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Building on the momentum of the initial phase of the Ladue Education Foundation’s (LEF) capital campaign, which we secured nearly $2 million in pledges toward the renovation of Ladue Horton Watkins High School (LHWHS), the LEF is now moving to phase two, offering naming rights and opportunities to our supporters, alumni and district families. We invite the community to be a part of this important event in our district's history. Naming rights are still available for classrooms, a "green" roof, outdoor seating, and other enrichment areas and athletic facilities.

Commemorative Bricks are also a terrific way to support the campaign, while leaving a legacy as part of the new high school campus. Bricks are available until January, 2018. 

The LEF is extremely grateful to those who donated or pledged in the early phase of the capital campaign to support renovations at LHWHS. The generosity of these donors demonstrated both community support and the willingness of many to take a leadership role.

For more information, see our Capital Campaign page



At 90 years old, most people would be ready to spend their days with their feet up. However, Phil Brusca is not like most people. After 40 years of coaching track—32 of those years as a coach at Ladue Horton Watkins High School—Phil still hasn't hung up his track shoes!  Not only does he start every day with exercise, he is a regular at local and regional athletic competitions and has a huge collection of medals, plaques, and other awards recognizing his wins. Phil finished 2016 with a U.S. Masters Athlete top-10 national ranking in shot put, discus, hammer throw, javelin throw and weight throw and was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame. This year, he has already competed in four Masters events, placing first in several categories. “Being 90 means there is very little competition,” he says modestly, but the nonagenarian who looks decades younger has a lot to be proud of. 
Phil’s love of sports and his road to coaching started when he returned to Missouri after serving in the military during World War II.  His service earned him 3 ½ years of free college tuition, which he spent at the University of Missouri-Columbia, majoring in physical education. With one semester needed to graduate, his track coach helped him obtain a scholarship, and he completed his degree. After graduating, he stayed in the Columbia area for eight years, coaching at two of the local high schools. During his time in Columbia, he coached an Olympic Medal winner, and then, “Ladue came knocking, and I came home to St. Louis and stayed at Ladue High School for 32 years,” he says. “I could have retired 10 years earlier, but I loved what I was doing!”
Phil’s success at Ladue did not go unnoticed by other schools in the area. “I was offered jobs elsewhere, including at junior colleges, but I didn’t go,” he says.  He felt LHWHS was home. “At Ladue you get top kids who excel. They become professionals like doctors and lawyers and even professional athletes,” he explains. That educational environment made for better teams to coach, he says. The physical environment at the high school also set the school apart. “When I started, the track was made of cinder,” he says. “Dr. Nicholas, the superintendent, set out to build a new track with eight lanes.” However, during that time, there was a flood that caused damage to the school and the budget was cut. “So the track went from eight lanes to six, but six was better than zero!” Phil remembers.
When he’s not attending LHWHS class reunions to catch up with his former students or watching the citywide track invitational event that is his namesake, you can find Phil on that same Ladue track, practicing for his Masters events.  “Life has been wonderful for me,” he says. “Having the knowledge that I taught students well enough that their experiences with me could help shape their future in a positive way is the best and most satisfying reward I could ask for.”

The LEF is thrilled to honor Coach Phil at the Annual Community Breakfast on October 6. If you’d like to include a quote about Phil in a book that will be presented to him, please email Photos for a slideshow and/or collage are also being collected and can be sent to


Whether it’s through traveling the world, serving on numerous leadership boards, his membership in the St. Louis Curling Club (yes, St. Louis has a club for the ice sport played with stones and brooms) or the fact that he came to Ladue Schools as a high schooler, Vin Ko brings a unique perspective to his position on the LEF Board. “The Ladue School District is a special place for me,” says Vin. Even though he grew up in the district, his parents opted to enroll him in the desegregation program, where he attended a public school outside of the district from kindergarten through tenth grade. His junior year, he transferred back to Ladue Horton Watkins High School, which he says had a profound impact on him. “The opportunity provided me with a lot of perspective. Though my time at Ladue was short relative to my classmates, it had a profound impact on my career path and instilled a passion in me for community development.”

Vin has taken that passion and made a career of it. After graduating in 2005, he attended college at the University of California Santa Barbara, where he earned a political science degree. He came back to St. Louis in 2010 and is currently a Senior Program Manager at the St. Louis Mosaic project, a regional initiative that is part of the World Trade Center—St. Louis and the St. Louis Economic Development Project, focused on growing the region’s foreign-born population and economy. “As Senior Program Manager, I ensure the success of Mosaic's targeted programs by managing and supporting many groups that fall under its umbrella, including over 700 Mosaic Ambassadors, high-tech and neighborhood entrepreneurs, newcomer job seekers, and international student retention initiatives in St. Louis.”

Vin’s job is not the only thing that keeps him busy and involved in the community. “I started a local pick-up soccer organization known as St. Louis Pick Up Soccer, which grew from 40 people to over 4,000 members playing all over the region,” Vin says. He has been a member of the St. Louis Emerging Leaders Program and served on numerous boards, including the TEDxGatewayArch Leadership Board, the St. Louis Civic Pride Foundation Executive Board and the Downtown STL Inc. Board of Directors. He credits his inspiration for being involved with such a diverse swath of causes to his experience at Ladue Schools. “The Ladue School District is surprisingly diverse and houses some of the most passionate and dedicated teachers I have ever seen,” he says. “There are so many of my fellow graduates working to make the St. Louis region better. It is exciting to see how the district continues its commitment to providing resources and opportunities for students to excel not only in college but for their future careers.” The LEF Board feels fortunate to be a beneficiary of that commitment through members and alumni like Vin.

Jim McKelvey on Ladue Schools

"Ladue taught me how to learn," says Jim McKelvey, LHWHS class of 1983 and an inventor, serial entrepreneur, pilot, artist and author.  "It was at Ladue that I got the skills to acquire the knowledge I needed."

While best known for co-founding the mobile payments company Square, Jim is also a master glass artist and author, having written the world’s most widely read text on the subject, The Art Of Fire. He is the founder of Third Degree Glass Factory, one of the nation’s main centers of glass blowing arts, and several other companies. His designs have been featured in both the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art.

Jim's combination of entrepreneurship and creativity makes him an ideal fit for the Ladue Education Foundation's spring fundraiser on April 28, "Innovation Celebration." In a conversation with Ladue Horton Watkins High School teacher Hannah Behr, Jim will discuss his experience at Ladue Schools and the work he is doing to help bring innovation to St. Louis.

"Twelve years in the district, and it was--and still is--the formative part of my education," says Jim. "I was so far ahead of the average Wash U student entering, I was tutoring subjects that I learned in high school to my fellow college classmates." Jim is a 1987 graduate of Washington University with degrees in Economics and Computer Science and is a recipient of the school's Alumni Achievement Award.

In 2013, Jim founded the nonprofit LaunchCode Foundation to address the worldwide shortage of programmers. Last year, President Obama held LaunchCode up as a model for the nation.

Jim McKelvey holds the belief that nothing is impossible and that problems are beautiful things. He tackles the world’s biggest challenges with breakthrough ideas, all driven by his personal motto: “If not you, then who; if not now, then when.”

For tickets to Innovation Celebration and a chance to hear Jim McKelvey, see this link.


Get to Know Gabriela Burian

Gabriela Burian, Business and Community Partnerships Chair for the LEF, has lived in Ladue since she and her family moved here from Brazil five years ago. Gabriela and her husband, Eric, chose Ladue on the advice of friends because of the great public schools. Gabriela credits the Ladue School District community as being her first “family” in the USA.

“We arrived from Brazil with a seven-year-old son (Artur) and an eleven-year-old daughter (Alice). My son at this time did not speak English,” Gabriela says. “They both received the best support available from the teachers, including English as a Second Language.” With this impressive support, both kids are excelling, feeling at home with friends, have joined many clubs and have been invited to become honor society members.

Gabriela was inspired to join the LEF as a way to give back. “From teachers and parents, we learned about the importance of the Ladue Education Foundation in supporting the district.”

The transition to Missouri wasn’t completely smooth, however. As Gabriela explains, “We moved from Brazil to St. Louis in a sunny August, and our first decision, as a family, was to always bike from home to work and/or school, since it's more sustainable and better for health, too. But that first winter taught us the hard way that we were not prepared to face biking in the snow,” Gabriela laughs.

Gabriela is the global director for Sustainable Agriculture at Monsanto, responsible for key global partnerships helping farmers to ensure food for all, while conserving more. “As a mother I know how important this vision and our work are for my children,” Gabriela says.

She feels she has found a great fit in Ladue, which she describes as “an inclusive and diverse community, with the same vision: Together we can have better performance, happier children and a more sustainable journey.”





Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

As a partner of the Ladue School District, the Ladue Education Foundation continues to focus on inclusion and tolerance in our ongoing mission. In addition to character education initiatives that address diversity issues, the district has engaged several community organizations to provide additional assistance. The LEF is proud to contribute to these efforts by funding key grants prioritizing educational equity and diversity. 

Most recently, the LEF secured a grant from Wells Fargo to provide funding for instruments for grades four through twelve for students who wish to participate in music programs, but whose families are unable to afford the instrument rental fees.

Cycle of Success at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, partially funded by the LEF, coordinates extracurricular interventions that promote the achievement of all students at LHWHS (with a primary focus on the African American student population).  

In addition, a Moving and Learning Lab at Old Bonhomme Elementary serves therapeutic and movement purposes for children with a range of special needs.

Past years’ grants have included literacy programs that provide books to create home libraries for low-income families at LECC, programs that match struggling readers with limited access to reading materials with appropriate books and partners to help engage them over the summer, programs that provide select students with no home computers with access to iPads, and a program that matches underperforming elementary students with middle school students who serve as mentors.

The LEF remains committed to diverse initiatives that meet the needs of all students across all schools in the district, and we thank our generous and supportive community for empowering us to do so.



Get to Know LEF Board Member and Ladue Alum Charles Mems

The Ladue Education Foundation welcomes its newest member to the board, Charles Mems. Charles graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School in 2002 and has continued his involvement in the district ever since. He is the co-founder of the Ladue Girls Basketball club and currently coaches the eighth grade girls' team. He also spent time as a teaching assistant at Reed Elementary School. Many students remember him fondly as the director of the after-school care program there, BASK.

The LEF was a natural fit for Charles, as community involvement and giving back are important to him. “If we want to give our students all the tools necessary to be leaders in the future, we have to be able to supply them with modern opportunities and new ways of thinking. With education budgets being squeezed as tightly as they are these days, everything we can do will matter. There is no better time to get involved and support our schools,” he says. His passion for the district was born out of his tenure as a student, and his respect for the high quality of the schools and the teachers has grown since. “The amount of hard work and time that each of the teachers put into the curriculum is outstanding. It is an honor to be a part of something so great,” he says.

Charles, who is currently a Regional Sales Account Executive for the St. Louis Post Dispatch/, has talents that extend beyond teaching, coaching and mentoring--he loves to sing. “I tried out for American Idol four times and sang to my beautiful wife as she walked down the aisle on our wedding day.” The LEF is excited to harmonize with Charles and his enthusiasm for our district.

Parents and Kids Learn About the Impact of Screens on Our Lives

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On Wednesday, November 30, LHWHS Parent Association, LMS Parent Association, Ladue West Parent Association, and Ladue Education Foundation presented the film Screenagers at LHWHS. The film explores family life and the struggles many parents face with kids' use of social media, video games, and internet addiction. Over one hundred people attended the event, where they watched the hour-long film and then discussed it afterward with panelists who provided additional insight and suggestions for finding balance. The panelists were Joyce Davis, Counselor at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, Nichole Dawsey, Director of Prevention Education at NCADA, Beth Phillips, Digital Marketing Strategist for St. Charles County, and Tony Tramelli, Therapist at West County Psychological. The film was also shown to students at Ladue Middle School.

Parents are encouraged to sign up for Tech Talk Tuesdays, an email that includes weekly talking points for parents and their kids to continue the discussion of how technology impacts our lives. Parents are also encouraged to review the attached guide for more tips and talking points about kids and technology. 

Five New Grants Awarded

In the fall of 2016, five new grants were funded, which provide diverse educational opportunities to Ladue students across the district:

Arianna String Quartet
The Arianna String Quartet will visit the high school orchestra classes 4-5 times to work with students on advanced pieces of music and to share with students the experiences of professional performing musicians. Students will also see the quartet perform in concert.

Eclipse Eyewear
Eclipse glasses were purchased for all staff and students, preK-12, in order to safely observe all phases of the total eclipse on August 21, 2017. The total eclipse will be the first for Ladue School District students, since the last one occurred in St. Louis in 1979, when many observed the eclipse using pin-holes in shoe boxes! This is a major scientific event, and is especially exciting because St. Louis is in the "Zone of Totality.” 

Google Expeditions
Google Expeditions uses Google's vast library of resources, such as Google Earth and Google Street View, to make a collection(s) of virtual reality panoramas and 3D images, annotated with details, points of interest and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.

Mini PCR Beta Test
LHWHS teacher Monica Bowman was awarded a Ladue Education Foundation grant for her innovative proposal. Students will use field-grade biotech equipment to work on the Plant DNA Barcode Project within the Deer Creek Watershed to help us better manage and maintain our floodplain with additional future work projected in other areas once our LHWHS greenhouse is built.

Refurbishment of French Horns
This grant to refurbish the entire collection of French horns in Ladue Schools was made possible by the generous support of Scott Hammann.

STEM Scouts (Continuation)
STEM Scouts is a national pilot program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) focused on fun ways for girls and boys, grades 3 – 12, to learn more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). STEM Scouts encourages the natural curiosity of young minds as they develop skills in leadership, teamwork, problem solving, and communication. Using hands-on activities, field trips, and interaction with STEM professionals, youth expand their knowledge of academic concepts while they have fun and make friends. The LEF is proud to partner with the BSA and Ladue School District STEM Coordinator, Dr. Kevin McColgan, to bring this pilot program to our schools.

"How to Raise an Adult" Author to Speak April 25


Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult, will speak at John Burroughs School April 25, 2017, 7-8:30 p.m. This event is co-sponsored by JBS, Priory, Whitfield, and Ladue (LEF, LHWHSPA & LMSPA). Tickets are free, but are limited to middle and high school parents (due to capacity). RSVP to

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims draws on research, on conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers, and on her own insights as a mother and as a student dean to highlight the ways in which overparenting harms children, their stressed-out parents, and society at large. While empathizing with the parental hopes and, especially, fears that lead to overhelping, Lythcott-Haims offers practical alternative strategies that underline the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes and develop the resilience, resourcefulness, and inner determination necessary for success.

Of special value to parents of teens, this book is a rallying cry for those who wish to ensure that the next generation can take charge of their own lives with competence and confidence.