Ann Womble brings more than 20 years of management and leadership experience to the Lancaster Education Foundation, which named her its executive director in December 2019.
She is an immediate former member of the Millersville University Council of Trustees and Executive Director of Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning, Womble is a leader in local and statewide higher education policy development.
We sat down with Ann to talk about her background and her vision for the foundation.
You have a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and an MBA. What led you into the nonprofit and education world?
I majored in history and political science at Furman University in 1989. I did that because I believed, and still do, that the mark of a truly educated person is to have a working knowledge of the grand sweep of human history, and to understand the sources and pitfalls of power. I figured the best way of understanding both of those things most directly was to major in both history and political science, even though my strongest subject out of high school was math. You could say I’m a dedicated liberal arts person to the core.
Then, I obtained an MBA at the University of Florida because I also believed in the practicality and efficiency of business operations. Then, I gravitated to the nonprofit world because it fit most nicely with the schedule I needed for my growing family when I moved to Lancaster in 1995, and it fit my mission-mindedness. Plus, no one else wanted to run the fundraisers, so I always did.
What attracted you to taking on the executive director role with LEF?
My two youngest children are students at McCaskey. [She has five children.] When I read the job description, I knew it was a complete heart and mind fit for me, and that the only task left was to prove to the directors that I had the skills and abilities to tackle the job.
I am a total believer in the power of education to be the great equalizer in our society, and for it to be successful, it must be nurtured in the K-12 space for all children. Our great social compact in America is to provide an education to all children within our borders through age 16 or grade 12, regardless of any other status. That’s a great and mighty mission, and SDoL is a microcosm of America in providing social and learning support for the very newest and neediest in our midst, and also academic excellence for the most advanced learners at all stages. It’s a wonderful place to be and I am honored to be a part of the team.
How important of a role do you feel foundations like LEF play in K-12 education today?
We play a strong role, but it could and should be even stronger, in a financial sense. For example, many businesses in Lancaster County give contributions to private schools through the EITC program in order to provide scholarships for students to attend those schools. Those same businesses may or may not understand that they can also give contributions to organizations like LEF, an Educational Improvement Organization as defined by Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which serve to improve public school districts and whose enrichment and support programs affect far more students in our communities than just individual scholarships. Each public school district in Lancaster County has its own educational improvement foundation, and I urge EITC-eligible businesses to consider these foundations in their upcoming rounds of contributions in exchange for state income tax credits.
At Millersville, you chaired the trustees’ University Resources Committee and the last presidential search committee. What did you learn from that experience that will help you grow LEF?
My experience as a trustee at Millersville University was one of the most valuable professional and personal experiences of my life. I recently cycled off the board when my six-year term expired in January. As the Resources chair for five of those years, I became intimately familiar with large enterprise budgetary matters, most importantly the sources and uses of funds. I also served on several task forces of the PASSHE System Redesign effort that has been underway for two years. This higher education realignment will and should affect K-12 education in Pennsylvania, and SDoL is poised to benefit from its future increased focus on workforce development.
It was also my honor to lead the presidential search committee in 2017-18, which brought to the university and our community a great, visionary leader in Dr. Daniel Wubah. He has already made a significant impact in our community, and I know he has a goal of working very closely with SDoL to improve higher education attainment among our high school graduates.
What should people in the SDoL community know about LEF that, perhaps, they do not?
LEF is the vehicle through which individuals and businesses who want to impact the lives of our talented and sometimes needy local students can do so, through contributions to programs or scholarships. It’s the avenue through which our talented and dedicated teachers can receive funding for innovative equipment or programming for their classrooms. It’s also a way to simply Adopt a Classroom, at any school in the district, so that those teachers can provide basic supplies for their students in need. LEF exists to support teaching excellence and student success, and through our efforts and yours, many more students can thrive.
Fig Lancaster just named LEF its social mission partner for 2020. What kind of impact do you hope that has on the organization?
The Fig recognition is a tremendous honor for LEF, but it’s also a big responsibility on our part this year. Fig is a premier regional advertising and marketing juggernaut, but more importantly it is owned by a family who has a huge heart for boosting the City of Lancaster. I hope this partnership results in increased awareness in the business community for ways in which they can significantly impact underserved students in our midst through innovative programs and classroom tools that will change lives and provide opportunities that are usually taken for granted in suburban districts. I also hope it will inspire our dedicated teachers who always need to feel that they are supported and appreciated.
How would you describe your vision for LEF in the next five or 10 years?
I dream big. Always have. I sincerely believe that LEF can steadily grow into a significant advancement operation for SDoL over time, perhaps even tackling capital campaigns that align with the strategic priorities set forth by the school board and the superintendent. Those things will require the shared vision of our generous Lancaster philanthropic community and our dedicated alumni. But I believe we have an opportunity to make that kind of BIG IMPACT for the greater good of our students and families and I will keep pushing into those territories.
What else should we know about you?
I grew up in Florida. My husband and I moved to Lancaster in 1996 with one child and knowing absolutely no one north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Thank you, Lancaster, for being the greater village that has helped us rear five children for the last 24 years and has become our forever home. I cannot be thankful enough, or give back enough, but this position will be my try for as long as I am able.
To learn more about how you can support LEF: