Stories From the Heart

“Cor Unum is a cause that we can all unite around. It means progress and progression as a family, as a community. It means as a Sacred Heart school we can all rally around our one heart and that of our daughters’ heart.”

Mary Nordberg O’Connor '83 •  Parent '16 and '19


The life stories of Stone Ridge alumnae are a testament to women’s influence on the world stage and witness to the Goals of Sacred Heart education. Our alumnae have attended top colleges and universities, have taken their place in leadership positions in every industry, and have contributed to our local community and our world through their commitment to lifelong learning, Christian values, and servant leadership.

Frank and Julia Gomes

Julia Brown and Frank Gomes were first introduced to the power of Sacred Heart education at Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart in Michigan, where they sent their daughter, Mara, to school. At Bloomfield Hills, they witnessed an amazing transformation of confidence and conviction in their young daughter. There they also met Sr. Anne Dyer, who was visiting the school. When they moved to Washington, DC, Stone Ridge was the obvious choice for Mara. 
Mara entered Stone Ridge in the spring of seventh grade. During her time at Stone Ridge, she thrived. Her parents remember that she felt particularly aligned with Goal III, A social awareness which impels to action. She graduated from Stone Ridge in 2006 and attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Bioethics. Mara also completed graduate work at Cambridge University. She currently serves on the Alumnae Board at Stone Ridge, specifically on the Social Action committee. 
When asked about their decision to support the Cor Unum • One Heart Campaign, Frank recounted a lesson from his mother. She once told him that if a neighbor called to say their house was flooded, you do not ask them how you can help. Rather, you arrive at their place with a mop and bucket in hand. Frank grew up in a culture of giving and service and lives those values to this day. 
Although, today, Mara lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters, her parents hope that she will have a chance to visit the new building with their granddaughters and see Stone Ridge girls perform on the stage. Julia and Frank recognize the “little extra” that makes an investment in Stone Ridge worthwhile and hope that the new Student Life Center will support the kind of community Mara so enjoyed. 

Charles and Susan Mathews

In early 1998, Susan and Charles Mathews began a search for a private, single-sex school for their two young daughters. As they compared options in the area, it didn’t take long for them to realize that Stone Ridge was the right choice for them. “The more we learned about Stone Ridge and its history, programs, and reputation, the more excited we became,” said Susan. Their girls, Erin ‘10 and Kathryn ‘05, entered Stone Ridge in the fall of that year, in grade one and grade six respectively.
During their daughters’ years at Stone Ridge, Susan was an active volunteer in many areas of the school. She co-founded (with fellow Stone Ridge parent Debbie Seegers) a volunteer organization called Blue and Gold Boosters to support Gator athletes and coaches and encourage students to attend campus home games. “It meant so much to Debbie and I that the whole school be invited to participate in the Gator Grills and stay to watch the Upper School Varsity games,” explains Susan. “It is one of my happiest memories the first time the gym bleachers were full of Lower and Middle School Gators cheering on their team! So many happy, smiling faces building community through sports.”
The Mathews found that at Stone Ridge there was a strong emphasis on building character and confidence through both academics and extracurricular activities. In their case, athletics were a large part of the Stone Ridge experience. Lessons learned through team activities allowed their girls to mature and develop a strong self-confidence. And, as Charles states, “the happy memories both daughters have from those days as Gators still make us all smile.”
Their desire to advocate for the School didn’t end when their daughters graduated. In 2011, Charles was invited to join the Board of Trustees and served for six years. “It was a great honor to work with so many passionate members of the Board,” says Charles.
Of their decision to support the School through the Cor Unum • One Heart Campaign, Charles and Susan see it as an invaluable investment. According to Charles, “Our experience at Stone Ridge made us see that the school was the best possible investment we could make in our girls and in turn, investing in the Stone Ridge community as a whole is the best way for us to support the development of future young women as academics and leaders.”
Their support will help to ensure future generations of Stone Ridge students will continue to have a top notch education. “The rigorous academic standards of Stone Ridge prepared our daughters for the next phase of their education and their lives,” explains Susan. “To be a member of a school environment where excellence and challenges are the norm was a huge advantage for our girls. They learned that they are capable of achieving any goal and that struggling through adversity can lead to growth.”
What are they most excited about in the Cor Unum • One Heart Campaign? “We are most looking forward to the enhancements of the community spaces from the Cor Unum campaign—the atrium, student study areas, and the dining hall—are such exciting parts of the upcoming construction! These will be places where students will come together as a community to share thoughts, food and laughter. Stone Ridge is a serious and demanding academic environment, but there is always room for joyous celebrations of birthday snacks and Sacred Heart traditions, like goûter and Congé. This is time well spent relaxing and strengthening bonds of friendship. Those friends made at Stone Ridge are still a very happy part of both daughters lives. Finally, there will be dedicated areas where students can comfortably eat and gather as a community, as well as providing the hard-working staff with their own space to recharge and bond with their peers. We hope the Mathews Dining Hall provides a space full of light and laughter. 
The Mathews feel that investing in the physical spaces of the Cor Unum campaign has a unique quality of permanence that will serve to further energize the Stone Ridge community—students, parents, and staff. “Being able to name the Dining Hall gives us the opportunity to encourage others to invest with us by quantifying our financial commitment for the campaign. We are so happy to be a part of this exciting future! Go Gators!”

Gabrielle Virgo-Carter and Ernest Carter’s history with Stone Ridge began when their oldest daughter Nicole Carter ‘04 was in fifth grade at a local Montessori school. In spring of that year, Gabrielle, Nicole and a fellow student were sent as ambassadors to a school fair representing local independent schools. During a break from their work, Nicole roamed the conference hall, visiting tables to talk to students from other schools. When she returned to her table, Nicole declared to Gabrielle, "Stone Ridge is the school I want to go to next.”

“At that time, I had little knowledge of Stone Ridge,” explains Gabrielle. “I regularly saw the physical school from a distance since I had completed a fellowship at NIH, but I knew nothing about it.” After questioning Nicole as to why she felt that way about Stone Ridge, Nicole responded that the girls she spoke with were friendly, smart, answered her questions clearly and honestly, and really loved their school. “That's the type of girl I want to be around and that’s the type of girl I want to be!” exclaimed Nicole. Gabrielle subsequently went over to the table to speak with the students and confirmed everything Nicole had described.

“To this day we believe that divine intervention put us in that place and pointed us in the right direction for our daughters,” says Gabrielle. Fast forward two decades and Gabrielle and Ernest are the proud parents of two Stone Ridge alumnae (their younger daughter Laila graduated from Stone Ridge in 2013). “Our daughters’ and our experience throughout our years at Stone Ridge confirmed Nicole's original impression of the school as one which develops young women of character, intelligence, quality and compassion.”

Gabrielle has been a member of Stone Ridge’s Board of Trustees since 2013. In making their Cor Unum • One Heart Campaign donation decision, Gabrielle and Ernest reflected upon areas that needed fine tuning within the school. Their younger daughter Laila Carter ‘13 loved the arts and enjoyed being an active member of the theatrical community at Stone Ridge, performing in several productions on stage and behind the scenes. “The vision the leadership team at Stone Ridge has for the new Student Life Center will now provide students who are artists, dancers, musicians, or who just enjoy the arts, with the state-of-the-art facility that they need,” said Gabrielle. “We are more than happy to do our share to bring this project to fruition.”

Elizabeth Malia Calhoun

The late Elizabeth Malia Calhoun ’83 was a lifer at Stone Ridge, having attended from first grade through her senior year of high school. To say she loved Stone Ridge is almost an understatement. An avid athlete and photographer during her school years, Elizabeth formed lifelong bonds with her teachers and classmates, and, as an adult, was employed at the School as the Middle School Director of Students from 1989-1991.

Of all the ways to honor Elizabeth after her passing this January, a gift to the Cor Unum • One Heart Campaign was the obvious choice for Elizabeth’s sisters and friends. Cathy Malia Higgins ’78, Elizabeth’s sister explains, “Stone Ridge was always near and dear to Elizabeth’s heart. She embraced all that Stone Ridge had to offer, had so many interconnections to the School and chose to work there as an adult. It was a no brainer to donate to the campaign in her honor.”

The bonds Elizabeth formed at Stone Ridge were palpable. “More than anything, Elizabeth loved her Stone Ridge friends,” Cathy explains. “I have a photo from her funeral of at least 20 women, all Stone Ridge alumnae, who came to honor and pay their respects to Elizabeth. Her Stone Ridge friends were with her when she passed away. They were like family.”

Cathy, her sister Carrie Malia Taylor ’79, and Elizabeth’s friends have chosen to name the new photography lab in honor of Elizabeth because she was an avid photographer both at Stone Ridge and in adulthood. Cathy relayed, “Photography was one of the art classes offered when we attended Stone Ridge. It was unique in that it had a lab. You could borrow a camera from the school and you learned how to develop and process the film yourself. Elizabeth always enjoyed these classes and documented more than the average person throughout her life.”

The naming of the lab provides Elizabeth’s family and friends with a distinct space to honor Elizabeth. “We wanted to find a physical thing to carry on her legacy. She was very loved and touched so many people - we all wanted something tangible to remember her by,” said Cathy.

Cathy understands the significant benefits the lab will have on future Stone Ridge girls. “We are so happy that we’re able to donate to something that will benefit the girls. Photography provides students with another way to express themselves. Some people can write well, some people can dribble a basketball well, you don’t know how best you can express yourself until you can try it. Providing students with a state of the art lab to try photography is an amazing opportunity for every young woman at the school.”

To sum it all up, Cathy says this about their choice to donate to the Campaign, “Elizabeth is very loved and very missed and I’m very glad there will be something tangible for years to come to remember her by. I am grateful to Stone Ridge for the opportunity to honor Elizabeth in this way.”