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A magazine for alumni, parents, and friends of The Covenant School


Summer 2018

T he L iv in g W ell I ssue


Mira Weav

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Headmaster’s Letter Headmaster George Sanker reflects on fufilling our mission at The Covenant School

“A liberal arts education teaches students how to think and how to learn.”

“Christ embodies them, our faculty model them and our students learn to live them out every day.”


Honoring the Class of 2018 Celebrating the Class of 2018 and some words from Commencement speaker, Dr. Teresa A. Sullivan


Living Well: A Core Covenant Education

Five attributes and examples from our community about what it means to live well


An Interview with Donna Harris Long time staff member and current International Student Coordinator shares thoughts and looks forward


ver as Bloody Mary in South Pacific - PAGE 13

Connections is published semi-annually by the Office of Advancement at The Covenant School. The Covenant School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, nationality, or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, financial aid awards, or athletic and other school-related programs. Mack Barr Director of Institutional Advancement EDITOR Emily Klein Marketing Manager


T he W ell I ssue

COPY EDITORS Mack Barr Sharon Campbell Daisy Rojas GRAPHIC DESIGNER Emily Klein CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Molly Crouch Jim Dickman Emily Klein Lesley-Ann Tommey KMS Photography CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Molly Crouch Emily Klein Daisy Rojas Please send any comments, questions, or corrections to: Editor Connections The Covenant School 175 Hickory Street Charlottesville, VA 22902 You may also email your correspondence to


Around the World in Eighty Days A recap of our adventures in fundraising at The Covenant School Annual Auction Gala



hat is the best way to measure the value of a Covenant education? Some might point to academic accolades and stories of successful alumni. Because Covenant is a Christian school, others might cite the integration of a Biblical worldview into every subject, with weekly chapel services thoughtfully constructed to complement the core curriculum. Still others might point to caring and creative teachers— experts in their disciplines—whom innumerable students and alumni have credited with challenging and inspiring them.

Admittedly all of these are valid measures, and true of Covenant. Yet the real value of a Covenant education lies in the fruit that comes from the vital interaction of strong academics, Biblical integration, and gifted teachers: lives lived well. But what does living well look like at The Covenant School? Each year, our students are asked the following two questions: “What kind of person do you want to be?”and “What kind of life do you want to live?” At Covenant we believe that the most compelling answers to these questions are: we want to be disciples of Christ, and we want to live the kind of life that Jesus lived. The challenge, of course, is to help students work this out on a day-to-day basis. One way we do this is to encourage the practice of five attributes we believe all Covenant students should possess. In this season at The Covenant School, and more specifically, in this issue of Connections, we are looking at what it means to be curious, tenacious, courageous, engaged, and compassionate learners and leaders. We hope to offer examples, both great and seemingly small, of the ways our students—and their teachers—are learning to live well. Blessings,

George Sanker Headmaster 4| Connections

Now Enrolling! Christian Liberal Arts & Sciences Pre-K—Grade 12 Day School 434.220.7330 | CAAR Ad August 2018.indd 1

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8/24/18 11:0

HONORING THE CLASS OF 2018 by Molly Crouch

Fifty-three members of the Class of 2018 gathered on a glorious morning in May to celebrate the completion of their Covenant education. Dr. Teresa A. Sullivan, President of the University of Virginia, was the Commencement speaker for the morning’s events. President Sullivan praised the class on its accomplishments: 100% college acceptance rate, the Senior Thesis capstone project, and the class’s diverse intellectual interests. She also challenged the graduates to “study broadly and explore the entire curriculum.”

“My advice is this,” said President Sullivan. “Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. Your college years are your best chance to remedy weaknesses as well as build on strengths. If you’re good at math, study math by all means. But also study history and environmental science, or politics and psychology. Learn a new language; take a course in sociology or creative writing. Investigate the entire curriculum.” Dr. Sullivan also praised the liberal arts and sciences. “A liberal arts education teaches students how to think and how to learn. That’s why the work you’ve done here at Covenant, and the work you will soon do in college, is so important. Your studies are helping you build a foundation for a lifetime of leadership in your careers and your communities.” Covenant graduates will step onto public and private college and university campuses across the country this fall. Among them are Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Ave Maria University, and the University of Washington. 6| Connections

Before Commencement Exercises, accomplishments of the graduating class were celebrated with a Senior Dessert. This year the following leadership awards were given: Headmaster’s Award Emerson Helmbrecht Emerson Helmbrecht received the 2018 Headmaster’s Award as the graduating senior who best exemplifies the collective vision of an ideal Covenant graduate. In selecting the recipient of this award, the faculty and staff look for evidence of love of God and neighbor, pursuit of wisdom and truth, and stewardship of our community. This fall, Emerson will pursue his love of theater at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Sherry Oster Servanthood Award Mira Weaver Mira Weaver was awarded the 2018 Sherry Oster Servanthood Award for her honesty, integrity, humility, and constant willingness to meet the needs of others. Mira will attend Liberty University this fall. Chaplain’s Award Chris Messimer The Chaplain’s Award recognizes commitment and distinguished service to the spiritual life of the school. Chris Messimer received this award for his thoughtful leadership during Chapel, in House devotions, in school prayer, and in building relationships with younger students. Chris will take a gap year and plans to continue his higher education and pursue his love of basketball in 2019. Cicero Award & Eagle Scholar Award John Huemme This year brought Covenant’s inaugural Senior Thesis competition. Seniors volunteered to present their theses in public to vie for the title of “Best Senior Thesis.” John won this award by choosing to engage the topic of climate change in a nuanced and measured way.

Eagle Scholar Award Abby McCartney Abby McCartney was awarded the 2017-2018 Female Eagle Scholar Award for her outstanding work both in the classroom and on the field. This award is given to the male and female seniors who best exemplify a dual commitment to academics and athletics. Abby played field hockey and soccer all four years and added squash to her repertoire this year. In the fall, Abby will attend the Honors College at Virginia Tech.

Eagle Scholar Award winner Abby McCartney

University of Virginia President Dr. Teresa A. Sullivan

John was also named the 2017-2018 Male Eagle Scholar, as the male senior who has most consistently demonstrated excellence in both academics and athletics. John played four years of football and also competed for the Eagles in wrestling, basketball, and golf. This fall, John will be a quarterback for Carnegie Mellon University, where he will attend on a Naval ROTC scholarship. The Covenant School | 7

The Class of 2018 has twelve student-athletes that are moving on to play their sport at the collegiate level. Bottom row: Alex Wilcox (Soccer), David Szatkowski (Football), Joy McGill (Rodeo), Lizzy Shim (Field Hockey) Middle Row: Jacob Murrie (Wrestling), Cole Harvey (Football), Noah Holstege (Swimming), Wynston Archer (Lacrosse) Top Row: John Huemme (Football), Donovan Jackson (Football), Aaron Leathers (Baseball), Mary Beattie (Lacrosse)

G R A D UAT E S Speaker Eliza Baker reminisced with her classmates about all the fun they had over their careers. “This family...will love passionately, give generously... and eventually change the world for the better.” Eliza is heading to Loyola University, Maryland.

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Mark Brumbaugh shared how he persevered through tough moments. “As you head to college... you are going to encounter pain... You can control how you allow it to shape you.” Mark is attending Virginia Tech in the fall.

Chaplains Eleonora Allorto and Caitlin McLain led their classmates in prayer for the last time. They served as Chaplains for the House of Prudentia and the House of Temperantia (respectively) for 2017-18 and are moving on to Virginia Tech and William and Mary.

COLLEGE ACC E P TA N C E S The Covenant School is pleased to announce a 100% college acceptance rate for the Class of 2018. Our recently graduated Covenant alumni look forward to walking the grounds of many of these campuses this fall.

American University Ave Maria University* Belmont University Brevard College California College of the Arts* Calvin College* Carnegie Mellon University* Catholic University of America Christopher Newport University Clemson University Columbus College of Art and Design Concord University Drexel University East Carolina University Eastern Mennonite University Elon University Emory & Henry College* Ferrum College* Frostburg State University* Furman University George Mason University George Washington University Hampden-Sydney College High Point University Howard College* Indiana University at Bloomington Ithaca College James Madison University* Kent State University Liberty University* Long Island University, Brooklyn Longwood University Louisburg College Loyola University Maryland*

Marshall University Mary Baldwin University Maryland Institute College of Art Monmouth University* New York University* North Carolina State University Old Dominion University Oral Roberts University* Otis College of Art and Design Pace University, New York City Pennsylvania State University, Altoona Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg Pennsylvania State University, University Park* Pepperdine University Piedmont Virginia Community College* Radford University Randolph College Randolph-Macon College* Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Rochester Institute of Technology* Savannah College of Art and Design Shenandoah University Southern Methodist University Temple University* University of Alabama University of California, Davis University of California, Irvine University of California, Riverside University of California, San Diego University of California, Santa Cruz University of Cincinnati

University of Denver University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University of Lynchburg* University of Mary Washington* University of Mississippi University of North Carolina at Charlotte University of North Carolina at Wilmington* University of Pittsburgh University of Richmond* University of Rochester* University of San Francisco University of South Carolina, Columbia University of Tennessee, Knoxville University of Tennessee, Martin University of Virginia* University of Virginia’s College at Wise University of Washington* University of Wisconsin, Madison Virginia Commonwealth University Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University* Virginia Wesleyan University Washington and Lee University West Virginia University Westmont College Wheaton College (IL)* College of William and Mary* Wofford College*

* indicates matriculation The Covenant School | 9


n o i t a c u d E t n a en v o C e A Cor

By M


C ro


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Living A CURIOUS LIFE here are many voices clamoring for attention in students’ lives, all teaching adolescents how to live and behave. Head to any bookstore and peruse countless articles to find tips and rules to help one find “the good life.”

When faculty and administrators at The Covenant School began to ask students, “What kind of life do you want to live?” and “What kind of person do you want to be?”, they did so with full knowledge that these outside voices have been ringing loudly in students’ ears, shaping and forming them. Perhaps, they thought, The Covenant School could introduce a different way to live a life that is good, true, and beautiful, centered around the hallmarks of Christian faith and the order of God’s Creation.

Through lessons great and small, students recognize that the life they truly want to live is that which is curious, tenacious, courageous, engaged, and compassionate. These attributes can be found as easily in a kindergarten classroom as in a Senior Thesis competition. They are modeled by Christ, inspired by our faculty, and lived out by our students and alumni. This is the journey of a Covenant education.

Fifth Grade science teacher Matt Johnson walks around the Lower School gymnasium chatting with parents who have come to review their child’s flight projects. It is STEAM Night, and aircraft models of all types are on display: commercial planes and fighter jets, helicopters and hot air balloons. Each model was constructed by students during their History of Flight unit this spring. This is project-based learning at its finest, inspired by their science teacher’s curiosity of flight. A former Marine Corpsman, Matt’s career trajectory took a turn when he decided to go back to school to become a teacher. “I didn’t have any exposure to flight or engineering in the Marine Corps, but have become very curious about both in the last few years,” says Matt. “My Dad is a private pilot who built his own two-seater airplane when he retired as a professor a few years ago. I’ve started casually studying for my private pilot license, and my Dad and I are planning to build a plane together in the next year, which is a dream.” (continued on next page)

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to vie for the title of “Best Senior Thesis.” In a true test of tenacity, John Huemme, Frank Lepage, Amelia Park, Jessy Schlichting, and Chris Messimer faced not only a faculty panel, but also a public audience, competing for the distinguished Cicero Award. The work of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 - 46 B.C.), perhaps Rome’s greatest orator, continues to shape our understanding of language and oratory today. John Huemme won the award, choosing to engage the topic of climate change in a nuanced and measured way. Through project-based learning, fifth graders studied the early development of kites and gliders, and the pioneers who inspired and informed the Wright Brothers. They explored the physics behind flight, and learned from guest experts including a private pilot and a fighter pilot. They also traveled to the National Air and Space Museum for a field trip. In the final phase of the project, students researched and became experts on an aircraft of their choice, building a model to represent what they learned.

Living A TENACIOUS LIFE There is no doubt Covenant’s Senior Thesis project prepares students for college. Now entering its fifth year, the Senior Thesis provides an opportunity for each senior to think deeply, write clearly, and speak convincingly about a current issue of interest. The program consists of a research paper and oral presentation completed over the course of the senior year. It calls for the student to develop a thesis and defend it both in writing and orally, sharing the fruit of his or her research, addressing counter-arguments, and arguing persuasively for the chosen position before a faculty panel. But this year, a small group of seniors went a step further by participating in Covenant’s inaugural Senior Thesis competition. Seniors volunteered to present their theses in public

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“As our capstone project, Senior Thesis requires students to apply skills they have learned throughout their years at Covenant: analytical thinking, effective research, thoughtful organization, and winsome communication. It is also hard and that, in itself, makes it worth doing,” says Head of Upper School Leslie Moeller. “The Bible calls Christians to a life that takes the long view and to be willing to sacrifice our ease in the moment for much greater rewards in the future. Galatians 6:9 reminds us: ‘And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.’ John Huemme, winner of the Cicero Award

“Current research validates this Biblical wisdom that prioritizes the rewards of the future over the pleasures of the present. Researcher and author Angela Duckworth has become the foremost authority on the primary characteristic of people who are successful in the face of challenge and adversity. She calls this characteristic ‘grit’ and defines it as ‘passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way. It combines resilience, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals that take months, years, or even decades.’ In a world with a rapidly accelerating rate of change, we know that Covenant students will face change and adversity. When confronted with things that look hard, we want them to be confident that they have the tools to tackle with tenacity each challenge, to persevere and emerge victorious, and to know that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them (Phillipians 4:13).” Frank Lepage presents to his peers

“Sometimes we get to choose courage ourselves...But other times, it is the courage of others whose decisions shape us.” - Jerry King Living A COURAGEOUS LIFE This year’s Upper School musical, South Pacific, wowed and delighted crowds with its engaging story, big dance numbers, and catchy tunes, all in a tropical setting. But it also explored a darker side of human nature: prejudice, hate, war, weakness, greed, selfishness, exploitation, and isolation. One of Covenant’s most beloved actors, Mira Weaver ’18, who played the memorable Bloody Mary, talked with her fellow cast members about what it is like to live as a young woman of color in the broader Charlottesville community. Her peers were so touched, as was the show’s director, Arts Chair Jerry King, that Mira was asked to write an essay on the topic to be sent to the entire school community. She courageously agreed. “In the rural area where I grew up, it was not common for African-Americans to attend private school,” Mira writes. “Where we lived, going to a private school meant you were looked down upon. People accused my parents of trying to make my brother and me into something we weren’t. Many families around us were upset because they believed that our going to a private school was an attempt to show that we were better than their children. But my parents remained committed to their choice.” “Sometimes we get to choose courage ourselves,” says Jerry. “But other times, it is the courage of others whose decisions shape us.” Yet no matter how others’ choices have carved the terrain of our own lives, inevitably the day will come when we have to choose to own the particulars of our lives—or not.

Amelia Park and Head of the Upper School Leslie Moeller

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Mira Weaver and her castmates in South Pacific

In Susan’s class, students welcomed male and female rabbits, Butterscotch and Snowflake, then observed as Snowflake displayed nesting behaviors, a sure sign that kits were on the way. Once the kits were born, kindergartners noticed daily changes in their development, including fur growth and markings.

“Mira was invited to share her perspective, her experiences, her life with the whole cast, knowing full well that most would not be able to identify with her directly. Some might misunderstand or push back defensively. But she did it and let herself be known as a much more three-dimensional person than she had chosen to be before this year. That’s courage.”

Living AN ENGAGED LIFE Kindergarten teachers Betsy Carter and Susan Albaugh will attest kindergartners are naturally curious, asking why and how throughout the academic day. For years, Betsy and Susan have captured these inquisitive minds, cultivating and turning curiosity into engaged learning in the Primary Wing. Each spring, kindergarten classrooms transform into learning habitats as Covenant’s youngest scholars study the patterns and life cycles of bunnies and chicks.

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Across the Kindergarten Big Room in Betsy’s class, engaged learners waited patiently for eggs to hatch in an incubator brought in by Lower School Academic Dean Chris Hall. Students explored parts of an unfertilized egg, as well as the life cycle of the chicken. They had fun drawing and labeling the parts of a chicken, and learned how to candle eggs to determine viability. Once the eggs hatched, students studied chick behaviors such as dieting, scratching, preening, and pecking in the classroom habitat. “Regardless of age, being able to visualize, in person, the life cycle of an animal provides hands-on learning that a textbook is unable to do,” says Betsy. “Students were passionate about this project and their engaged learning means these lessons will stay with them far beyond kindergarten.”

Living A COMPASSIONATE LIFE Jacob Murrie ’18 has been a regular on the wrestling mat at Covenant for the last several years. The two-time VIC Champion, State Qualifier, and National Prep Qualifier will be wrestling at the collegiate level while attending Wheaton College this fall. His passion for the sport and the personal development he received from Covenant’s coaching staff have inspired him to share the life lessons he learned through wrestling with others. In his freshman year, Jacob plans to serve in Chicago’s youth wrestling programs like Beat The Streets and the Aspen Institute. “I wrote my Senior Thesis on improving racial disparities in our nation,” says Jacob. “Teaching kids the benefits of wrestling and working hard in an environment where they feel safe and affirmed is something I want to do. It’s a really tangible way to use the gifts God has given me.”

Jacob Murrie with his parents and wrestling coach Brian Lee

“It is always a joy to see how Covenant Athletics shapes men and women who strive not only for individual excellence, but learn the greater opportunities of how to use those experiences to serve and benefit others,” says Athletic Director Clark Walker. “Jacob’s compassion for underprivileged youth and his desire to help through the sport of wrestling provide a wonderful example of a servant leader.”

“We live in an increasingly disconnected world where, paradoxically, people are engaging less, not more, with others who are different from themselves,” says Headmaster George Sanker. “Those who are equipped to engage others with compassion, who remain curious, who do not fear the unknown or avoid challenges, face a future far brighter than those who do not.”

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Emily Klein sits down with Donna Harris, who has served faithfully in various roles over her 31 years at The Covenant School, with her last 20 years as the Director of Admissions.

Donna Harris is a lot like the fresh flowers I routinely see in her office — seasonal, well put-together, and bright. She has worked tirelessly over many Admissions seasons, she is always ready with information for other employees or prospective families, and she has a smile for anyone who graces her threshold. If there were more people like her, the world would be a lovelier place. I had the pleasure to talk with Donna on the same day she was honored in front of her friends and co-workers for her many years of service. Emily Klein: At The Covenant School, we talk a lot about living well. What does this mean to you given your 31 years of service at this institution? Donna Harris: To me, living well is equivalent to serving the Lord together in this school and working together as a community of believers to further His kingdom by spreading the good news of God’s love. We, as faculty and staff, have the incredible responsibility and opportunity to plant seeds in the lives of young people, setting an example for them to live well and depend on God’s goodness and provision for each one of us. 16| Connections

The Birdwood Campus, original site of the school and current home of the Lower School

EK: It’s hard to imagine the school floundering, but there were many years of uncertainty in the early days. Describe a time when the future was perilous for Covenant, and how you saw God working amidst troubled times.

DH: Yes, in the earlier years of its history, the school had some troubled times, like knowing how to meet certain important obligations, like paying its bills and its employees! Our Headmaster, Mr. Copeland, would always remind the team we were called here to do the Lord’s work, that it is His school and that it is possible that He might “keep us on our knees.” Another thought that comes to mind about troubled times is unexpected changes. For most of us, it is hard to handle change, and this has been one of the biggest lessons for me because there have been so many changes during my 31 years at Covenant. But God’s faithfulness to His people and to His school has not changed. Thus, in the early years, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” was quickly adopted to be the school’s hymn and remains so to this day.

Donna in 1990, in the early years of The Covenant School

Donna in 2017, at the Hickory Campus after almost 30 years of service

EK: You’ve had your hand on nearly every student application that has come to the school since 1987. Now many of the oldest alumni are sending their children to Covenant. What does it mean to you to see history come full circle? DH: It means so much to see Covenant graduates affirm their own Covenant experience by sending their most precious treasures here, and fun to see those former students’ faces in their own children, who will be the future of Covenant! It also means that alumni want to serve Him and give back to a community who loved them during their formative years. Seeing history come full circle confirms that the found-

ers of this wonderful school have realized the dream of their vision, which I know is a rewarding experience. EK: Something few people remember anymore are the Scripture verses written on the sub-flooring of the Hickory Campus before the building was dedicated in 2002. What is another piece of Covenant history you’d like to see remembered for future generations? DH: Well, since you mentioned writing of Scripture verses on the sub-flooring here at the Hickory Campus, I’ll share that one of the verses that I wrote as you step into my office was Matthew 19:14, “Jesus

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The Hickory Campus, completed in 2002, home of the Middle and Upper Schools

said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’” God was and remains faithful in bringing His children by the hundreds each year to The Covenant School. Another piece of history I would like future generations to know is the birthing of a school like Covenant was designed by God and built by the extraordinary efforts of ordinary people. It is just an amazing story of the culmination of His plan, His faithfulness, and His love, and I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of His work! EK: You’ll be serving in a part-time capacity as International Student Coordinator this coming year. We’re so glad this isn’t goodbye! Who will you miss seeing every day at the school? DH: I will definitely miss meeting interested students and prospective parents in the Admissions Office, listening to many parents’ desire for “more” and sharing the work of The Covenant School with them. Along with that, I will miss seeing the new faces and the excitement of sharing in their arrival to Covenant and entering into a new phase of their lives and their parents’ participation in the work of Covenant. We would not be where we are today without our parents’ sacrificial support in all we do here. I have been blessed to serve in this capacity. [Our new Director of Admissions and Financial Aid] Betsy Carter is in for an amazing journey. I will also

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miss seeing Karen Merrill [Admissions Assistant]. She has been at the school since 1996 when she started as a Teacher’s Aide in Kindergarten. We have been friends ever since! I sincerely look forward to focusing on the International Program, which began in 1990 with our petition to the Department of Homeland Security for approval. We’ve had students attend from many places around the globe. God calls us to be witnesses for him and we continue to believe that He is bringing students to us for His purposes.

By the numbers In her time at Covenant, Donna: • Started the First Auction, First Annual Fund, and the First Grandparents Day • Processed over 2000 student applications • Helped facilitate over $16 million in financial aid • Started the International Program "We, as faculty and staff, have the incredible responsibility and opportunity to plant seeds in the lives of young people, setting an example for them to live well and depend on God’s goodness and provisions for each one of us."

Around the World in Eighty Days By Daisy Rojas

More than 240 guests attended Covenant’s 31st Annual Auction Gala on March 24 when the Covenant community was invited to go Around the World in Eighty Days. In a grand evening hailing from the Victorian era, guests delighted in landmarks and décor from eight countries as they reconnected with friends and bid on auction items. Culminating the evening’s events were the Live Auction and Paddle Raise. Lively bidding on 11 items and experiences in the Live Auction raised $15,000 for the school, and generous professional development contributions through the Paddle Raise resulted in an additional $40,000. For the third year in a row, a week long Online Auction preceded the Gala, building anticipation and excitement from donors near and far. Donated faculty experiences continued to be among the most popular items in the Online Auction, drawing more than $19,000 in bids. This year’s Auction amassed more than $160,000 for The Covenant School. Many hands made light work throughout the planning process, but special thanks goes to the Auction Committee, including Kim Kelly, Noelle Klein, Melanie Lambert, Jenny Moore, Herb Rawling, and Jennifer Seiler.

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Connections - Summer 2018  

The Living Well Issue, focused on how The Covenant School teaches the next generation to live well and how our students have started to live...

Connections - Summer 2018  

The Living Well Issue, focused on how The Covenant School teaches the next generation to live well and how our students have started to live...