MCPS Educational Foundation Receives $10 Million Gift From Rales Foundation

by Patrick Herron

Per MCPS:

The Norman R. Rales and Ruth Rales Foundation has committed to the largest ever donation to the Montgomery County Public Schools Educational Foundation. The five-year gift, totaling $10 million, will support the newly created Ruth and Norman Rales – Patricia Baier O’Neill Scholarship Recognizing Academic Excellence. Launching in the spring of 2023, this significant scholarship program will award $10,000 each to 200 of the highest-achieving graduating seniors annually from low-to-moderate income households in Montgomery County to help ease the financial burden of attending college. Eligible students will have a weighted GPA of at least 4.0 and will need to submit an essay that will be reviewed by a committee established by the Educational Foundation.

This commitment honors the legacies of Ruth and Norman Rales, whose generosity and spirit of giving lives on through the Rales Foundation and the public service of the late Patricia Baier O’Neill, the longest-serving member of the Montgomery County Board of Education. Recipients of the award will be known as Rales-O’Neill Scholars.

The Rales family has deep roots in Montgomery County and a history of philanthropic collaboration with MCPS that goes back many years. The Rales Foundation Trustees are all MCPS alumni and Walt Whitman High School graduates. The Rales Foundation’s collaboration with MCPS has included a tutoring program for second graders, a public-private partnership that brought a summer academic and enrichment program to thousands of MCPS elementary school students, and support for the expansion of the CollegeTracks program into additional county high schools. Most recently, the Foundation is supporting a partnership to bring best practices in literacy and teacher professional development into MCPS elementary schools to close the achievement gap in reading. This initiative is now in its second year and has expanded from one school to 10 schools in response to initial promising outcomes.

At the time of her death on Sept.14, 2021, Mrs. O’Neill was serving her sixth term on the Board. She served as its president five times and vice president six times. Mrs. O’Neill was a fierce champion for the students, staff and families of Montgomery County. This generous gift by the Rales Foundation solidifies that legacy.

“This contribution reflects the passion and commitment the Rales Foundation and our family have for the students of Montgomery County Public Schools and is a way to honor our parents, Ruth and Norman, as well as Pat O’Neill, who shared a deep belief in the value of education as a pathway to opportunity,” said Josh Rales, President of the Rales Foundation.

“This incredible gift is an example of how partnership supports students and represents the immense dedication of one family’s support to its community,” said Dr. Monifa B. McKnight, Interim Superintendent. “The Rales family has yet again recognized the need many of our students have and are providing heartfelt support for that need.”

“The Rales family has a long history of supporting MCPS and its students. We are very pleased to work with the Rales Foundation to facilitate their support of postsecondary education for outstanding students,” said Yolanda Pruitt, Executive Director of the Educational Foundation. “Patricia O’Neill was actively engaged in the work of the Educational Foundation, serving as the Vice-Chair for many years. She would be overjoyed to see this amazing scholarship opportunity offered to such a large number of deserving kids.”

“My daughters and I and our entire family are so appreciative of this wonderful and very special honor being given to Pat, and I know how proud she would be,” said James Richard “Rick” O’Neill, Mrs. O’Neill’s husband of 49 years.

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