Fowler Foundation: John Edward Fowler Memorial Foundation

The John Edward Fowler Foundation Invests $1 Million in WSG's Permanent Home at THEARC

"A meaningful education expands the mind and teaches girls that there is more than one way."

When WSG got the call from The John Edward Fowler Foundation to a $1,000,000 gift that was to be evenly distributed to WSG and THEARC for the building unification of the Washington School for Girls, we were both overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled by the outpouring of generosity.

The Fowler Foundation has been an investment partner with the Washington School for Girls for two decades, since WSG first began dreaming of a dedicated school location at THEARC (WSG opened its doors there in the fall of 2005.) It started, of course, with an introduction by Chris Smith: Suzanne Martin, the Executive Director of the Foundation, met Sister Mary Bourdon, RJM, WSG’s co-founder, and was immediately drawn to the mission and impressed by Sister Mary’s vision. The two women would remain in close contact for many years, with Suzanne and the Foundation supporting the school through several phases of growth. When she retired, the Foundation’s board allocated an additional pool of funds for her to designate at her discretion, and she chose to give the entirety to WSG for its endowment.

Sister Mary retired from school leadership in 2017 and Suzanne passed away in 2021, but the legacy of their friendship lives on. Suzanne’s daughter, Suzie Loungeway, is now the Executive Director of the Foundation, and she shares her mother’s commitment to girls' education. Reflecting on her own approach to philanthropy, Suzie can see that her mother’s example and influence has shaped her perspective.

Her parents both valued education and giving back, something that Suzie picked up on from an early age. Describing her mother, Suzie shared, “My mom was always committed to giving back and lifting up others in need even when they didn’t have a lot to give. They made a way. It was always first and foremost. She got into philanthropy because of her own need to give back; to try to contribute towards a more equitable world.”

They made sacrifices to send Suzie to the Holton Arms School, an independent girls school in Northwest Washington, D.C., where she experienced firsthand the value of an all girls education. “In an all girls environment, the girls will always be the top leaders. They won’t be competing with boys for opportunities to lead, and there is less unconscious bias from both students and their teachers.”

Seeing all the ways that her family prioritized education and how it was talked about in their home, Suzie learned that education opens doors to students’ dreams. It puts the idea in a student’s mind that there is more out there for them. To her, “a meaningful education expands the mind and teaches girls that there is more than one way.” As a long-time partner to WSG, Suzie can see how WSG challenges students and teaches them how to think, rather than focusing on memorizing facts or preparing for tests.

The Fowler Foundation has been invested in THEARC since its inception, and the Board is excited about what it will mean for both organizations to have WSG’s permanent home on THEARC’s campus. For WSG, a state-of-the-art unified campus located alongside the resident partner organizations at THEARC like the Washington Ballet, Levine School of Music, and Phillips Collection will mean even greater opportunities for students, especially in the elementary grades. For THEARC, WSG’s continued and expanded presence will bring more families to the campus. An exciting opportunity, as WSG students and families are top utilizers of THEARC’s programs. The Foundation’s investment in this project reflects a commitment to educational equity for girls and the power of collaboration.