Louise Cummings-Lewis Kicks Off Campaign with Outdoor Classroom Gift

Q&A with Amy Wolf, Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing
Louise Cummings-Lewis is a Lower School parent, and her major gift to Tower Hill 100 supported the Experiential Outdoor Classroom, which was dedicated in November 2018 in memory of her late husband, Delaware State Police Corporal Stephen J. Ballard.

What inspired you to make a gift to the Tower Hill 100 Campaign?
What inspired me to make a gift to the Tower Hill 100 Campaign was really when my husband died two years ago. The community and Tower Hill rallied around us, and they were just so wonderful. We wanted to find a way at this particular celebration that we could give back and show our appreciation and also allow for something the school and its students could benefit from. I found out the teachers had wanted an Outdoor Classroom for about 10 years, and I knew it was the perfect fit. My husband was always in the community and giving back, and he went to a lot of schools to see lots of students in his line of work, so it was really perfect. It was the best situation for us where we could show our gratitude, and we could also do something that would help kick off the campaign in a positive way.

How has the Tower Hill community benefited from the Experiential Outdoor Classroom so far?
The Tower Hill community is benefiting from the Outdoor Classroom in so many ways. I’ve seen art classes out there, theater, music and in particular science. They’ve done so many great things in the gardening area, and the kids really get a hands-on experience. It’s one thing to read about something or watch a video in the classroom. But to be outside and be able to plant a seed and to see green beans and radishes grow ... It’s been really amazing. And I know my daughter, Abigail, talks about really enjoying it. Her class goes outside every day for a mid-morning break, and they just get to get some fresh air. I think that’s really important for our children to not only focus inside the classroom and learn indoors, but to be outdoors as well.

How did your vision for the Experiential Outdoor Classroom compare to the finished playground?
When I made the gift, I knew it was a vision. Just from loving the teachers and knowing the inspiration that they bring, I knew that it was going to be something that would be very beneficial. The area used to be just concrete and grass. It was a nice, big space, but very unused. I saw all the plans and all the different renderings, but I never could have imagined what it actually turned out to look like. It’s really amazing. It’s a big, lovely and bright space. It cheers you up. It makes you happy. I’m just really grateful I was able to contribute in that way, and it wasn’t one thing that could happen just one time. It’s something that can continue to live on for the next 100 years.

Why is it important to invest in your child’s school?
I think it’s important to invest not only in the school where your children attend, but also where you’re an alum. I went to a private school in Massachusetts, and when you’re a student or even a young alum, you don’t think that much about it. But once I actually got on the board of that school, I got to see the ins and outs of how the school operates and really what a school needs. There are always needs and things that can be improved, and the only way that we can do that is through investment. So whether it’s families—current parents and grandparents—or alumni, it’s just really important. You’re investing not only in the time that your child’s here, but you’re really buying into the institution and education for all. So that’s why I think it’s very important. We were happy to be able to invest and give a gift that students can benefit from for years. Abigail will be out of Lower School in two or three years, but this will carry on. I think that’s really important—once you understand, truly, where the money goes and that it is an investment that the school can build off of. So the Outdoor Classroom kicked things off, and now we have the ability to do other great things that the strategic plan wants to do.