When comparing my experiences at high school, college and graduate school… It's clear that my ties are the strongest at Newark Academy. NA was an important part of my journey and had such a personal impact on what I became, and what I was able to achieve,” says John Bess ’69.
John shares this sentiment with his father, Jerome Bess ’40, who also graduated from NA and has continued his relationship with Newark Academy through 80 years. Recognizing that NA laid the foundation for both of them, the father and son have each continuously chosen to give back to Newark Academy every year for over 30 years, becoming recognized as Cupola Society members.
“Even though I wasn’t the number one student in class, I learned to appreciate education a lot more at NA than I did at public school,” Jerome says.
The two share fond memories from their time at NA.
Jerome is grateful for the group of friends made through days on the basketball and track teams and can even remember the names of every one one of his NA teachers. He attributes his success during his freshman year of college at Indiana University, where he got mostly straight A’s, to his NA teachers noting that they “prepared me for the change from high school to college.”
Jerome then went on to enlist in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, serving as 1st Lieutenant and a C-47 (military transport aircraft) pilot in the Allies’ Italian Campaign. Following the war, Jerome pursued a career in broadcasting and became president of the Sawdon & Bess agency, which became a subsidiary of Ted Bates Worldwide. He was also active in a number of professional organizations including the International Radio-Television Society and The Friars Club. “The rigorous academic experience provided at Newark Academy no doubt set me up for success in my broadcasting career later in life,” Jerome says.
Like Jerome, John credits The Academy for providing him with the foundational skills and characteristics needed to succeed in life, specifically in critical thinking. “I don’t care what you do or what your path is, critical thinking is really important, and Newark Academy does a masterful job in teaching kids how to think critically,” he says.
John, enjoyed a successful 27-year career at Procter & Gamble, overseeing some of the most recognizable consumer brands in the world. He says the writing skills he developed while at NA helped propel him forward throughout his career. “Great business writing is an art and a science, and people don’t walk in the door and have that skill. You learn it and I was fortunate. I had a lot of people who developed that in me. I wasn’t special, but I had a leg up because of the foundational stuff that came out of NA.”
In addition to his generous gifts, John serves the NA community on the Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee. Prior to that, he spent three years as president of the Alumni Board of Governors, having been a member of the BOG since 2007.
“I learned and saw the importance of being able to give back when you’re in a position to do that,” John says. “It’s not just about writing a check. It was also about giving time. It’s about giving back when you can help others, whether it’s financially or your experience that can help… being able to reapply that to helping an institution, there’s a lot of personal satisfaction in doing that.”
The Bess family knows that for Newark Academy to continue pushing its mission forward, there must be innovation and change – two things that are made possible through the generous gifts of John, his wife Joan and Jerome. Although Joan did not attend NA, “she’s just as much a part of our giving as I am,” John says. “She’s been very supportive, and I think she’s been able to see the impact in how things change, because I met Joan the day after I graduated from NA.”
Through giving, John hopes that NA students can take advantage of all the opportunities offered to them. He advises current students to cast the net wide in terms of their involvement and experiences. “Get exposed to as much as you can, this is an institution that lets you do that,” he says. “Learn how to be a leader. Learn how to influence others. That’ll be a much bigger determinant of your success going forward.”
Jerome’s advice is simple.
“Appreciate what you got now,” he says. “You’re going to need it later.”
On October 5, 2021, Jerome peacefully passed away at the age of 99. He will be missed by the Newark Academy community.
Ruth Antwi '10
“I wish for NA to continue its legacy of encouraging and producing students who are willing and prepared to innovate the world."
When Ruth Antwi ’10 saw the band and art rooms during a tour of Newark Academy, she told her parents that enrolling at NA was her only option.
Ruth fondly recalls taking class with her favorite arts teacher Elaine Brodie and joining the IB Art program to develop her ceramic skills. Ruth, who went on to become a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, never lost touch with the arts. She has continued to dabble in different artistic forms over the past few years, recently returning to a focus on ceramics. She even decided to reach back out to Elaine, who didn’t hesitate in finding the time to help her.
Now, Ruth gives back to Newark Academy year after year in hopes of assisting NA to provide “students of different cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds a well-rounded education that not only includes memorizing and understanding facts and equations, but also develops the discipline and skills to become impactful global citizens,” she says.
Ruth, a member of the Cupola Society which recognizes those who have supported the Annual Fund for five or more consecutive years, compares giving to NA like investing in a stock — there’s a 100 percent guaranteed short and long-term profit. She is also a member of the Ad Lumen Leadership Society, a group of donors who have demonstrated their commitment to Newark Academy at the highest levels of giving.
“It is such a rewarding feeling when I receive LUMEN and see the impact that my gift is having,” she says. “I know my gift is effective when a student is able to partake in a new experience or when a teacher is able to develop a new program or when the school acquires new equipment and completes a new structure. I just smile and think maybe my gift helped make that happen.”
Ruth says she continues to give back because she wants more students to be exposed to the same experiences and academic rigor that she received from NA.
“I wish for NA to continue its legacy of encouraging and producing students who are willing and prepared to innovate the world,” she says.