Hitting It Home
Donor reflects on LFA, commits to enriching experience for today’s students
By Ruth Keyso
Try to guess Phil Preiss ‘06’s favorite place on campus. It isn’t the baseball diamond, where he played varsity ball for four years. Nor is it the hockey rink, where he laced his skates with the Caxy squad. Take a walk to the back forty of the formal gardens, and there you’ll find your answer.
“This is where we played Wiffle ball,” says Phil, recalling the hours he and his classmates spent between periods, after school, and during preseason smacking the ball around. “We’d head out the side door of Hutch,” he recalls, and spill into the makeshift stadium, where they’d hit and run and catch and slide until the cold Midwest winter chased them indoors.
“It was a big staple of our spring and fall,” Phil remembers.
A 2006 graduate of LFA and an alumnus of Hamilton College, Phil credits LFA as the best experience of his academic life. A product of both Montessori school and public education, Phil had a choice about high school. He says his decision to attend LFA was a wise one.
“I grew so much at LFA,” he says. “It wasn’t always easy or fun; I had teachers who pushed me but who also helped me grow. I wouldn’t change going there.”
Like all freshmen, Phil had some adjusting to do when he arrived: make new friends, adapt to a new schedule, figure out how he fit as a day student into a boarding school environment. Before long, things clicked into place.
“Even as a day student you lived at LFA,” he quickly figured out. From going to dinner after baseball practice to coming in early for math help, Phil says he found himself on campus some days from sun up to sun down.
“I had a bed [at home] in Lake Forest, but all of my other activities revolved around being on campus.”
His fond memories of life at LFA, and the realization that the school prepared him well for college and professional life, inspired Phil’s decision to support the Academy financially as an alumnus. A leadership donor, Phil is a member of the Young Alumni Cornerstone Society and makes monthly recurring gifts to the school. He believes it’s natural to give back to a place that delivered on its promise to him. He hopes his financial support enables other students to have the same positive high school experience that he enjoyed.
“If there’s a way to support a place that had such an impact on my life … to make someone else’s experience [at LFA] like mine was, I’m all for it.”
Phil learned philanthropy at home. First, a nod to mom. “She was a huge philanthropist, a volunteer and on boards,” he says about his mother Marty Preiss, a former president of the LFA Parents Association and a supporter of education and her local church. “My parents pushed [us] to understand how lucky we are, that [many] people don’t get the life we had.”
Phil views his LFA experience as a gift. He says he and his classmates would’ve “been fine” had they attended another high school. But, he asks, would they “be in the same place now in life” without their LFA experience?
“I give LFA a lot of credit for how I changed; [the Academy] kicked me into adulthood and made it a lot easier to get through life with this good foundation.”
As an alumnus, Phil returns to campus with pride. He sees a “well-rounded” place that has changed physically since his days as a student, but where kids today are having the same positive experience he once had in the classroom and on the fields. As a high school student he didn’t fully recognize the power of his LFA education; once he graduated from college, he saw how well the Academy prepared him and how “the pieces fit in.”
“I’ll always support LFA, no matter what.”
Phil Preiss ’06 grew up in Lake Forest and lives in Chicago. He works as a manager at Preiss & Associates LLC, a risk management and fair lending consultancy.
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