Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart announced a $1 million endowment gift to help support the Lake Forest independent, Catholic college preparatory high school for young women.
Susan Brennan Morrison, Woodlands Academy Class of 1969, and her husband, Bob, explained that their gift is in honor of Susan's late mother, Eileen Bruck Brennan, a 1949 graduate of Barat College of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest.
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"My mother was a lovely and courageous woman," Morrison said. "Her Barat experience was everything to her, especially because her own mother died when my mom was only 7 years old. Throughout her life, she was short on role models, support and a sense of community and family, but Barat gave her both.
"During those critical formative years, her teachers served as role models, while the community gave her love and support. She learned the Sacred Heart values and continued to live them her entire life."
Woodlands Academy Board of Trustees Chair Lori W. Reyes said there is a genuine need for the gift and expressed her gratitude.
"We are thrilled to receive Susan and Bob's extraordinary gift in honor of Eileen Bruck Brennan," she said. "Our endowment allows us to provide Woodlands' rigorous academic program within the unique Sacred Heart environment. It is a transformative combination. Each year, we watch Woodlands girls grow into women of grace who live out the Sacred Heart mission each day and change the world around them.
"The Morrisons' gift helps to ensure a Woodlands Sacred Heart education for future generations of girls, a testimony to the way Susan and Bob live the very mission they are enhancing."
A Lake Forest resident, Morrison received the St. Philippine Duchesne Outstanding Alumna Award from Woodlands Academy May 16. The award honors women of Woodlands Academy whose lives exemplify, to an extraordinary degree, the values and standards that the school represents. St. Philippine Duchesne established the first Sacred Heart schools in North America.
"I'll cherish this award my entire life because of its meaning signified by the woman for whom it's named," she said.
An athlete her entire life, Morrison was captain of the field hockey team at Woodlands Academy and said team sports taught her how to work with others. She said she wanted to leave the legacy of her mother to help other women.
"Woodlands Academy is a community that knows you, your good and bad days. You graduate from Woodlands Academy feeling that you can succeed. You go into the world with even footing. You are more confident stepping into your possibilities."
Morrison is a former advertising executive with DDB Needham, Chicago, and D'Arcy McManus Masius, London. She is currently a trustee of the Women's Sports Foundation in New York, as well as a founding member and director of Women Moving Millions, an organization whose mission is to catalyze high-impact philanthropy to benefit organizations/initiatives that advance and empower women and girls.
She is active in Chicago's civic community, serving on the Shedd Aquarium Board and the Women's Board of Lyric Opera of Chicago, and is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego.
The Morrisons have five children and eight grandchildren.
The endowment comes at the time when the former Barat property has been reunited with Woodlands Academy property, thanks to the generosity of anonymous donors. Careful demolition of Old Main with repurposing of 95 percent of all materials is under way. There will be two new athletic fields on the property, and the existing cemetery, ravines and front lawn will be protected.
Founded in 1858, Woodlands Academy is an independent, Catholic college preparatory day and boarding high school for young women, and part of a worldwide network of Sacred Heart Schools that spans the United States and 40 other countries.
A nonprofit, Woodlands Academy's identity is rooted in Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat's desire to inspire young hearts and minds to excel, to lead lives of integrity and to serve.
For more information about Woodlands Academy, visit www.woodlandsacademy.org.
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