Hartford Foundation Announces New Jeff Digel Memorial Fund for the Benefit of Covenant Preparatory School

Fund created in memory of school’s cofounder to contribute to tuition-free preparatory middle school’s sustainability 

In 2008, Jeff Digel, who had spent most of his career in real estate finance and development, met Patrick Moore. Patrick was looking for a site for a tuition-free school for boys from underserved families in the Hartford area. Moore wanted to provide students with a strong academic foundation that would enable them to attend private and parochial schools, and ultimately attend college. He also wanted to focus on teaching the importance of living lives of character and integrity, and in service to others. Moore shared his vision with Digel, who embraced the idea. 

Together, Digel and Moore co-founded Covenant Preparatory School. Through his extensive network of friends and business connections, Digel helped locate a site, provided the initial startup capital, raised an additional $1 million from donors, established the board of directors, and served as the first chairman of the board.

As a tribute to Digel’s support for Covenant, an anonymous donor has created the Jeff Digel Memorial Endowment Fund for the Benefit of Covenant Preparatory School at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The fund will support Covenant Preparatory School’s operating expenses.

“´╗┐One of the main catalysts for Jeff’s co-founding of Covenant Prep was educational inequality,” the donor said. “He was focused on the contrast between public education in the suburbs as opposed to inner cities and rural areas. His vision was to make access to high quality education more available. After helping establish Covenant Prep, one of Jeff’s major concerns was sustainability. This endowment represents another step forward in strengthening Covenant Prep’s foundation and continuing Jeff’s legacy.”

Mark Niland was a close friend of Digel and a former member of the Covenant Prep Board of Directors. Niland discussed the fact that while Digel was the main source of Covenant's initial seed capital and was an unstinting fundraiser, was keenly aware of the financial challenges of starting up a tuition-free independent school and achieving fiscal stability. One strategy that Niland and Digel often discussed was the creation of a permanent endowment to have some level of certainty around the investment income it would contribute to operating revenues. However, the concern was that since it was difficult enough to raise sufficient funds to meet our operating expenses, the potential unintended consequence of an effort to fund an endowment might translate into a shortfall in our operating revenues.  In 2016, when the Hartford Foundation allowed individuals and organizations to establish relatively small permanent endowments, a few Covenant supporters funded an endowment for the benefit of the school with an initial principal balance of $10,000. 

“The idea has been that, at a minimum, the “miracle of compound interest” would enable the fund to grow over the years, while also providing a vehicle for Covenant supporters in a position to do so, to make a gift in addition to their historical annual support to ensure the school’s financial sustainability,” Niland said. “Now, thanks to the generous support of this anonymous donor a truly transformative endowment has been established adding to the existing endowment.  The current spending policy on the newly created endowment in Jeff’s memory will cover the bulk of the fixed expenses for one month of our operations and encourage Jeff’s many friends who are supporters of the school to learn how they might best support this ongoing effort.”

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $849 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.