Education philanthropist dies at 83

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SOUTH LONDONDERRY — A town resident known for her philanthropic work in the field of education has died, according to the foundation that she and her husband established.

Wendy Rowland died on Monday at her home, said the Rowland Foundation's executive director, Chuck Scranton. She was 83.

At the time of her death, she was head of the foundation's board of trustees, succeeding her husband, Barry, who died in June 2018.

Scranton said Wendy Rowland's cause of death was illness. He did not elaborate.

The foundation offers yearly fellowships to secondary school teachers throughout Vermont.

The couple also made huge donations to Burr and Burton Academy, including $20 million toward the upcoming construction of the Manchester high school's Founders Hall and an accompanying courtyard.

"She was a remarkable woman, and not just because of her philanthropy, but in how profoundly she cared about the people and education in Vermont," Scranton said in a phone interview Friday.

The Rowland Foundation's endowment currently stands at $20 million, Scranton said. The Rowlands had fully endowed the foundation, established in 2008, to continue after they were gone.

Their $20 million donation to BBA in March 2018 has been hailed as one of the largest philanthropic gifts ever made in Vermont — and the largest given to a secondary school in the state.

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Headmaster Mark Tashjian said the majority of the BBA's $21 million existing endowment was donated by the Rowlands "not only to provide opportunity, but to enhance salaries so that we can attract and retain the most talented faculty and staff anywhere.

"They gave so generously because they cared so much about others," Tashjian said in a post on BBA's Facebook page on Tuesday, adding that the school was flying its flag at half-staff to honor Wendy Rowland.

Groundbreaking on the Founders Hall project is expected to take place in the spring.

The Rowlands' donations to the independent high school included $10 million given in 2007 to fund construction of the Rowland Center and other improvements on campus.

The couple's donations to BBA were private contributions separate from their foundation's endowment, said Scranton, who previously served as the academy's headmaster. He had suggested to the Rowlands the idea of setting up a foundation.

In July of last year, the National Association of Secondary School Principals honored the foundation with the association's highest award, the Distinguished Service Award for Service to Education.

Wendy and Barry Rowland have two daughters: Heidi Lynn, of Dorset, and Sandy Sullivan, who resides in California.

Lynn is expected to officially become the new chairwoman of the Rowland Foundation's board when the trustees meet in February, Scranton said.

The schedule of a memorial service for Wendy Rowland has yet to be announced.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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