Family of Friends

Shawe ‘Friends’ organization
celebrates 25th anniversary

Endownment supplements
cost of Catholic education

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(August 2011) – In 1986, the future of Madison’s Catholic schools looked dim.
The Marble Hill nuclear power plant project had closed two years prior, costing the region thousands of jobs. School enrollment dipped sharply. Each year it was questionable whether the doors at Pope John XXIII Elementary School and Shawe Memorial High School would open for another term.
Into that climate was born a new organization, the Friends of Shawe and Pope John Schools Inc. Twenty-five years later, the non-profit organization is thriving – and so are the schools it was formed to support.

Friends of Shawe

Photo by Laura Hodges

Present and past board members
of the Friends of Shawe and Pope
John Schools Inc. met recently to
celebrate the first 25 years of their
organization. Left to right: Phil Kahn,
president of Prince of Peace Schools;
Fred Koehler, past board member;
Bill Grote, founder and past board
member; Linda Wenning, administrative assistant; Tom Nichols, board member;
The Rev. Chris Craig, pastor of Prince
of Peace Parish; Rob Barlow, founder
and board member; Julie Berry,
immediate past vice president; Rick
Grote, board president; Mary Kay
McCubbin, immediate past president;
Julia Barber, immediate past treasurer;
Mary Beth Boone, board member;
Wayne Deveary, past board member;
Amy Ball, schools’ commission immediate
past chair; and Robert Wise, treasurer.

Friends of Shawe and Pope John Schools will celebrate its silver anniversary with a celebration from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at Riverboat Inn. Those wanting event details can call administrative secretary Linda Wenning at (812) 273-4523.
The Friends organization was born at a meeting on July 1, 1986, on the Hanover College campus. The four participants were attorney Rob Barlow, industrialist Bill Grote, investment consultant Bobbe Suchocki and college administrator Larry Truax. The four discussed the large shortfall the schools expected for 1986-87 school year. They knew bake sales and benefit dances would not fill the need. Talk turned to forming a foundation. At the time there was no Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, no Catholic Community Foundation of Indianapolis, indeed no local precedent of any kind.
A week later, the four founders met again at Barlow’s office to start the process of incorporation. Officers were named as Truax, president; Grote, vice president; Suchocki, treasurer; and Barlow, secretary.
The next step was to gather together people for an effective board of directors.
“We needed some people who know people, who could help us raise money. We decided early on that it would have one purpose: to raise money for an endowment to help Shawe and Pope John,” remembered Truax. “It called for raising some significant dollars.”
Fred Koehler became a very early supporter and director. “I guess I had a reputation as not being afraid to ask for money,” said Koehler recently.
Another early director, Tom Nichols recalled a meeting of 25 or so people downstairs at Madison Bank and Trust. “There was talk every year about closing the schools. We decided to put an end to the talk,” he said. “Many of us are still on the board.”
“Larry and Bill were the real go-getters,” recalled Wayne Deveary, who became the organization’s treasurer shortly after incorporation. “We always had 100 percent participation from the board. That usually speaks volumes.”
The core group reached out to others for support, and contributions started coming in. Grote said, “The message was the schools are real, they’re great, and they’re not going away.”
Truax remembers that they didn’t raise a lot of money in the first year. That was to change soon. The board took the big step of hiring a development professional, Karin Krasavic-Lenz, in the spring of 1987. With some trepidation, the board set a goal of raising $1 million. One-tenth of the total had already been raised with a $100,000 gift from Marie Lotz, just a few days before her death.
The board embarked on a campaign of personal visits to potential donors. Krasavic-Lenz organized a phone-athon to reach the graduates of Shawe Memorial High School, which had been founded in 1952.
The phone volunteers were very enthusiastic, but nervous about how people would respond to their fund-raising request. “They got resoundingly warm receptions from everyone. They were struck by how many people had warm memories of their time at Shawe,” said Krasavic-Lenz, who is now working in school development in Buffalo, N.Y.
The Friends of Shawe and Pope John fund-raising effort also included small businesses and corporations in the Madison area. Krasavic-Lenz said many were happy to give “because they were pleased with the quality of the graduate.”
In the early days of Friends, the physical needs at Shawe and Pope John Elementary were so dire that much of the contributed money went for building projects. There was a new science lab for Shawe, a remodeled library with lots of new books for Pope John, plus scholarships to enable low-income youth to continue their Catholic education.
These days contributions to Friends go into the permanent endowment. This money is invested so that income can support the schools in perpetuity. The Friends’ finance committee, headed for many years by Dr. Ralph Pratt, has assured a steady stream of money to support the schools. In 1996, the endowment fund hit the $1 million mark. Most years the investment income provides more than $100,000 to augment the schools’ budget.
Madison’s situation continues to be unique. Madison’s two Catholic schools comprise the only Catholic school system in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis that is funded solely by one parish. The Friends organization is the only privately managed endowment fund in the archdiocese.
“Folks in Madison were ahead of their time. Lucky for Madison that these people came together and did what they did,” said Krasavic-Lenz.
Truax remained president of Friends for 10 years, until the time he was named president for Prince of Peace Schools, the present name for the two Catholic schools. Subsequent presidents have been Tom Nichols, Mary Kay McCubbin and, recently installed, Rick Grote, a nephew of founder Bill Grote.
“We’re very grateful for our founding fathers who got this started 25 years ago,” said McCubbin. “I think it’s awesome that our community can offer an alternative to the public schools. Our city needs a choice for education.”
She said Friends successfully completed a $2.5 million endowment-building campaign, Friends for the Future, in 2006. Friends does not have an aggressive fund-raising project going on currently, because the parish itself is conducting a capital campaign for enlargement of the school and a new hilltop church. “We’d like to see our donors think in terms of planned giving,” said McCubbin.
Rick Grote recently picked up the reins of the 25-year-old Friends organization. He knows he has a strong tradition to uphold. “It’s neat when you see a group get together and have a goal and vision – and they’re doing it,” he said. “While we’ve been extremely successful, costs keep going up. You can’t rest on your laurels.”

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