This story appears in the fall/winter edition of the Woodward magazine, which will be arriving in homes this week and next.
Ron M. Brill loves Woodward Academy and believes strongly in the school’s ability to develop students into ethical problem solvers who understand the perspectives of others and create positive change——the kind of leaders the world needs. For his 75th birthday, Mr. Brill’s family honored him and his legacy by establishing the Ron M. Brill Chair for Ethical Leadership Development.
“Ron Brill is a leader of great character and integrity. His leadership was crucial to the success of The Home Depot, which has made a tremendous impact on our city’s economy, and we’re profoundly grateful that he has shared his vision with Woodward for 26 years as a member of our Governing Board,” said Woodward President Stuart Gulley. “It’s truly fitting that his family has chosen to honor him by creating a lasting legacy that will allow his values to shape future leaders.”
A co-founder, first official employee, and longtime chief administrative officer of The Home Depot, Mr. Brill serves as a board member for the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and the High Museum of Art, and previously served on the corporate boards of The Home Depot, Circuit City, and Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy. An avid skier, golfer, photographer, and art collector, he and his wife, Lisa, are the proud parents of Liz and Jonathan Brill ’91 and Staci and Matt Brill ’95 and grandparents to Ryan ’26 and Olivia ’28.
The entire family surprised Mr. Brill at a Governing Board meeting this fall by announcing the creation of the endowed chair in his name with a $1 million commitment to the Onward Woodward campaign in celebration of his 75th birthday. It’s a birthday gift that will keep giving to Woodward, and the world, for generations, and it came as a complete surprise to Mr. Brill. “I’m still in shock that my family could keep this from me for the last year,” he said. “I could not be more honored to have my name linked to a Woodward legacy which so clearly defines my beliefs.”
Mrs. Brill said celebrating her husband in this way holds special meaning for all of the family. “Our family sees this gift as the perfect blend of our love and respect for Ron, his and our deep commitment to Woodward Academy, and our hopes for a more connected and ethical world,” she said.
Beginning next fall, the endowment will provide funds to staff and support programming to educate and attune Woodward students to their unique role in the immediate community and the larger world. “The chair will strengthen the ability of Woodward students to act responsibly in the context of real-world dilemmas and effect positive change in their communities,” said Dr. Chris Freer, Vice President for Advancement. “Currently, this role falls on our faculty, but to achieve excellence and meet our strategic goals, Woodward needs a leader to coordinate and oversee this initiative across all grades.”
The Brill chair will be part of Woodward’s Institute for Ethics & Civic Engagement, which will help fulfill the Academy’s vision to develop ethical problem solvers. This will happen through specific coursework as well as ethical lessons within existing courses in grades pre-K through 12. The chair will coordinate and enhance the programs Woodward already offers, which include Community Builders at the Primary School; Student Council at Woodward North; the Lower School’s Ambassadors program; Peer Helpers in the Middle School; and an Ethical Leadership course, Peer Leadership, SGA, Service Leadership Board, and Advisory Council in the Upper School. “Ethics will be taught in age-appropriate ways throughout the Academy to strengthen the moral compass of students as they’re developing,” said Dr. Freer.
Woodward is in a unique position to do this work. “Because of the wide range of backgrounds, cultures, faiths, and learning styles represented in our student body, Woodward students learn empathy and better understand the perspectives of others,” Dr. Gulley said. “This establishes the essential foundation for all ethical leadership.”
For the immediate future, endowment income will support a salary supplement for an existing faculty member who will develop and teach the Ethical Leadership course and lead Academy-wide efforts in character work. When the endowment grows, the chair will become a full-time position. For more information or to contribute to the Ron M. Brill Chair for Ethical Leadership or the Institute for Ethics & Civic Engagement, contact the Advancement Office at 404.765.4030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.