1954 New Trier grad leaves posthumous gift to school

Though John H. Emery walked the campus of New Trier High School more than a half-century ago, his impact will be felt for generations of students to come.

The 1954 graduate, who passed away in early 2012, surprised everyone at the school by leaving a $100,000 donation in his estate to the New Trier Educational Foundation.

Shortly after his passing, Foundation Executive Director Marianne Breen was contacted by a trustee of Emery’s estate.

“I was told the New Trier Education Foundation was a beneficiary in his estate and that we would be receiving some funds,” Breen said. “A year went by and I called back, but they said the estate was not settled.”

This June, Breen again received a call from the trustee, only this time she learned of the $100,000 donation.

“It was a remarkable gift,” Breen said. “ It was because of his relationship with his teachers that he wanted to do this. Over the course of talking with [his estate], we found out about the restrictions placed on the gift. We wanted to honor his gift, that’s the first and most important part.”

The money is to be used exclusively for the benefit of the New Trier Debate program and the science department, in accordance with Mr. Emery’s wishes.

As a student, Emery was a three-year member of the debate team and the National Forensic League, a speech honor society. He made the gift in honor of longtime New Trier debate coach Chester E. MacLean.

His second request was for a portion of the funds to be used “toward the purchase of a sophisticated analytical device that would not ordinarily be found in a high school chemistry, physics or biology lab.” This gift was made in honor of longtime biology teacher Loris R. Hoyt, Emery’s homeroom adviser for four years.

Breen, Superintendent Linda Yonke and Foundation Vice-Chair Jeni Spinney chose to announce the donation to New Trier’s teachers during the Aug. 22 institute day at both the Winnetka and Northfield campuses.

“I’m a former teacher myself,” Breen said. “I totally understand and appreciate the impact teachers have on students. Sometimes you don’t even realize the impact you’ve had on them, but students remember it.”

Emery’s gift is a reminder of the significant role and emotional connections New Trier’s faculty has with its students.

“It speaks to the relationship he had and the impact Chester and Loris had on him as a student,” Breen said. “It’s pretty likely there are students walking this campus today who are equally impacted by their teachers and advisers, and who may think to do the same thing.”

Breen, Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Witham and Director of Business Services Chris Wildman will now meet with the faculty who are recipients of the gift to identify how the funds can be used.

“They trust us to honor his wishes,” Breen said. “They entrust us with these funds to do what will help the students and the school. It’s really important we do that.”

Established in 2001, the New Trier Educational Foundation provides private funding for educational opportunities that are not funded, or are funded only in part, by the New Trier High School budget.

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