Our Town with William Kelly: Palm Beach Day Academy receives largest gift in the school’s 100-year history

William Kelly  |  Our Town  |  February 2, 2022

Elena and Scott Shleifer, Fanning Hearon Palm Beach Day Academy

Elena and Scott Shleifer, Fanning Hearon Palm Beach Day Academy

The Palm Beach Day Academy announced on Wednesday an $18 million gift to kick off its campaign to raise money for an endowment, facilities and support for faculty and staff.

Scott and Elena Shleifer, who have four children who attend the school, are providing the $18 million unrestricted gift for the school’s Second Century Campaign.

Fanning M. Hearon III, the head of school at PBDA, said he will be forever grateful for the gift and the immediate impact it will have on the students and faculty.

“This gift will allow us to continue to attract, retain and develop talented educators,” Hearon said. “We are committed to PBDA being the school of choice for families seeking an academically challenging and compassion-rich learning environment.”

The Second Century Campaign will center on endowment growth, facility enhancements and support for faculty and staff. By providing long-term financial sustainability for the school, the campaign will ensure that PBDA continues to be a national leader in academic programs that support character development in young children, the school said in a press release announcing the gift.

“We are incredibly impressed with the teachers and staff at Palm Beach Day Academy, who are dedicated to providing children with an education that focuses on excellence and reinforces the values of kindness and integrity,” said Scott Shleifer, a partner at Tiger Global. “We hope our support enables the school to continue building on those traditions.”

The $18 million will be applied toward a $30 million fundraising goal for the Second Century Campaign, said Meghan Monteiro, the school’s director of philanthropy.

“This is just the beginning of many extraordinary things to come for PBDA,” Monteiro said.

Established in 1921, PBDA is a co-ed independent day school serving 550 students from two-year-olds in pre-primary through the ninth grade. The school is located on two campuses 1.3 miles apart in Palm Beach and West Palm Beach.

Will Matthews was chairman of the school’s board of trustees for 10 years and remains on the board as a life trustee. He attended PBDA, as did his brothers, sons and other relatives.

“It’s a remarkably large gift for an independent school, record breaking in many ways,” Matthews said. “It will help assure that the day school continues its tradition of excellence in education.”

PBDA is rated among the top independent schools in Florida, he said.

“I’ve always felt that Palm Beach Day Academy has been a very essential institution to the community because many of the families would not have moved here from the Northeast unless there was really a top-quality school in Palm Beach,” Matthews said.

Matthews is a member of the Palm Beach Civic Association’s Executive Committee.

Michael Ainslie served on the PBDA board for 15 years and led the school’s fundraising efforts that included money used to build the lower campus.

Ainslie said the school prepared his daughter well for her later education at Deerfield Academy and Vanderbilt University.

“It is a strong school and, with this new endowment gift, it’s just going to become stronger and stronger,” he said.

Ainslie is the treasurer of the Civic Association’s Executive Committee.

Town Councilman Ted Cooney attended PBDA from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

“This generous gift reflects how essential an excellent educational institution is to the many younger families that have relocated or returned to our community,” Cooney said. “I’m impressed that, as the school enters its second 100 years, it has a strong leadership team and a vision to build on its legacy.”

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