UCA Foundation Founder Retires

Tom Stanyer, Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) class of 1950 and a founder of Upper Columbia Academy Foundation, recently stepped down after serving the foundation for more than a decade — first as a key visionary, then as its first vice president, its second president, and ultimately its treasurer.

UCA has a legacy of great academic achievement and inspiration. The core of life is centered in a relationship with God and each other, and, as generations of grateful students can testify, this unique experience is life-transforming. No more vital mission was ever entrusted to humankind than the education of its young.

Despite its vital mission, the school had some serious financial concerns in 2003 that threatened its long-term health. UCA’s leaders wisely invited a few of its most loyal, supportive alumni — successful people who cared deeply about the mission — to grapple with the issue and challenged them to come up with a plan to ensure the school’s sustainability. Stanyer was honored to be a participant in that discussion.

Before retiring in 1997, Stanyer was a leading engineer and administrator with Boeing Co. He had a mindset for innovation and extraordinary evaluation and decision-making skills. Stanyer had also served on church and school boards at all levels. He had chaired the Auburn (Wash.) Adventist Academy finance committee and served on its board of directors. As a lay member, he had served on the executive committees of the conference, union and North American Division. Stanyer knew how to get things done in the church environment as well.

“After some discussion, the solution seemed to center around an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with its own board of directors and an endowment fund managed by a bank," Stanyer explains. "We all agreed that our sole purpose would be grants and scholarships for UCA students.” 

Stanyer describes how the group further envisioned a separation from the organized church — not due to any animus, but to assure donors there was no possibility of the endowed fund being spent differently in the future. The group thought separation might also energize some of the lay people, especially those who were less enthused about church politics and/or policies.

“As we perceived it, UCA would receive a secondary benefit in that the grants and scholarships would help stabilize the school’s enrollment," Stanyer says. "This assumption has now proven true as UCA is the largest conference-owned boarding academy in the North American Division.”

Since those early days of visioning, the UCA Foundation has been quietly fulfilling its mission of raising and managing money and awarding grants and scholarships, enabling students to participate in UCA’s life-transforming education. The UCA Foundation has $1.7 million in assets, and it has bestowed more than 500 awards to UCA students totaling nearly a half million dollars.

With Stanyer’s resignation, only one board member remains who sat around that brainstorming table in October 2003 — Jaclin Smith. Nevertheless, Stanyer is optimistic about the future of UCA Foundation. “We did our work well," he says. "The bylaws and articles of incorporation will continue to guide the organization. The new board members have the same passion for the cause that we had. We accomplished what was needed. Now it is time for the next generation of lay leaders to take the organization to the next level.”

August 21, 2014 / Upper Columbia Conference