More than 55 guests logged on for the first-ever virtual Distinguished Service Award (DSA) ceremony recognizing the outstanding contributions of four members of the McDonogh Family–devoted volunteer Allan Spencer ‘49, retired employee LaVerne Holtz, Trustee Stacey Boyer ’76, and former Head of School Bo Dixon. The annual event, which was postponed due to COVID-19, was held on the evening of Tuesday, October 13. Chief Philanthropy Officer Kerry Johnston served as the evening’s emcee and Head of School Dave Farace ’87 and President of the Board of Trustees Rob Young ’86 presented the awards.
Since arriving at McDonogh in 1943 in seventh grade, Allan Spencer has made an impact on his classmates and the School. He was an athlete, sang in the Glee Club, served on the Legacy staff, was elected President of both his junior and senior classes, was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Most Popular,” was Captain Adjutant of the Corps for his senior year, and was presented with the Character and Influence Award at graduation. As one classmate has commented, “Everyone liked Allan -- he had a way of bringing people together.”
In the more than 70 years since his graduation, Spencer has continued to be a class leader and a dedicated fundraiser for McDonogh. Always humble, Spencer accepted the DSA on behalf of the Class of 1949. He spoke about their strategy over the years to encourage classmates to give to the annual fund and thanked the Alumni and Development offices for their support. He gave kudos to the various head of school who have preserved and blended the history of the school that he and his generation knew, with the necessary upgrades to prepare students for today’s world.
When fundraising at McDonogh was just getting started, LaVerne Holtz was there to help make it work seamlessly. As the school’s Records and Gifts Manager, she was an integral part of the hundreds of events organized by the Alumni and Development Offices. She arrived early for set-up, stayed late for clean-up, and made it a point to know everyone and make them feel welcome and at home. She was also a beloved dorm parent, fondly known as “Momma Holtz” to the girls in what is now known as Keelty Hall. In her 24 years at the School, she personified the term “McDonogh Family.”
As grateful as she was for the DSA recognition, Holtz expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to work and live at McDonogh. Like a proud mother, she said it was heartwarming to see how accomplished the girls from the dorm have become. In closing, she spoke about the lasting friendships she made with the people in Bowman House and the countless alumni she met along the way.
Stacey Boyer ‘76
Stacey Boyer was recognized for being a trailblazer, who, in 1976 became the School’s first female graduate. A staunch supporter of McDonogh, she has contributed in numerous ways. She is the longest-standing member of McDonogh’s Board of Trustees and is easily one of the most utilized volunteers of the esteemed group. She has chaired and served on many committees and has held the role of secretary for almost 10 years. In 2010, she made a commitment to establish a planned gift--the Stacey Boyer ’76 Scholarship; and in 2019 she significantly increased her commitment to support students who show a pioneer spirit or the ability to overcome adversity.
After receiving the award, Boyer thanked the Board and explained why she gives so much of her time and energy to McDonogh. She said that McDonogh gave her so many amazing life experiences and opportunities and that she wants today’s students to experience the same. She noted that she also gives back so that McDonogh can continue to thrive for future generations. In accepting the DSA she added that her work on behalf of McDonogh is not done and that she plans to “be around for a long, long time.”
Between extensive improvements to campus, a deep commitment to faculty, and genuine interest in students, Bo Dixon’s contributions as Head of School from 1992 - 2007 were innumerable and invaluable. A powerful fundraiser, he helped to complete many capital projects including the Rollins-Luetkemeyer Athletic Center and the Henry A. Rosenberg, Jr. Aquatic Center, the Clarence A. Burck Center for the Performing Arts and the Ceres M. Horn Theatre, the Dudley Hall kindergarten building, the Kelly Center and Elderkin Hall additions to the Lower School, and more. He was motivated by the impact these projects would have on teaching and learning, and this was compelling to donors.
Dixon firmly believed that McDonogh was great because of the people who filled the hallways and classrooms and he fought hard to increase their salaries and support them in numerous ways. As the Head of the School for 15 years, creating joy and making a positive difference in a child’s day were the two things that mattered most to him.
In accepting the DSA, Dixon said he was honored to be in the company so many other deserving recipients. He called them “mission-keepers.” He spoke about the mutual respect and trust that existed between him and the Trustees he served under, saying, “How incredibly lucky and blessed was I?” He closed his remarks by recognizing a number of costumed characters, including Cookie Monster and Winnie-the-Pooh, for helping him find joy in work and play.
DSA honorees are chosen by the Philanthropy Committee of the Board of Trustees for their exceptional contributions on behalf of the School. In particular, the committee looks for those whose efforts are largely behind the scenes. Since the award was first presented in 1960, there have been 150 Distinguished Service Award recipients, each of whom, in some capacity, has given their time most generously to McDonogh. Click here to nominate a DSA recipient.