Alumna gives $100 million to Pennsylvania prep school

Reuters

By Ellen Wulfhorst

Oct 10 (Reuters) - A small private prep school inPennsylvania has received a $100 million gift from an alumna,one of the largest ever gifts to a U.S. independent secondaryschool, officials said on Thursday.

The gift to Mercersburg Academy comes from Deborah J. Simonof Indianapolis, a 1974 graduate, and the Deborah Joy SimonFoundation, said school spokesman Wallace Whitworth.

She is the daughter of the late Melvin Simon, founder ofwhat is now called Simon Property Group Inc. The giant commercial real estate company holds interests in hundreds ofproperties, many of them shopping centers and malls.

In a statement, Simon said the school is "dedicated tobringing out the best in what each student has to offer."

The donation, the largest ever to Mercersburg, will gotowards financial aid and faculty support, Whitworth said.

Yearly tuition at Mercersburg is just over $50,000, androughly half the students get some financial aid, he said.

Well-known alumni include actor Jimmy Stewart, former U.S.Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and actor Benicio Del Toro.

The school, founded in 1893 and located on 300 acres insouth central Pennsylvania, has 435 boarding and day students.

Other large gifts to U.S. independent schools include a 2007donation of $128 million to the George School in Newtown,Pennsylvania by Barbara Dodd Anderson, whose father was an earlyinvestor in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

In 1993, publisher Walter Annenberg gave $100 million to thePeddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey.

Simon is chairwoman of the board of the Simon YouthFoundation, which provides aid to high school students at riskof dropping out of school, and the Deborah Joy Simon Foundationprovides charitable grants, Whitworth said.

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