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Schools get a little something extra

Woman leaves $5 million to two local school districts

Thursday, November 16, 2000

Monitor staff


WASHINGTON, N.H. - Sarah Jenkins loved literature and the theater, the Boston Red Sox and watching a good football game with friends.

When she died Oct. 25 at 86, the Washington and Hillsboro-Deering school districts learned how much she also cared about children and learning. Jenkins left an estate worth about $5 million in trust with the stipulation that the income be used for scholarships and enrichment programs for teachers and students within those districts.

"This is really wonderful for us," said Superintendent Leo Corriveau, who oversees both districts. "It's really a shot in the arm."

The Duncan-Jenkins Trust, named for her mother's and father's families, will earn about $300,000 per year. The conditions of Jenkins's will stipulate that the money be used for programs that would not otherwise be part of the districts' budgets, Corriveau said.

"She had enough wisdom and foresight to say this is stuff that doesn't get in budgets," he said. "This is all extra stuff to enrich the classroom, enrich teachers."

Jenkins's lawyer, Douglas Hatfield, announced the bequest and the conditions of the trust yesterday at a celebration that also honored Washington Elementary School teacher Suzanne Lull, this year's outstanding teacher of the year in New Hampshire.

Jenkins, too, was a teacher, and in her will she mentions another teacher, Grace Jager of Washington, who works at the Hillsboro-Deering Elementary School, as an example in the creation of the trust.

Jenkins and Grace and Ronald Jager were longtime friends. They met while the Jagers were writing a history of Washington, and Jenkins served on the advisory committee.

Jenkins's connection to Washington runs deep, where her mother's side of the family reaches back to the early 19th century, Grace Jager said.

Jenkins visited that family home as a girl. She graduated from Vassar College and taught at the Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, and lived in Brookline, Mass., with her sister, Julia.

She never married and about 25 years ago made East Washington her permanent home.

"She was very much attached to her New Hampshire roots and the fact that her maternal ancestors lived here and were active in Washington," Ronald Jager said.

Jenkins - whom everyone called Sally - contributed to the town in quiet ways, serving on the meeting house committee, whose goal was the upkeep of that building, and on the Monadnock Music Committee, Grace Jager said.

Her background as a teacher and her father's involvement with Atlantic Monthly magazine sparked her interest in literature. She often drove to Cambridge and Boston to attend the theater.

But she had an antenna installed so she could watch sports events from all over, Ronald Jager said.

And she was a very good woodworker, Grace Jager said.

"She was a true New England woman," she said. "She lived modestly. She was gracious to everyone and extremely generous, not only with what she owned but with her spirit."

"She was a lovely lady who was very eager to do good in the community, but was much too modest a person to let it be known in her lifetime that she had very important plans for the school district," Ronald Jager said.

The Jagers learned of her intent about 15 years ago, when Jenkins asked them for their advice.

"She invited my wife and me to sit down with her and her lawyer and think about what kinds of things might be beneficial for the schools," Ronald Jager said.

But he didn't know until recently how generous her help was to be.

The Duncan-Jenkins Trust stipulates that half of each year's income will pay for teacher enrichment. This can include a year's paid sabbatical for a teacher to reach an educational goal and for programs that benefit many teachers.

One-quarter of the income is to pay for scholarships, and the remainder is to pay for student enrichment programs such as artists in residence, special field trips or special arts programs.

Jenkins specified that Washington teachers, students and schools get first priority in these grants. But Washington students attend Hillsboro-Deering school beginning in the sixth grade, and that district gets second priority.

"It's going to make a very significant asset for education programs here, and I think it will allow the school boards and administrators to attract some pretty qualified people," Hatfield said.

Jenkins's will also provided gifts to the library in Washington, the rescue squad and Vassar College, he said.

The Duncan-Jenkins Trust will be administered by a committee: Hatfield, the Jagers, the superintendent, and the chairman of both school boards.

That group will set guidelines for grant applications with the goal of having the trust ready for the 2001-2002 school year, Hatfield said.

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