Doing Whatever It Takes
To those familiar with Ted Babcock ’68 and his history of academic, professional, and personal achievement, his recent success spearheading his class’s record-breaking 50th reunion gift to the school of more than $300,000 may not seem that surprising. This was, after all, a man who, despite dyslexia, earned degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, Harvard Business School, and Oxford University, the last—a Doctor of Theology—coming some 36 years after the first, when he left his corporate career in product design and marketing to serve a higher calling as an Episcopal priest.
And through all those life changes, Ted’s connection to Williston remained constant. Beginning with his service as an alumni council member and trustee in the 1970s to his ongoing work as a Williston Northampton Fund volunteer, he has demonstrated “loyalty, generosity of time and spirit, and tireless efforts in supporting and sustaining the mission of Williston Northampton,” noted Head of School Robert W. Hill III this past spring, when he presented Ted with the school’s Daniel and Jane Carpenter Award. Ted had previously received the Eminent Service Award in 1979 and the Margaret Eastman French Award in 1978.
“I’ll do whatever Williston needs,” Ted explains. “I love the school. I was literally dying [at another school], and Williston gave me life. It allowed me to do athletics at a very high level and demanded academic excellence of me, a kid who didn’t really want to produce that. And there were a number of teachers there who really were transformative. Whether they nurtured me, or they scolded me, it didn’t make a difference. They had an impact.”
In his work as a priest, Ted studied community organizing and then applied his skills to take on employment issues in the South Bronx. Working with the faith-based Industrial Areas Foundation, he says, “I saw the power of community organizing to go in and change the system within the community, and to transform itself.” Supporting Williston, he says, can bring a similar kind of liberation. “Education is the key to freedom,” he explains. “Freedom from poverty, freedom from ignorance, freedom from dictatorship. The key is teaching people how to ask the right questions and how to communicate well.”
To allow future generations of Williston students to experience the benefits that he and so many of his classmates now recognize, he notes, the school requires alumni support. “We don’t have deep pockets. We’ve never appealed to the rich and famous. So financial stability is critical for Williston to continue its mission. And that has to come through fundraising. Some 40 percent of the kids are on some form of scholarship. That’s a big number for a school without deep pockets.”
Retired from the priesthood and living in Pittsburgh, Ted says he is now taking time to “figure out how I’m going to use the next 15 or 20 years and see where God wants me.” Some part of his efforts will no doubt involve Williston, to which he remains grateful. “All that Michigan, Virginia, Harvard, and Oxford did was just shine the apple,” he says. “Williston gave me all the tools I needed to think and communicate.”