Dr. Jett and Lynchburg rector and VES co-founder Joseph B. Dunn proposed Lynchburg, Virginia, as an ideal location for this ambitious project. In the first in a long history of philanthropic partnerships, Virginia-Carolina Railway founder Wilton E. Mingea of Abington, Virginia, who originally declared the idea “a delusive dream,” generously put up $5,000 to buy the property, establish a building fund and pay the headmaster’s salary.
The Roots of Our Mission: Toward Full Stature
Mingea proposed the name Virginia Episcopal School, proclaiming that “if Virginia was part of the name, the school would have a history from the day of its opening.”
Dr. Jett, who was named the school’s first headmaster, saw a future in which VES would develop and send into the world capable, ethical and productive members of society. Together, Jett, Dunn and Mingea coined a motto to explain the school's mission. “The Full Stature of Manhood” conveyed their conviction that a quality education meant “training with character as its end."
Funded by National Names in Philanthropy and Education
VES has benefited from the support provided by dedicated philanthropists — bearing well-known names including Langhorne, Astor, Glass, Barksdale and duPont — as well as the Lynchburg community. Bishop Jett tapped the nationally distinguished architect Frederick H. Brooke to design a classically proportioned complex of red-brick buildings, which received both Virginia Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places designations in 1992. These structures are where VES students live, learn, create lifelong relationships with their peers and mentors, and grow toward full stature. The campus continues to provide a place to which generations of alumni enjoy returning home.
The most prominent early donor to Jett’s vision was Lady Nancy Langhorne Astor — the first female elected to the British House of Commons and world symbol of women’s rights.
When the determined founder of VES was visiting Lady Astor’s family estate in Albemarle County, Virginia, he bravely requested a charitable contribution to the school. Lady Astor promised Jett $10,000 on the condition that he raise $100,000 — a gift Jett described as “the first big spark” of financial support. Astor then appealed on Jett’s behalf to the congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg and raised another $17,000, $10,000 of which Mrs. Margaret Stanford Glass Lucado pledged. The money raised with Astor's substantial challenge grant funded the construction of VES’ first buildings — Main (today’s Jett Hall) and West (today’s Pendleton) — which opened in 1916. In 1919, Lady Astor’s father, Civil War veteran and railroad magnate Chiswell Dabney Langhorne, gave the Langhorne Memorial Chapel in memory of his wife, Nancy Witcher Keen.