Generous donors bestow $5M upon Woodlands Academy

Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest has announced that it has secured $5 million in leadership gifts from donors as part of its continuing efforts in a major gift initiative to propel the school forward into the future. The top donations include one $1.25 million gift, three $1 million gifts and one $500,000 gift.

Barbara Wood-Prince, who attended Woodlands for two years, donated $1 million to the major gift initiative, plus an additional $250,000, the latter to be used for scholarships for deserving students from a local parish grade school. The Lake Forest resident is a past member and chair of the Woodlands Board of Trustees. “It is a joy and a privilege to be able to support Woodlands Academy,” said Wood-Prince. “The school has been, and continues to be, a real treasure. Not only does it provide an outstanding education for our young women, but it strengthens the faith and character that will sustain them for a lifetime.”

Woodlands alumna Mary Callahan Erdoes, ’85 donated $1 million to support efforts in STEM scholarships and programming. Erdoes is Chief Executive Officer of JP Morgan Chase’s Asset & Wealth Management line of business – one of the largest and most respected investment managers and private banks in the world with $4 trillion in client assets.  The Winnetka native ranked #40 on the most current Forbes list of “The World’s Most Powerful Women.”

In April of 2021, Erdoes spoke to Woodlands Academy students at one of the school’s “Imagine Yourself in the C-Suite” programs. “The three years I was at the school provided me with what could have equaled 30 years of grounding and strength,” Erdoes told her young audience. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my years at Woodlands.”

Mike and Rita Mooney are the grandparents of a current student. They donated $1 million in support of the school and were joined by their son and daughter-in law, Lynda and Mike Mooney, Jr., who committed another $500,000. “Woodlands has provided our daughter with a nurturing environment and myriad opportunities allowing her to flourish academically, athletically, socially and spiritually,” said Lynda Mooney, who currently serves as chair of the Woodlands Academy Board of Trustees. “She will enter college and years following well-equipped with not only a superior education, but with confidence, direction and determination.  We are so grateful she attends Woodlands.”

The donor of the final $1 million, who has asked to remain anonymous, said “As a proud alumna, as well as the mother of a graduate, I can attest to the multilayered and enduring value of a Woodlands education. My husband and I firmly believe in investing in the future of this exceptional school that has immeasurably impacted our family and encourage others to join us in support of the education of its students.”

The balance of nearly $250,000 is comprised of the generosity of current families, above and beyond their annual fundraising contributions.

“In what many organizations have found to be one of the most challenging years in memory- due to the obstacles created by the pandemic – I am humbled and inspired by these donors,” Head of School Dawn Nichols, Ed.D., said. “Their support is a testament to the strength, integrity and caliber of the Sacred Heart education Woodlands provides its students every day.  Their generosity will inspire others in the days to come.”

Woodlands Academy is an independent Catholic day-and-boarding high school for young women in grades nine through 12 that promotes academic, artistic and athletic excellence along with global awareness, social responsibility and strong faith. 

According to 2022 rankings by Niche, an independent research company, Woodlands Academy was once again the #1 Best All-girls High School in Illinois and the #1 Best Catholic High School in Illinois. With an overall grade of A+, this is the fifth year in a row that Niche has ranked Woodlands the #1 Best All-girls High School in Illinois.

In 2020, Woodlands Academy was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School. This coveted award is based on a school's overall academic performance. It affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.