As Wheeler gears up for its ninth annual Day of Giving on Tuesday, May 10, the Wheeler Fund co-chairs are looking forward to rallying the community to another successful year of fundraising and support for students, faculty, staff, and programs.
Krista Sturtevant P’29 and Mete Tunca, P’25, P’30 each bring a background in strong leadership and dedication to Wheeler. In their capacity as co-chairs of the Wheeler Fund, they volunteer their time and talents to educate fellow parents about the critical role that philanthropy plays in maintaining the school’s expansive offerings and inspire them to make personally meaningful gifts.
Sturtevant’s professional career has its foundations in fundraising. She formerly worked for the Make A Wish Foundation in Providence and later transitioned to the development office of St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island. By the time she made the jump to director of development for the Newport Festivals Foundation, Sturtevant realized where her passion truly was.
“It turns out that I really like being in schools,” she said. “That’s my niche and where I’m most comfortable and where I can make the biggest impact.”
That passion for working in schools, bolstered by her daughter’s own education at Wheeler, made her a natural fit for the co-chair position. Ella Sturtevant ’29, a fifth-grader enrolled in the Hamilton School, has benefited greatly from Wheeler’s teachers and learning environment and is “thriving.”
“The Hamilton School program has completely transformed her in all the right ways,” Sturtevant said.
Part of the challenge with fundraising is not simply your own commitment – it’s getting others committed to supporting your cause as well, Sturtevant said. She wants to make sure that people understand the purpose and importance of the Wheeler Fund. As both an advocate and a mother of a student, Sturtevant believes she is motivated by a distinct passion for education. She emphasized that all gifts count when supporting the learning environment of so many children like her daughter.
“I think that, with fundraising, if you believe in what you’re fundraising for then it’s not really a job,” she said. “What you’re asking for is directly benefiting the kids and their education, and it’s the reason why parents have made a clear decision to send their children to an independent school like this.”
Similarly, Mete became involved with the Wheeler Fund out of his personal desire to give back. He is Director of IT Product Management at Fidelity Investments and has also served on the Wheeler School Board of Trustees since September 2020. His two sons, Devin Tunca ‘30 and Jon Tunca ‘25, enrolled at Wheeler five years ago, and since then, he has aimed to give back to what he calls a “warm group.” He was more than happy to be named a co-chair for the Wheeler Fund as a way to do just that.
“I think they could see that my motivation was that I wanted to be a part of the fabric here,” He said. “I didn’t just want to send my kids here, I wanted to be ingrained in the culture.”
While not an expert fundraiser, he believes his communication skills and outgoing personality help in his fundraising efforts for the Wheeler Fund as being an extrovert and relating to parents on a personal level makes a difference when it comes to bringing in more support. “People generally aren’t expecting the sorts of calls or messages from this group so they may be a little guarded in that respect, but when you tell them that you’re a parent with a child here, they instantly open up.”
Mete also said there may be a lack of understanding about the fund and how it fills in gaps not entirely covered by tuition. So the outreach to parents is critical to let them know how important the Wheeler Fund is. He likens the relationship between parents and Wheeler as a partnership, and one where the student experience and culture are just as important as the academics.
“My kids spend a lot of time at Wheeler, and I want them to have the complete experience as students here,” Mete said. “We have to be focused on what we are all building here together, in terms of the culture, character, and integrity, and some of that comes from the Wheeler Fund.”
Mete will complete his co-chair term at the end of this school year. Krista will continue in the role next year, joined by new partner Lana Hegstrom P’29, P’31. But first, they are working closely with a team of grade-level “Spirit Captains” to achieve record-breaking participation on the upcoming Day of Giving. “We have come up with some pretty fun prizes and incentives that I think parents and guardians will really respond to as we raise the resources that support our students,” Krista hinted.
Every year the Wheeler Fund provides essential funds for financial aid and faculty support. Contributions of any amount enrich today’s students by supporting programs, technology, arts, athletics, campus facilities, and more. For more information, visit www.wheelerschool.org/support/wheeler-annual-fund/.