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Nichol Alexander: A Profile in Giving

Even before their daughter Madeline started in the Preschool threes, Nichol and Sarah Alexander had an instant connection to Brooklyn Friends School. “We immediately fell in love with the school, largely because it seemed to offer an oasis of thoughtfulness and community within the city that we had not seen anywhere else,” Nichol recalled. Now a Lower School parent of both Madeline and Charles, Nichol appreciated the school so much, in fact, that he recently made a generous $25,000 gift through his family foundation to support technological innovation.

“It’s been really exciting to see the kids come up through the different levels,” he said, “and one thing that we’ve been consistently amazed by is the thought and consideration that goes into every stage and step, both in terms of curriculum and personal development and community.” Such experiences made giving to the school a no-brainer for them.  “The commitment to learning makes it easy as a parent to support the school,” he said, “and to have confidence that the support is going to be well-directed and applied in a meaningful, thoughtful way.”

Nichol grew up in New York City and attended the Dalton School. At New York University he started out as a computer science major but quickly switched to dramatic literature.  “I was unable to imagine how computers and web technologies would connect people,” he said.  “At the time, computer science was very dull and directed at supporting IT departments in banks, which is not where I saw myself.”  He earned an MFA in playwriting, and now runs a tech startup. A good deal of his time is also spent volunteering at the school, initially as a class parent, then as a member of a digital communications task force, and more recently as a PAT Vice President.

Not surprisingly, Nichol requested that the gift have a significant impact on the technology program. “He wanted more depth,” explained Kathryn Collins, Director of Annual Giving. “He didn’t want it be used for teacher equipment or simply for more computers.”

Said Nichol, “It’s my hope that a fully integrated and supported technology curriculum will give students the opportunity to experience first hand how different disciplines can feed off of each other and magnify their impacts.”  He elaborated further.  “I have absolutely loved being able to participate in some part of the technological development around me and New York is one of the most interesting places to have a foundational understanding of STEM,” [an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math in school curricula.]  “We wanted to be able to encourage that within the school.”

Nichol stressed that he and his wife Sarah hope their gift has a long-term impact on the BFS community. “Sarah and I love the school, the teachers, the parents, the kids, and hope that our children will graduate and look back on it as a formative place that not only helped to make them who they are but also gave them tools they use and cherish in their own pursuits. BFS is sort of like an extension of our family and it’s important for us to help out where we can.”

Voluntary giving to support a specific school program is often the icing on the cake for the school’s fundraisers, who have an almost million dollar goal to support all areas of the school’s operations. “It’s very gratifying when a donor’s personal passion aligns so perfectly with the school’s long-term curricular objectives,” observed Annual Fund Director Kathryn Collins. “Nichol and Sarah’s gift for technology has kickstarted new ways of teaching and learning at BFS while their continued support of the Brooklyn Friends Fund supports ongoing professional development for teachers in this other quickly evolving areas.”

NEXT: The Lower School is Taking it to the Top in Tech