In addition to these large private donors, the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce canvassed the community for support. The community responded by pledging the required funds, making the people of Lynchburg, in Jett’s estimation, “co-founders of the school.”
During Jett’s lifetime — from the founding through the Great Depression and early years of World War II — Hamilton M. Barksdale and his wife, the former Ethel duPont, were the school’s largest benefactors. Mr. Barksdale, who served as General Manager of the E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company, made substantial donations to the original building fund. In 1919, Mrs. Barksdale honored her husband’s legacy with the landmark Barksdale Memorial Gymnasium.
On the threshold of the Depression, Bishop Jett began an ambitious fundraising initiative to eliminate the school’s debt. Rising to the challenge were benefactors Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans, whose gifts to the VES debt-fund made her the school’s third-largest donor during that critical era, and Elizabeth Bingham Blossom, whose generosity established the school’s first scholarship endowment.
The VES Endowment was begun in 1929 with a $100,000 challenge grant from Woolworth founder F.M. Kirby, General Motors executive F. Donaldson Brown and philanthropist Ethel duPont Barksdale. The endowment was doubled through a bequest of Col. William King, Jr.
VES has been a leader in social progress. Bishop Jett made a commitment that tuition remain low so that the school would remain accessible to “families of limited means.” In the 1960s, VES became the first boarding school in the South to integrate, and the school remains a warm and inclusive community today. VES’ mission to guide boys “toward the full stature of manhood” broadened to encompass girls in 1986 when VES became the first boarding school in Virginia to coeducate.
Our student body has grown significantly from those early days and now includes 250 young men and women from all over the country and the world. Each day, we live out the vision of Dr. Jett — continually striving, constantly growing, positively contributing to their communities and the world. For 101 years, we've prepared our students for success in colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad, and we are proud of the extraordinary contributions — both professionally and philanthropically — that our alumni have made.