Ellen MacNeille Charles ’55 Receives the Anne Kane McGuire ’52 Distinguished Service Award

Devoted Leader and Steward

For her steady leadership, unfailing devotion, exceptional stewardship, and dedicated service to Foxcroft School, the Board of Trustees and Head of School Cathy McGehee honored Ellen MacNeille Charles ’55 by presenting her with Foxcroft’s highest award, the Anne Kane McGuire ’52 Distinguished Service Award, at a special luncheon on April 22 during Reunion Weekend.
“Foxcroft women get it done!” exclaimed Ellen when she received the phone call in the spring of 2018 that the Centennial Campaign, which she co-chaired, was completed two years early and $5 million over the goal. ‘Getting it done’ is what she is all about. From that day back in 1951 when Ellen began her Foxcroft journey through today, she continues to impact the School in myriad ways by ‘getting it done.’

Ellen grew up with horses on a farm in Howard County, MD, and attended Garrison Forest School before matriculating to Foxcroft. Of her riding career, her family joked that she liked horses a lot better from the ground than she did from their backs! During her four years at Foxcroft, Ellen was “well thought of by both faculty and classmates.” She was a member of the Alliance Francaise, the French Club, and Glee; she was a Library Co-Head, a CAP, and the Business Manager for Tally Ho!. Miss Charlotte wrote of Ellen’s time at Foxcroft, “She is thoughtful and gracious! She fulfills her jobs in an efficient but not flashy manner. She’s the tops!”

After Foxcroft, Ellen headed to Mount Holyoke College and graduated in 1959. Marriage, three sons (Lee, David, and Andrew), and a new endeavor — raising dogs — soon followed. Puppies and ponies were to become a theme in Ellen’s life as she went from dog breeder to American Kennel Club judge, President of the AKC Museum of the Dog, and owner with winning distinctions such as Best in Show with Jewel, a foxhound, and Honor, a bichon frise, at the Westminster Dog Show.

With both parents active in the racing world, it is not surprising that Ellen also found a love for horses. In 2004, she purchased her first horse to race under her mother’s colors and propelled Hillwood Stable to what it is today. Among other involvements with the sport, she has served on the board of such groups like the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. With her horses and her dogs, she lives by her philosophy, “When you are involved in a sport, you need to give back too.”

And give back she has! Ellen has served on the boards of many organizations, including Foxcroft, Tudor Place, and the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens. At Hillwood, her grandmother Marjorie Merriweather Post’s home, Ellen served as President of the Board for 25 years and brought it from a “well-kept secret to a shared treasure.” To all these organizations, Ellen has brought a special blend of leadership, experience, wisdom, enthusiasm, passion, and a great sense of humor that not only benefits and enriches the organization, but leaves it well-positioned for the future. In 1997, after speaking to Foxcroft alumnae during a tour of Hillwood, she began another 25-year involvement — this time with her beloved School.

Ellen has answered Foxcroft’s call to service many times since then. As a member of Foxcroft’s Board of Trustees, she has served as co-chair of the Advancement Committee, where she now sits as an ex-officio member, and as co-chair of the Centennial Campaign, the largest capital fundraising effort in the School’s history. During her leadership, the extraordinary bequest from Ruth Bedford ’32, the largest gift ever given to an all-girls secondary school, was received. She was a member of the Search Committee that brought Cathy McGehee as Foxcroft’s 10th Head of School and has interviewed candidates for positions in the Office of Institutional Advancement. She continues to host gatherings for the School in her beautiful home in Georgetown and attends as many events on campus as possible. One time, she drove all the way to campus for a virtual meeting for the simple reason that, as she said, “It is more fun to be with people than to sit alone in my house!” 

Perhaps Van S. Merle-Smith, Jr., Academic Head at the time who would go on to become Foxcroft’s second Head following Miss Charlotte, said it best when he wrote with great foresight to Ellen’s mother in 1952, “I can only add that [Ellen] seems to be fitting in very nicely and I feel sure that as the years go by, she will contribute more and more to our life here at Foxcroft.” His words still ring true today, as she continues to give of her time, her talent, and her treasure — all of which have left an indelible mark on the School.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.