Cathy McGehee is no ordinary woman. Some moms with newly emptied nests look forward to downsized parenting roles and school involvement. Not so with Cathy, former Director of the Upper School at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond. When her daughters flew the nest, she accepted the Head of School position at Foxcroft School. Located in Middleburg, Virginia, Foxcroft is a 100-year-old boarding/day college preparatory school for girls.
Even if you don’t know Foxcroft, you may have heard the buzz about it in the news recently as the recipient of the largest bequest to a girls secondary school ever. A $40 million gift does not come one’s way every day. But more on that later.
When Cathy first told me her plans to accept the position, I wondered,
Why Foxcroft School?
Not familiar with Foxcroft, located in the picturesque hunt country of Virginia, I couldn’t imagine why Cathy and her husband Read, an ophthalmologist with a thriving practice, would uproot their established lives in RVA and move to this seemingly remote setting.
Not until LDB and I set foot on campus to attend Cathy’s installation as the tenth Head of School
did we appreciate the rich tradition of Foxcroft (Foxes and Hounds), the enormity of the job, and the professional opportunity to advance girls’ education that had been extended to Cathy. Not only has she achieved a career pinnacle, she has found a warm and welcoming community in which to live and work.
Living at Covert
Built in 1930 for the school’s founder, Charlotte Haxall Noland, the original stone house was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt to its current state in 1934. As with most school homes, Covert, meaning woodland setting providing protection for game ~ in this case foxes,
serves many constituents. It’s home to Cathy and her family and an inviting venue for entertaining students, faculty and staff, parents, and board members. Prior to Cathy’s arrival, designer Jean Perrin directed the renovation of Covert and blended the school’s existing furniture and accessoriesOil on canvas by Edward L. Chase (American, 1884 – 1965) depicting Charlotte Haxall Noland and Daniel Sands of the Middleburg Hunt,1940, hanging above the mantle in the living room
with the McGehees’ personal belongings.
The living and dining rooms open to a stately
slate patio which is tented for large events.
The dining room with its ornately carved fireplace surround
greets guests in its traditional yellow, blue and white motif, and Alison and I immediately gravitated to the gorgeous silver pieces in use and on display.
Lunch was served on transferware which also features scenes of Foxcroft.
The kitchen received the most attention during the renovation.
Now big and serviceable for the school’s caterer of the numerous events held at Covert, the kitchen is very much a part of the McGehee lifestyle. Cathy and Read enjoy cooking with each other on their weekends together. The kitchen has also become a gathering place for informal faculty and student events.
The home has five bedrooms upstairs,
plenty of room for visiting family, special guests and blogger friends.
My favorite room is like no other I’ve seen. Situated on the front right corner of the house, Cathy’s oval office is filled with light,
sporting raised wood paneling,
a well concealed door,
as well as comfy furniture.
This unique spot provides an ideal oasis for thought, reflection and refuge.
Working at Foxcroft
As much as there was to appreciate at Covert, Cathy couldn’t wait to show us her new campus. She has embraced this 24/7 job with conviction, enthusiasm and energy as she nurtures her new school family that includes a student body of 157 and teaching faculty of 24. Our tour of the heart of campus (the school is sited on 500 acres) included this bucolic view of the mountains.
from the patio in front of the library.
This bronze book sculpture sits on a bench in the library courtyard inscribed
For Kitty Forsyth Wickes with Love from her friend Bunny Lambert Class of 1929
(fyi – Miss Lambert later became the illustrious Bunny Mellon).
Schoolhouse, one of the oldest buildings on campus, houses the Head’s office.
The library hosts the thrice-weekly morning gatherings for students.
The stables and riding arena captured my heart. Home to 54 horses, with 40 owned by the school, the riding program is the bedrock upon which Charlotte Noland founded the school. She considered riding to be most beneficial to girls because it teaches decisiveness, courage, fitness and responsibility.
Throughout our tour Cathy constantly greeted students by name, a priority for her to learn in her first months on campus.
Now, What About That $40 Million?
On October 28 Foxcroft School announced a bequest made to the school by alumna Ruth T. Bedford ’32. This Standard Oil heiress wanted to leave a lasting mark on the school that had made a huge impression on her life. No doubt Cathy and her Board Chair Reggie Groves are the envy of non-profits nationwide. It’s been the topic of conversation for Cathy, but she is quick to say the Board designated the majority of the gift to strengthen the endowment where it will do the most to benefit Foxcroft over the long term. Two million dollars are designated for the current capital campaign, and a portion will honor Ms. Bedford through scholarship funding and support of the Theatre Arts program.
To the current parents of Foxcroft students, faculty, staff or alumnae, congratulations on your choice of new Head. We know you couldn’t have found a better person to lead your impressive school.
We appreciate the hospitality shown by all we met at Foxcroft. To our dear friend Cathy, we wish you and your family all the best in your new home. Godspeed, Mrs. McGehee!
November 19, 2014