Principal, Major, or Special Giving Programs: Springside School - Silver Award

2008 Circle of Excellence Awards Program
Category 2B. Fundraising Programs: Principal, Major, or Special Giving Programs
Springside School
Johanna Sigmund Scholarship


Ceci Clark
Director of Institutional Stewardship
Alumnae Relations Office
8000 Cherokee Street
Philadelphia, PA 19118
(215) 247-7200


Jennifer McHugh Director of Institutional Advancement
Ellen Hass Director of Alumnae Relations
Ann Storonos Administrative Assistant
Karen Tracy Director of Communications

The Johanna Sigmund Scholarship


To honor a graduate whose life was taken in the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and to engage as many as possible of our friends in creating the principal scholarship at Springside School. The goal and outcome of the Sigmund Scholarship has been to provide an opportunity for outstanding young women to fully realize her potential, equipped with an excellent education and a compassionate heart.

Project description

"The Johanna Sigmund Scholarship is awarded annually to a student with demonstrated full or nearly full financial need, to one who exemplifies the gifts of spirit, enthusiasm, athletic leadership, and compassion for others that Johanna possessed in abundance." This important scholarship was created to honor Johanna Sigmund, beloved member of the Springside School Class of 1994, who was killed in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. In 2002 Johanna's parents, her brother John, a graduate of Chestnut Hill Academy (CHA '88) and her boyfriend Joe Bonavita, chose to honor her memory with the creation of a full scholarship to Springside School in her name—a scholarship intended to make a Springside education possible for other young women who possess some of the talents and gifts that Johanna exemplified in her young life. Head of School Priscilla Sands put it best for the announcement of the scholarship: "While a bright and shining light was senselessly extinguished, a memory will blaze forever in the legacy of a scholarship created in Johanna's name."

Seven enthusiastic members of the Class of 1994 of Springside School and Chestnut Hill Academy formed a committee to raise $300,000 to meet this goal. Never in the history of either school had such an ambitious amount of money been raised by young alumni/ae. What is exceptional about this special fundraising project was the relative youth of the committee—2 years out of college—its extraordinary energy, and dedicated commitment to raising a daunting amount of money. This group of young alumni never doubted that they could achieve this remarkable tribute to their dear friend. By boldly making their own personal solicitations to corporations, foundations, and individuals, this group surpassed the $300,000 mark by more than $80,000. Impressively, there were 1,511 gifts from individuals demonstrating very broad support. Large and small gifts poured in over a period of 3 years and, while many of these donors did not even know Johanna, they were touched by the stories our alumnae were able to tell about her young life, their determination to remember it, and what its loss meant to so many people.

As a first effort to promote the scholarship and raise money, the committee drafted and mailed a brochure for the Springside community. The committee then personally solicited Johanna's classmates, foundations, friends of her family and friends of Springside School—other words, our entire constituency. An example of how touched donors were can be seen in a sampling of notes sent with donations. "Please accept this donation in the name of my daughter in grade three. My hope is that she grows up to be half as full of life as Johanna Sigmund." Similarly, a letter attached to a donation from AOL-Time-Warner: "Our employees were involved with setting up and staffing the city's Family Assistance Center at ground zero. The first day the center opened, Steve Sigmund walked in. He had come on behalf of his aunt and uncle to help them get whatever information was available about his cousin, Johanna. In the days that followed, Steve joined our band of volunteers looking for something, anything, to do; he worked side by side with us. Steve described Johanna as vibrant young woman with terrific spirit and energy. We wanted very much to remember and celebrate her life by contributing to this scholarship fund."

Following the initial solicitation, other initiatives were planned. An example of an early event was one held during the Christmas holiday of 2001; the committee hosted a gathering at a local pub for several hundred young people—it was so successful that it has become an annual event.

At an even more personal level, until last year Joe Bonavita, still living in NYC, held monthly dinners with friends and asked them to contribute whatever they could afford and he sent monthly checks ranging from $200-500 for the fund.

Gratified by the steady growth of the fund and wanting to build on their success, in the spring of 2002 the committee planned a silent and live auction held on the weekend of Homecoming at Freeman's Auction House in Philadelphia. They hand-addressed and mailed hundreds of invitations for an event on September 11, 2003. Again came an unprecedented outpouring of gifts for auction and generous responses. Jon Freeman (CHA'94) was auctioneer and host and over 300 people attended. The event netted more than $45,000 for the scholarship fund.

A lecture series entitled Illuminating Women was the highlight of the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of Springside School in 2004-05. Five internationally prominent women came to campus that year to share stories and inspire the community, among them Sandra Day O'Connor and Fredericka von Stade. The journalist and political commentator, Cokie Roberts, was an honored speaker in May 2005 for a dinner and lecture. Through the generosity of Ms. Roberts and other supporters, the event raised over $25,000 in ticket sales and donations. In between 2001 and the present, there have been additional events, including a golf outing to support and augment the fund through the local Philadelphia Chapter of the Rotary Club. Finally, on September 14, 2007, a little more than six years after Johanna's death, over 400 people—members of the Class of 1994, the Sigmunds and friends and supporters—gathered at Citizen's Bank Park for a culminating fundraising event—a classic American afternoon of baseball. The Phillies organization set the stage with a generous donation of tickets, food, fun and a rare playoff game on a beautiful fall afternoon. The event raised an impressive $19,000 to be added to the scholarship fund, realizing a total of $382,956.

The committee's hard work and resolve has been rewarded with a scholarship fund that stands at $382,965. The fund received $95,000 from foundation and corporate gifts, $278,000 from individuals, and raised $5,000 from special events. Included in the outpouring of support for the Sigmund Scholarship was the support of the Connelly Foundation, which broke from the foundation's guidelines to support the committee's efforts with a gift of $50,000—the Sigmund Scholarship Fund's largest.

Springside honored this group of young friends in May of 2003 with its Outstanding Young Alumnae Award which "recognizes the achievements of alumnae who have graduated in the past 20 years and reflects a demonstrated excellence in a career or service to the community." For the first and only time, this award for alumnae was shared with male CHA counterparts who had worked as hard as anyone to achieve these remarkable results. The alumnae example and resolve are truly remarkable and their ability to work in concert with the graduates of another school are also notable and can, and no doubt will be, the model for other joint fundraising projects in the future. This special fundraising project set a high standard of commitment and achievement not often offered to or seen in the fundraising efforts of our younger graduates. We view it as a model for passing the fundraising torch to younger and energetic graduates whose new ideas of philanthropy are not hindered by old notions what once did/didn't work. Certainly, this special project has deepened alumnae engagement, inspired personal growth, fostered community building, and created an ever-evolving outlook on life, recognizing its fragility.

The first Sigmund scholar, now a sophomore, has been at Springside since 2002 and is a credit to the ideals of the scholarship. When she arrived at Springside, one of the first things she did was to find Johanna's yearbook page to see the face of the girl whose legacy has altered her own life. She well knows the criteria for her scholarship and she is acquainted with the Sigmund family whose loss ultimately has meant good fortune for another young woman of promise. In turn, the Sigmunds are rewarded by watching "their" scholar blossom into a confident, competent, and gracious young woman—a reflection of their Johanna.

The Sigmund Scholarship Fund has given Springside School far more than just this young woman presently enrolled. It has provided unified purpose across young graduate populations in two schools and the example of a generosity of spirit that is truly inspiring. This committee chose to create a new road by walking together in honor of a fallen classmate, for the benefit of future students. Collectively, they created change and understood a capacity to contribute that they might not have discovered until much later in life.


The committee had the resources of the Springside School database and the school was able to act as the clearinghouse for the campaign planned by the seven young people on the committee. It offered mailing costs and office supplies. Springside has an external affairs staff of 5. Springside is a small school of 3,200 addressable constituents. 2-4 staff were available to work part-time on the Sigmund Scholarship as need arose. The office cannot support special projects with any full-time staff and depended heavily on part-time efforts from the Director of Development, Jennifer McHugh and administrative assistant, Ann Storonous. Much in-house printing and design were possible through the efforts and creativity of Director of Communications, Karen Tracy.

Program budget

Less than $1,000 per year for 6 years.


  1. $382,965 was raised to more than fully fund the scholarship.
  2. Long before alumni/ae typically become re-engaged with their secondary school, Springside School had a group of effective and committed graduates working tirelessly on behalf of the school. The school itself made inroads, connections, and friendships in the surrounding community that until that time had not been identified or pursued.

About Springside School

Founded in 1879, Springside School is the oldest school for girls in Philadelphia. Springside girls, Pre-K-12th grade, are students from over 40 zip codes; 43% of our students are from the city of Philadelphia; one-fifth are students of color; one-quarter are supported by need-based financial aid; 100% of our graduates attend competitive four-year colleges; 95% of Upper School girls take four or more years of math and science; 80% of students in AP courses qualify for college credit. A unique coeducational program exists with Chestnut Hill Academy, a neighboring school for boys.