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February 27, 2024

By Molly Alpern, Assistant Director for Advancement Communications

At the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, philanthropy comes in many forms. We spoke to a few of our donors to learn more about why giving back matters to them.

Howard Wolfson ’85 and Terri McCullough

Parents of Connor W. ’27 and Sarah Wolfson ’23, Orange Fund donors, Loyal Oaks Society members

Fieldston has been an incredibly important part of my life, as an alum and current parent, for more than 40 years. As a student, the School played a critical role in shaping me and encouraging me to pursue a career in government and politics, and as parents, we’ve seen ECFS continue to reinforce the importance of public service in ways that matter so much to Terri and me.

Lots of schools in New York City will give you a good education, but very few will try to teach you to become better people. At a time when so many of the values that Terri and I hold dear — free enquiry, empathy, and compassion — are under assault in our nation, Terri and I are grateful that we can send our children to a school that upholds our values as citizens and as parents.

I’ve worked for Mike Bloomberg for 15 years, and he often tells a story about how his lifelong giving to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins, began with a five-dollar check after graduation. The moral of the story is that if you care about a place that gave to you, give back — however much you are able. We were very proud when our daughter, unprompted by us, eagerly made her first contribution to ECFS as a graduate, and we hope it will be the beginning of a lifetime of generosity to the causes she holds dear.

Tarah and Thomas Cooke

Parents of Quinn C. ’32 and Clyde C. ’34, Orange Fund Donors, Orange Fund volunteer, P+T volunteer

We are incredibly grateful for all the opportunities and enriching experiences the School has given our family, and we want to do our part to ensure that these opportunities are afforded to future families. Seeing the enthusiasm our children had during their 1st Grade bird study and watching them beam with pride as they sing the Fieldston Lower song, we can see how the progressive education ECFS provides brings joy to learning.

From the moment we set foot in a classroom at Fieldston Lower, we knew we were in a special place. Now that we’ve been here for five years, it’s wonderful to see how those smiles and that energy are generated. It starts with the faculty’s dedication to the students and their desire to make each student feel special, help them learn, and, most importantly, become ethical citizens of the world.

We believe in investing in the School, and we love the idea of striving for 100% participation where everyone gives something, no matter the amount. This display of solidarity would not only strengthen the bonds of our community, but be a testament to the generosity and compassion that define ECFS.

Jason Lightning ’11

Fieldston Alumni Network Leadership Committee, Orange Fund donor, Loyal Oaks Society member

I’m compelled to give back to ECFS by the incredible experience that I had as a student and my desire to ensure that current and future students can have similar experiences. ECFS played a tremendous role in shaping who I am today, and the School continues to have a large impact on me, as I met some of my closest lifelong friends at Fieldston. As cliche as it sounds, ECFS is made special by everyone who is a part of the community, and the School creates an environment where students can receive an excellent education, grow into themselves, and make lifelong friendships.

Every donation matters, regardless of the size of the gift, and giving back is a great way to show your appreciation for ECFS and support the School’s future. When I became aware of my company’s matching gift program, I talked to colleagues and researched the program thoroughly, as I wanted to figure out a way to amplify the impact of my donation. Once I did my research, it was fairly simple to secure the matching gift. I would encourage others to explore their own corporate match programs, given that these programs are often underutilized but are a great and easy way to increase your contribution to ECFS.

Jaclyn Rothenberg Greenberg ’99 and Leo Greenberg

Parents of Noah G. ’28 and Joshua G. ’31, Orange Fund donors, Loyal Oaks Society members

We give to ECFS because ECFS has given so much to us. I feel so fortunate to have attended ECFS, received such an extraordinary education, and remain part of a community that truly shaped who I am — it’s a gift I can never repay. Most importantly, as ECFS parents, we are watching our sons Noah and Josh benefit from and thrive in our wonderful School.

We are continually inspired by the dedication, talent, and warmth of the teachers and the way our children feel inspired to learn — this environment empowers students so they can reach their full potential. We are also moved by the amazing friendships our children have made, which make our ECFS community bonds so strong in the face of our difficult world. We have cherished so many amazing moments with our boys, and we are so excited to make even more memories in the years to come.

Giving is an essential way to help ensure families can make this experience possible for their children. It is with this in mind that we continue to support the ECFS mission and participate in an ongoing effort to improve our School so that it maintains its level of excellence and stays a leader in progressive education.

Kristy Zhang and Christopher Boies

Parents of Ethan B. ’35, Orange Fund donors, Orange Fund volunteers

We give to ECFS because we see the tangible positive impact the School’s progressive education has both for our son and for the community each and every day. We don’t want to watch from the sidelines — we want to actively participate in the School’s mission and have an impact.

We could go on and on about the Pre-K puppet project or the Kindergarten Post Office, but in reality, it is so much larger than that. When Ethan started Pre-K, we immediately felt embraced by the warmth of the ECFS family. Now, in our third year as members of this wonderful community, our love for the institution and its mission has only grown. We continue to be amazed at how the educators, administrators, and staff all focus on furthering the School’s mission and creating a safe, welcoming environment where our child truly loves coming to school each day.

In terms of what we think other people should know about giving back to the School — every little bit counts! Donations at any level help show continued belief in, and support of, the School and its mission. As volunteers with the Orange Fund, we also learned that higher levels of parent/guardian participation in fundraising (regardless of gift size) actually have a concrete impact on the School’s bond rating. There are just so many reasons to give, and we cannot think of a worthier cause.

Audrey and Jeff Spiegel

Parents of Justin Spiegel ’04, Grandparents of Marina S. ’36, Orange Fund donors, Loyal Oaks Society members

We support ECFS as parents of a graduate and grandparents of a Kindergartener because we want to give back to a school that has given and continues to give so much to our family. We firmly believe that Justin is the person he is today in large part due to his Fieldston education, and we have no doubt that Justin and Anna will say the same thing about Marina when she grows up!

We are well aware that tuition alone does not cover the full cost of an ECFS education, and we want to help ensure that the School can continue to provide a great learning environment to all students in the future. More critically, we recognize that there are many amazing students who cannot afford the full cost of an ECFS education. We want to support ECFS’s generous financial aid programs so that the student body will always reflect our community. 

The progressive values, open-mindedness, focus on kindness and ethics, and high academic standards at ECFS are but a few of the things that make the School special. Our granddaughter is a bright, compassionate, and curious child, and we feel very comfortable that the coming years at ECFS will not only nurture those qualities, but will enable her to follow and achieve her dreams. And most importantly, she will have a lot of fun and make lifelong friends in the process.

Want to join these donors and the 2,000+ others who supported ECFS last year? Make your gift today at