In the summer of 2016, John and Meg Dennis, along with daughters Meagan and Tessa, attended orientation for their local high school. Expectations were high, as the school has an excellent reputation and the girls were excited to begin high school. However, the school was undergoing a significant renovation, which would force students into temporary classrooms in the school parking lot. The family returned to their summer home at Carnegie Abbey, concerned at the prospect of years of construction. “We heard the bells of the Church of Saint Gregory the Great tolling in the distance and wondered aloud why we had not applied to Portsmouth Abbey School,” John and Meg say. They called the Office of Admission, set up a tour, took the exams, and in the week prior to the first week of school, Meagan and Tessa were accepted into the Class of 2020.
As parents of day students, the Dennis’ stay involved in the School in a number of ways. They host dinners for international students in order to provide another support system for students whose families are so far away. “As a family, we strive to make these students feel welcome in our country and in our home,” John and Meg say. In addition, they attend as many sports games as possible. It makes the girls happy to see their parents there cheering them on – and they encourage all parents and family members to attend these events.
In addition to their active work on campus, John and Meg are generous supporters of both the School’s Annual Fund and the current capital campaign to fund the School’s new science building. Their reasons for giving are multifaceted. They have developed an emotional attachment to the School and what it encompasses, and they want to see it continue its great track record of success. “Supporting Portsmouth Abbey School is particularly rewarding because you can so often witness the direct result of your support,” they say, citing the new science building as an example. “We strongly support the School’s goal of emphasizing technology and expansive lab work…we’d like to reinforce in our daughters and all young ladies at Portsmouth Abbey School the confidence to pursue careers in STEM.” They are eagerly awaiting the building’s opening in early 2019, and it is an added benefit that Meagan and Tessa will be able to use the building for their coursework.
John and Meg encourage local parents to invite boarders to their homes, clubs, or nearby restaurants – or to even consider organizing a shopping trip to a nearby mall. “It can be very stressful for a new student to leave home at such a young age,” they say. “They need our support.” For parents further away from campus, they encourage supporting the School to the best of your ability. “In a school this size, no donation of time, effort, or money is too small – and we’re confident that any contribution will be graciously accepted and put to good use.” The Dennis family looks forward to remaining connected to the School in the future long after Meagan and Tessa have graduated.