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FAME's History

Education pioneer Dr. Helen Faison and FAME Scholar, Lamar Pickett – photo taken 2009

While proud of its rich history, FAME's focus is on the future. The organization is moving at a measured and deliberate pace towards achieving its goal of supporting the academic growth and holistic development of 100 Scholars each year. FAME looks forward to strengthening our existing partnerships while working on developing new relationships.

A collaborative effort among Sewickley Academy, The Ellis School, St. Edmund's Academy, Winchester Thurston School, and Shady Side Academy worked to find funding so that talented African American students with significant financial need attending low-achieving public schools, would have the opportunity to attend academically challenging independent schools in the Greater Pittsburgh area.



The concept of FAME was developed in 1993 when founder, Ron Gebhardt, was Chairman of the Board of Sewickley Academy. He and members of the Boards of other independent schools in the Greater Pittsburgh area were concerned with the low enrollment of African American students in independent schools, as well as the lack of an African American presence in the corporate community. Seeking a solution to increase diversity in local independent schools as well as the local corporate community, Mr. Gebhardt visited the Fund for Independent Schools of Cincinnati (FISC). FISC was founded to "help develop a new generation of African American leadership in Greater Cincinnati" by offering scholarships to lower income African American students to attend independent schools and became the model for FAME. The consortium of schools made a commitment that FAME would award scholarships in the amount of $5,000 per student and, in collaboration with the independent schools, the FAME Scholars would be funded as required to meet their financial need.



The Richard King Mellon Foundation approved a conditional grant payable to FAME within a three-year period at the discretion of the Foundation, to fund scholarships for FAME students to attend the independent partner schools. That year, one FAME student was enrolled into each of these five schools. In 1996, the Foundation's challenge grant was matched by the generous contributions received from several additional donors.



Five years after FAME sent its first five Scholars to partner schools, 32 FAME Scholars were enrolled, $3 million was raised from 163 donors, and the first FAME Scholar graduated from high school.



FAME integrated the first new school into the partner school consortium since the program's inception - The Kiski School. The Kiski School is an all-boys boarding school about an hour's drive outside of Pittsburgh. In both 2016 and 2017, a FAME scholar was named the Valedictorian at The Kiski School.



With much preparation and promise, FAME launched a new initiative called FAME Academy. FAME Academy is a preparatory program for rising 7th graders who have the potential to benefit from an independent school education. Academy students participate in summer programs and attend weekly Saturday classes and various programmatic events during the school year. The first FAME Academy class consisted of 22 students who went on to attend partner schools and institutions of higher learning.



FAME established a relationship with the addition of the Western Reserve Academy (WRA) in Hudson, Ohio to its group of partner schools. The relatively close geographical proximity of WRA to the Greater Pittsburgh area made the school a good fit for FAME Scholars.



FAME Academy graduated its first Scholars. Currently, there are approximately 80 Scholars actively enrolled in the FAME program. FAME Scholars have had outstanding results at our partner schools and institutions of higher learning upon graduation. In total, FAME has helped many students graduate from high school with 100% of our Scholars being accepted at colleges and universities. These range from Ivy League schools to large and small public institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's).



FAME graduates its first students from Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio                                                            



For the first time in FAME’s history, each member of the class of 2020 received a college scholarship courtesy of Arts, Equity & Education foundation.

FAME’s Scholars and Academy programming respond to the Covid-19 global pandemic by offering 100% virtual programming.

The FAME Leaders’ Circle is a distinguished group of FAME Scholars who set themselves apart through academics, program participation, service, leadership, and extra-curricular involvement.