Ridgewood High School alumnus and tech entrepreneur, David Duffield, recently donated $635,000 to Ridgewood High School. Since his graduation in 1958, Duffield has gone on to shape the software industry by building companies such as PeopleSoft, Workday, and Ridgeline. The Ridgewood High School Alumni Association reached out to Duffield’s charity organization, the Dave and Cheryl Duffield Foundation, in order to receive what is now the largest single donation in Ridgewood history.
This grant money was donated to the Ridgewood High School STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics) Initiative, which will be used to redesign and provide commercial-grade equipment for the foods room, make the currently analog TV Recording Studio digital, and to provide new equipment, such as powerful laptops, to the Makerspace Lab.
The President of the RHS Alumni Association, Mr. McCabe, explains that Duffield’s legacy is inspiring to Ridgewood students. He says that Duffield is not only a “Silicon Valley legend,” but also a “pioneer in all of the values that Ridgewood High School houses, of treating people with dignity, respect, and equality. He’s been doing that for 50 or 60 years, he is very successful, he treats people equally, and he has a lot of humility.”
The RHSAA came into contact with Duffield and his philanthropic foundation in order to induct him as a Notable Alumnus, which prompted the RHSAA to propose this grant to the foundation. Mr. McCabe thinks this is notable, explaining that “we have someone who hasn’t lived in Ridgewood in 40+ years, and still feels such a strong affection and affinity to support us and to benefit RHS students.”
A key aspect of the Duffield STEAM Initiative is the arts component. RHS Principal, Mr. Nyhuis, accredits Duffield for this, “the arts component of [the STEAM Initiative] is very important, which is why Mr. Duffield wanted this money earmarked in that area. Rather than just giving it to STEM, he wants this initiative to be across science, technology, and the arts.”
Dr. Gorman agrees with Mr. Nyhuis. He says that “Ridgewood is a very comprehensive high school, we believe in the four A’s: the academics, the arts, the athletics, as well as the activities.” Therefore, this budget will not only help students within their high school years, but also in the future. Mr. Nyhuis articulates the fact that “five or six of the top ten most employable majors are engineering related. I think of the arts as a way of thinking. You need people with that other half of the brain, that creative side, working. You want that person who can really look at something differently and allow whatever you are working on to have the different piece, the creative piece in it.”
Dr. Gorman tells us about how donations usually add up in Ridgewood. “Ridgewood is very generous. The Ridgewood Public Schools receive about a million dollars every year. They help keep us afloat, because we don’t get a lot of state or federal aid. Our schools need a lot of help to provide for our students. It’s an ongoing wishlist, things become obsolete.”
Dr. Gorman is optimistic that the developments funded by this grant will help Ridgewood Public Schools to “increase the overall education level of our students and allow them to move to higher levels. If this can affect two or three or four students that are really interested in a lot of different things, and they get on the right path to go to college and beyond, then that’s what we’re here for.”
As for David Duffield, Mr. McCabe says that he “probably hasn’t been in Ridgewood for a few decades, and we reached out to him. We’re hopeful that we can bring him back to Ridgewood some day, but we will have to see.” On behalf of the Ridgewood community, thank you David Duffield.
Michelle Hashem & Julia Rojkov
Photography: Sam Cohen