$100M donation helps improve diversity at exclusive prep school

As one of the priciest and most exclusive prep schools in America, Peddie School in Hightstown says the $100 million donation has been essential in attracting students of all economic backgrounds.

“At the time of the gift in 1993, we decided the standards for choosing students would be this new standard of excitement, curiosity and character,” said Peddie School Headmaster Peter Quinn. “Because of the gift, we said we’re going to look at excitement, curiosity and character and that’s the only thing these kids have in common. So when you look at the student body, they won’t look like each other, they won’t come from the same zip code. They won’t think the same things about religion, or about politics, or about a whole range of life contexts, but they will have excitement, curiosity and character in common.”

It’s the 25th anniversary of the donation by media giant Walter Annenberg. He was the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, TV Guide and numerous broadcast properties during the hay-day of the publishing industry.

The late ambassador to the United Kingdom, who graduated from the Peddie School in 1927, spent his later years giving away $2 billion to institutions he felt a close connection to. Today, that $100 million donation to Peddie has grown to over $300 million.

“It has paid dividends in giving us a racially diverse student body, a politically diverse student body, a socioeconomically diverse student body, geographically diverse student body,” said Quinn.

Annenberg specifically wanted his money to go to help fund scholarships for students who otherwise could not afford to attend the prep school.

The boarding school tuition is as much as $58,000 a year. Forty percent of the students receive some financial aid, That would not have been possible, the school says, without the gift from Annenberg.

Cristian Rodriguez graduated in June. Without a scholarship, he says this is a school his parents could never have thought about.

“It’s definitely not a place where every single person is coming from the highest income families. But for me, my family does well. I’m super grateful that my parents are able to pay what they have to pay for me to come here, even with the gift. But there are so many different people from so many backgrounds and it helps those who come from families that don’t have the money, and some families that do have the money. Everyone gets their own perspective and just becomes one family as a class,” said Rodriguez.

Including international students, the school says about 40 percent of its student body is from diverse backgrounds. A number that has grown over 25 years as the endowment has grown as well.