Saturday, July 22, 2017  

Building a Life, Building a Community

The stories of David and Margaret Broad’s journeys on the Rappahannock River begin in the same place, feature many of the same characters and center squarely on the importance of community. It all began more than 30 years ago, when their love of sailing and adventure brought them to the Northern Neck for what they intended to be a brief stay.  

 The Broads rented their home in England, packed nine suitcases and moved to Virginia. They moved in the summer of 1980 after living in England for ten years with faith that they would both quickly secure employment. The plan was to live in Reedville while they coordinated the restoration of Margaret’s parents’ newly acquired historic house.  

 “We came to this part of Virginia to prepare my parents’ retirement home and to sail,” Margaret said. “We just wanted an adventure. We wanted to do something different. We came for three years. We never intended to stay.”

 A brief conversation between two colleagues would vastly change that plan. In August of 1980, St. Margaret’s School’s then- Headmistress Viola Woolfolk was bemoaning the fact that she had been unable to find a French teacher for the upcoming school year to then-President of Church Schools in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia John Page Williams and his daughter-in-law who was Margaret’s cousin. Margaret’s name was given as a possible prospect and she traveled the hour from Reedville to interview.

 During her interview, Margaret and Viola discovered that Miss Woolfolk’s sister and Margaret’s mother had actually been schoolmates at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond.

 “It was all so Virginia,” Margaret says. “Such a small world.”

 Things began to fall into place as Viola found a house for the family to rent and childcare for the Broad’s young son. As soon as they knew where they were living, David went about securing employment and quickly found a job in Richmond. Thus began a thirty-three year relationship with the town of Tapphannock. For Margaret that meant eventually becoming head of school at St. Margaret’s. For David, that meant becoming a business owner in 1992 and a contributing member in the town’s growth.

 Margaret’s Legacy: Building a Community within the Community

“For me, it is about being surrounded by people who are passionate about the work they do, who care first and foremost about girls and each other and who embrace a mission that is important. My heart has been in the creation of the St. Margaret’s community.”

 When Margaret took the reins in the fall of 1989, St. Margaret’s School was a very different place. The dining hall was in the basement of Latane Hall. Built in 1950, Latane Hall was the newest building on campus, though other older campus buildings had seen extensive renovation. The athletic facilities were limited to the Ball Memorial Gymnasium and Gilchrist Field. Other than Latane Hall, the school had only one other dorm.

 The program was also very different. There were no residential, co-curricular, leadership or international programs, and the academic program was far more limited. Faced with declining enrollment, Margaret had her work cut out for her as head of school.

 During Margaret’s 23 years of leadership, the school’s academic program has changed drastically. Each student is given “For me, it is about being surrounded by people who are passionate about the work they do, who care first and foremost about girls and each other and who embrace a mission that is important. My heart has been in the creation of the St. Margaret’s community.”  an individual schedule that reflects her academic strengths and challenges. Students also have access to a rigorous academic program, which includes Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses. Through St. Margaret’s Dual Enrollment Program, students can even earn college credit for courses they take, which will allow them to by-pass some introductory-level courses in college.

 The physical characteristics of the school have also changed. St. Margaret’s has added the Viola Woolfolk Center, which houses the school’s library, some class spaces and the Louise M. Velletri Faculty Student Center. A new 24-student dorm was opened in 2005, and the school added a 42-acre Athletic Complex in 2007.

 “I see St. Margaret’s as anchoring the community, because it’s ensured the open space; it has ensured the preservation of our historic buildings, and it supports the community in so many ways,” Margaret says.

 Perhaps the addition that made the greatest impact in the community was the construction of The Community/Technology Center. Completed in 2000, the building is often rented for receptions and gatherings.

 “From the very beginning, that space was designed to be multipurpose and it was designed to welcome the community in,” Margaret says. “It has been a huge success in being able to be used by the local community.”

 In fact, it is one of only two gathering places with a river view between Fredericksburg and the Chesapeake Bay (the other is the Tides Inn).

 Another important way St. Margaret’s impacts the local community is through outreach—an important lesson for students and an important part of the school’s mission.

 “Part of our mission is outreach to others. Our girls love being genuinely involved in things going on in the community,” Margaret says.

 In addition to traditional outreach, St. Margaret’s has donated special art projects created by students to the community. For example, students created beaded birds representing concepts such as faith, hope and love that hang in the lobby of Riverside Tapphannock Hospital.

 “If you sit in that hospital lobby and look up at those birds,” Margaret says. “You can’t help but feel hope.”

 David’s Passion: Bringing the Community Together

 David’s connection to the local community began slowly. It started with an invitation to join the Rotary Club from Southside Bank President Tom Boyd.

 In 1992, David opened his own business, Digital Wisdom, and began creating digital cartography and imaging for adver- Margaret Broad holds leadership class in St. Margaret’s Hall advertisements and publications. He also began programming websites for more than 20 businesses, churches and public entities, including St. Margaret’s.

 For the past 10 years, David has maintained the Essex County website; a job he says further educated him about the local area.

 “You have to talk to a huge number of people to gather information and you begin to realize how the community fits together,” David says. “That’s probably the first time that I started interacting with people in town and taking an interest in what was around me.”

 In addition to his work on websites, David currently serves on the board of Tappahannock’s Rotary Club, is a founder and Steering Committee member of RivahFest, serves on the board of the Essex County Museum, acts as treasurer for the Tappahannock Main Street Program, and helps coordinate the Tappahannock Farmers’ Market.

 Perhaps David’s most impactful work is with the events he and his fellow volunteers have planned for the local community. For the past 11 years, downtown Tappahannock and the St. Margaret’s campus have been home to RivahFest, a one day festival dedicated to celebrating the river and the people who love it, and making Tappahannock a showcase for our region.

 The event features a mix of bands, moon bounces, craft vendors, all types of food, children’s activities and games, carriage rides, a duck derby and an antique car show. Since its inception, crowds have nearly doubled.

 “It’s gone from 6,000 attendees to 12,000 attendees,” David says. “It’s about reached the optimum size and that’s as large as we want it to become!”.

 It is an event that features over 500 community volunteers, a pretty significant number considering the Town of Tappahannock is home to 2,000 people.

 David credits the success of the event to hard work and key supporters within the community, including EVB and Essex Bank community banks, local radio station WRAR, and St. Margaret’s.

 Consistent efforts to promote the event have also contributed the success of RivahFest. David has created a comprehensive website for RivahFest and amassed an impressive Facebook following. Additionally, he works with other volunteers to maintain a constant presence in local media, in newspapers and on the radio.

 “Our partnership with WRAR has been key,” David says.

 David was also instrumental in developing the town’s relatively new, signature event, the Tappahannock Farmers’ Market. The farmers’ market takes place in historic downtown Tapphannock starting in April through November. The event is an offshoot of the Main Street Program, and has grown exponentially since its inception in 2010.

 “It’s amazing that as people see the market develop, people start coming up with new ideas,” David says. “It’s neat to be able to nurture home craft, home businesses and help people become mini entrepreneurs.”

 For David, the benefits of continuing to improve the community are inherent.

 “You forge good relationships with people and you really get a lot of satisfaction out of it. It helps to make your life and the community around you that much richer,” he says.

 For David and Margaret Broad, their three-year adventure has turned into an enduring relationship with a community.

 As Margaret puts it, “We have always believed that you have to feel good about where you live,” Margaret says. “In Tappahannock, we’ve found the beauty of the river, the joy of sharing our lives with others, and a sense of purpose and tranquility.”

 St. Margaret’s School serves girls in grades 8-12, boarding and day. To learn more about St. Margaret’s, log on to www.sms.org or viewbook.sms.org.