By Jack Cover, ’59
The first Withrow Alumni Tower News edition in the fall of 1995 announced the legal incorporation of the Withrow Alumni Assn. as Withrow Alumni, Inc. (WAI), a 503(c)(3) nonprofit and foundation. WAI initially sponsored activities at Withrow’s Homecoming game including an Alumni Queen, Alumni Band and Alumni Cheerleaders. The Tower News went on to state the Alumni Goals (which have changed only slightly over the years), the need for volunteers to staff critical committees, and a plea to “Help us make all of this happen with your charter membership.”
All this began with 30 alumni (1941 through 1971) coming together in 1995 to form the first volunteer Board of Trustees. While none of the original alumni are on the Board today, 13 are still receiving the Tower News. In a small way, this article is a THANK YOU to all 30 for their hard work in creating a vision, laying a foundation and helping to sustain the growth of the WAI over the last 20 years.
A review of those years reveals a major role Withrow Alumni (WAI) has played as a partner with Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), Withrow Administrators/Staff, and student activity programs. During those 20 years, Withrow alumni have generously donated about $1,500,000, which allowed WAI to contribute to the building and promotion of a healthy learning environment (facilities and academic/extracurricular programs) that prepares students to strive to become successful, productive and contributing members of society.
Initial efforts were directed at restoring the physical attractiveness of the building and grounds which had been allowed to erode. These efforts included Bridge and exterior Clock Tower repairs ($124,000), Buy a Brick campaign to pave the front walkway off the Bridge ($65,000), landscaping maintenance ($28,650), replacement and repair of the 77 year old lockers ($25,000), and attending to many other needs.
The big project in 1998 addressed the need for a new gym and returning basketball games to Withrow. The 20 year hiatus of home games was a result of small basketball court dimensions, an overhanging track, and water from a leaking roof! While fundraising efforts fell slightly below WAI s $500,000 goal for receiving a major donor gift, these efforts were not for naught. In the fall of 2000, the CPS School Board received approval for the Qualified Zone Academy Bond program resulting in the issue of $5 million for use in renovations of Withrow High School. The letter from the State of Ohio Department of Education stated, “The $500,000 cash contribution provided by the Withrow Alumni, Inc. more than meets the intent of the law and is a very worthy gesture on behalf of the Cincinnati community’ Ultimately, this led to Withrow being included in the first phase of CPS s Master Facilities Plan resulting in an overall $39 million renovation of the school and a new gym completed in the fall of2006.
Concurrently, 86 years of revolutions wore out the gears on the four sides of the Clock Tower. Restoration of the glass facings, steel frames, and all clock mechanisms plus Tower roof, drainage system and stairwell repairs totaled over $51,000. Once again the financial support of Alumni was amazing; as it was in 2011 when the “arching bridge” required substantial repairs to the walking deck, arch and supporting columns. WAI contributed $50,000 toward the $120,000 total repair cost. In 2012 restoration tile work and landscaping was required on the Rookwood Fountain to the tune of $7,300.
Withrow obviously is more than brick and mortar, and WAI has played an active role in support of activities and programs designed to enhance students’ educational experience. Remember your days at Withrow and the activities/programs which contributed to building cherished memories. Sadly, many of those same opportunities have not been made consistently available to Withrow students over the years due to financial/resource constraints. Fortunately, WAI has been able to contribute to building many foundations for creating Wifhrow memories.
WAI partnered with the Cincinnati Junior League to establish a College/ Career Center which addressed a major void in the preparation of students for life after Withrow. Through the initial efforts of Junior League volunteers and WAI financial support ($20,000), the Center opened in 1998 and continued enriching the lives of countless Withrow students with WAI’s financial support for the next 14 years.
On an ongoing basis, WAI has supported classroom and extracurricular programs at an average of $29,000/year. Music being a part of Withrow’s heritage, WAI was instrumental in reviving the marching band and continues its support as well as sponsoring an after school instructional music program designed as a feeder program to the band. More than once WAI has purchased materials and supplies for the classrooms; most notably for science, art, music, and physical education fitness equipment (e.g., weight room, spinning bikes, etc.). WAI has responded often to school administration requests to support recognition of special student academic accomplishments and staff appreciation events.
All of the above is quite a testament to the vision and efforts of those first 30 volunteer members of the WAI Board of Trustees, but there is morel In the spring of 1996 the Alumni Tower News spoke of the need to “develop a program that will establish an endowment not just of money, but of people who will be the watch dogs for the future.” Generous financial support from over 2,450 alumni combined with sound money management over the years has positioned WAI well for the future. One might say again THANK YOU to the inaugural Board for their foresight as one reviews WAI’s 2015 accomplishments.
The current Board of Trustees (aka “watch dogs”) consists of 27 alumni volunteers from 1959 through 1993. Importantly, 15 of the 27 have joined the Board in the last three years which bodes well for the future. Highlights of WAI projects in 2015 include two initiatives of the Board matching $1 for $1 donations raised for the Reading Center and renovations to the baseball/softball fields ($26,000 total WAI match). On an individual student basis, WAI assisted 7 students in having the opportunity to enrich their lives outside the classroom through grants totaling $3,805: a student to the American Legion’s Boys State, 3 students to Youth in Government in Columbus, and 4 students participating in an exchange program to Taiwan.
As WAI looks to the future, it may have been best summarized in 2000 by an alumnus who was one of 70 volunteers giving 500 hours of their time to provide a facelift to many areas of the school in 2000: “We discussed why we were doing this and the general consensus was because of our memories of Withrow, the people we remember, and the effect it had on our lives. There are plenty of others with similar memories and feelings out there. Our source of people to help out in the future is almost limitless.” With those words in mind, we ask you to remember that YOUR SUPPORT will touch more people than one can imagine in ways none of us may ever know. Help Withrow students today with a generous donation by clicking HERE. in having the opportunity to enrich their lives outside the classroom through grants totaling $3,805: a student to the American Legion’s Boys State, 3 students to Youth in Government in Columbus, and 4 students participating in an exchange program to Taiwan.
As WAI looks to the future, it may have been best summarized in 2000 by an alumnus who was one of 70 volunteers giving 500 hours of their time to provide a facelift to many areas of the school in 2000: “We discussed why we were doing this and the general consensus was because of our memories of Withrow, the people we remember, and the effect it had on our lives. There are plenty of others with similar memories and feelings out there. Our source of people to help out in the future is almost limitless.” With those words in mind, we ask you to remember that YOUR SUPPORT will touch more people than one can imagine in ways none of us may ever know. Help Withrow students today with a generous donation by clicking HERE.