was the son of A. Ward Ford, who founded and developed a manufacturing business in Binghamton, New York, that ultimately became a part of International Business Machine Corporation, or IBM. Educated at Mercersburg Academy and Princeton University, Edward E. Ford served IBM in various capacities during his lifetime and was a member of IBM’s Board of Directors until his death in 1963. He established The Edward E. Ford Foundation with a relatively small gift in 1957, and three years later infused it with additional resources to begin developing a program directed towards his major objective of improving the quality of education at independent secondary schools.

All grants from the foundation have a required matching component of at least one-to-one. The grant received by The Gunnery requires a successful one-to-one match. To accomplish this goal, the school’s Alumni & Development Office must raise $100,000 in matching funds by July 31, 2020. 

“We are extremely grateful to the Edward E. Ford Foundation board and John Gulla for choosing to award this grant to The Gunnery in support of redeveloping our LEADS Program through the establishment of the Center for Ethics, Leadership, and Civic Engagement,” said Head of School Peter Becker. “This program will expand on Frederick Gunn’s vision for education in a way that applies to the 21st century. We’re excited about the team that put together this vision, developed the grant application, and will continue to drive this project forward.”

In addition to Becker, the team includes Seth Low, Associate Head of School, Emily Gum, Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning, Jess Matthews, Dean of Students, and Bart McMann, who currently serves as History Department Chair and has been appointed director of the reconstituted center.

LEADS, which stands for Leadership for Ethical Engagement, Active Citizenship and Dedicated Service, was first introduced at The Gunnery in 2010. The program impacts every student, from freshmen to seniors, with a four-year curriculum that augments the school’s broader efforts to help students develop character through the development of self-awareness, discussions on ethics and responsibility, training in public speaking, and active citizenship through an independent Senior Service Project.

“Character education is privileged above all at The Gunnery, across multiple channels, from the classroom to our athletic and co-curricular programs,” said Low. “This grant will allow us to integrate our existing efforts and ultimately increase the learning outcomes around citizenship education for all of our students. We will be revamping our LEADS curriculum, and those students who are elected to positions of leadership, such as team captains, residential advisors and Prefects, will experience another layer of character development through their leadership training.”

Alongside this, the grant makes possible new levels of professional development for faculty around the topics of ethics, leadership, and civic engagement. “Mr. Gunn believed that strength of character was the most important goal of education, and in a cultural moment of political divisiveness and pressing questions about the health of our communities in the face of technological innovation, Mr. Gunn’s goal is as relevant as ever to a thriving teaching and learning ecosystem,” Gum said.

The school’s vision is for the center to be integrated into the day-to-day life of every student, both in and out of the classroom. “We’re excited to see students do this work themselves as our mission is related to all aspects of their lives at The Gunnery. Our goal is to uphold the traditions of The Gunnery and engage our students as active citizens to help build the school of the future,” Gum said. 

“Members of the school’s senior leadership team sought to bring together Mr. Gunn’s own writing and the legacies and traditions of the school with contemporary research around moral development,” Gum said. That work culminated in the development of the school’s character statement, which outlines its vision of character education in the 21st century. It states, in part: “At The Gunnery, we see character not as a fixed set of traits, but as a process that spans one’s life; therefore, we believe that moral character development happens through the intentional pursuit – in knowledge and practice – of what is good, right, true, sustainable, and beautiful.”

“Through this grant we hope to centralize character and active citizenship education, while preserving our mission as the driving force of all of the decisions that we make for the benefit of our students,” Gum said. “Character is a principle that pervades our programs. It’s the heart of what we do, day in and day out.”

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