The majority of Ms. Bedford’s gift will be used to sustain, and more than double, the school’s endowment. “Ruth’s gift allows us to begin realizing our dreams for the future of Foxcroft,” comments Head of School Cathy McGehee. “With this gift, we may think more boldly about all we can do to prepare our girls to be 21st-century leaders. Our students will directly benefit as we expand the experiential learning that has always been a hallmark of a Foxcroft education, refresh our physical plant, and strengthen our scholarship offerings. It is a ringing endorsement of girls’ education, and a challenge to other women to support the schools which have helped to shape them.”
Funds will be allocated for a scholarship in Ms. Bedford’s name, to ensure the accessibility to education that was so important to her. In addition, a portion will be earmarked to honor her love of theater. Not only was Ms. Bedford an avid theatergoer, she worked behind-the-scenes on Broadway for four years, moving from casting assistant to assistant stage manager to assistant to the director on several productions, including the long-running, Tony Award-winning play Happy Birthday.
Ms. Bedford was in many ways, a singular character. A native of Westport, CT, she was the last surviving grandchild of Edward T. Bedford, a director of Standard Oil and founder of the Corn Products Refining Company. Ruth reflected the Foxcroft ethos of giving back by devoting much of her time and interests to service. She worked with the Red Cross in Europe during World War II and continued her medical support as a volunteer at the Norwalk Hospital for more than fifty years. An avid horsewoman, Ms. Bedford was also an accomplished sailor, golfer, tennis player, and aviatrix frequently sighted skimming a seaplane along Long Island Sound. Her lifelong love for animals led to involvement in her family’s passion for horse racing, where her horses, ridden under the Nyala Farms name, won races at Belmont and Saratoga.
Her enduring relationship with Foxcroft seems fitting for a woman who was so ahead of her time — at its founding, the school was equally ahead of its era on issues of appropriate education for girls. Foxcroft School was founded by Charlotte Haxall Noland in 1914, the year of Ms. Bedford’s birth. Miss Charlotte embraced the concept of the school’s motto, mens sana in corpore sano (Juvenal, Satire X) – a healthy mind in a healthy body -- at a time when physical exertion was widely considered inappropriate or even unhealthy for young women. She was known to exhort her students frequently to “Keep up with the times. Don’t be narrow. Have two rules: hard, good work and much fun.” An early champion of experiential learning, Miss Charlotte gave her students many opportunities to engage with the surrounding countryside and to explore the world beyond their campus as part of their studies.
Ms. Bedford thrived in a school where the emphasis on hands-on learning and balance between the academic and athletic -- still in place today -- shaped the character of graduates like her. She loved Foxcroft’s lack of pretension, its commitment to service, and its dedication to the student as a whole person. Ms. Bedford remained involved with the school throughout her life, meeting with Foxcroft staff members as recently as this past Memorial Day, two weeks before her death at the age of 99.
“When I heard about Ruth’s gift I was astounded,” recalls Mary Louise Leipheimer, former Head of Foxcroft School. “We knew that she intended to remember Foxcroft in her will but we never expected a gift of this size – it is beyond our wildest dreams.” Bill Weeks, past Foxcroft trustee, father and husband of alumnae, and also a personal friend of Ms. Bedford remembers, “Ruth was always a very independent person, a true woman ahead of her time, and this gift shows the kind of leadership and commitment to giving back that was so typical of her, and so in keeping with Foxcroft’s culture.”