An Interview with Barry Depew


Barry DepewSome life experiences almost seem to pull us to them magnetically. At these times, everything we’ve encountered, learned, and overcome seems to have prepared us perfectly. We know exactly what to say, what to do, and how to help. This most certainly seems to be true for Barry Depew and DVFriends’ Transforming Futures project. 


Barry has four decades of experience and expertise in engineering, land development, building, and finance. While he was Regional President of Toll Brothers, Barry got to know Chester County and its land management, environmental, and regulatory issues well. Furthermore, while serving on the real estate councils for his alma maters of Lafayette College and Drexel University, he helped revitalize and transform those campuses with ambitious projects.


While the fit between Barry’s expertise and the project has been a huge benefit for DV, it also quite genuinely seems to bring him joy. ~ Simone Kershner, Associate Director for Leadership Giving


Below are some of Barry's answers to questions we asked him. Click the drop down arrow to read more.

I can’t tell you how hard David [Calamaro] and Kirk [Smothers] have worked to utilize every available square inch of the existing building to accommodate a growing student body–including some little triangular classrooms. They have spent money thoughtfully, and continue to do so. A big part of this project is that we will have a variety of classrooms that are the right size and use for what’s being taught in that space. This will give David, Kirk, and teachers a lot more flexibility to match the space we have to what we need for the educational program.

We had two “1,000-year storms” in a very short period of time that flooded the surrounding neighborhood, and they happened right when we were going for the zoning variances needed for this project. The zoning board approved everything we asked for, but even though we are doing only a small amount of new construction, they required us to bring the entire property up to the township’s current standards for stormwater management. This means we have to capture as much rainwater as if we were an open meadow with grass in it, instead of a campus with a school and parking lots. That requirement came with a hefty price tag. As an engineer, I can say that what they asked for was the right thing to do, and as a Quaker school with a strong commitment to environmental stewardship and community, doing this additional work also felt right. As trustees, the one thing we had to figure out was how to pay for it.


The school submitted for and won a $2.5M RACP state grant, which was a game-changer. These grants are supposed to help alleviate the financial burden on organizations for projects that positively impact the community, so this was a perfect use for this state grant. [See where the RACP grant fits into the overall funding plan, below.]

Revenue Sources

We are always trying to improve our plans, both in terms of cost and environmental impact. For example, the terraced area next to the new cafe courtyard was going to be all concrete [pictured below]. We’ve come up with a solution that’s going to be a lot better looking and environmentally friendly: stone retaining walls with grass at the top. The rainwater will go through, it looks better, and it saves us money. I’m always looking for the win-win. What’s the right thing to do and how do we save money doing it? And that terrace is an excellent example.


Cafe courtyard

The cafe courtyard is also a great example of using our small campus footprint effectively. Having that outdoor multi-use area right at the entrance that students and faculty and the community can use is a game-changer. The courtyard along with the expanded cafe will allow students in each division to comfortably eat lunch together in one space.

Pennsylvania’s wonderful. We have so many educational opportunities. We have more colleges, and independent and charter schools than you can shake a stick at. I live in Boulder, Colorado now and there’s only one school that can even lightly deal with the learning challenges that we deal with at DV, but in the Philadelphia area, there are many options. It’s a competitive market. 


DV’s tuition is a significant investment for any family. Certainly, the quality of our program is the priority, but if a family comes to visit and the building looks like an old elementary school, that is going to turn some people off. It will turn kids off and may put DV at a disadvantage when they go visit other LD schools. We’ve got to deal with that reality. So this whole project –  the new entrance, updated classrooms, the cafe courtyard, turning a basic rain garden into beautiful flower gardens up front – I think is going to be a major change that not only supports our program but also helps our recruiting. 


New entryway

Right now, the landscape project budget only includes what the township and the government require. I’m hoping we can continue to raise money beyond the project budget so we can do other things on the property that will have even more positive impacts. We don’t actually need to have a rain garden, but we want to create one. All of our stormwater management can happen underground, but it’s not visible, and it’s not a learning experience. To take it to the next level, we could have a beautifully landscaped rain garden at the front of the school that becomes a teaching example for our students of how to do things right environmentally. We also hope to install a green roof on the new entryway and do some enhanced plantings in the cafe courtyard. It’s going to cost money. But I hope we can do that.

My wife and I are big believers in the School. When we first visited with our daughter Emily (class of 2011) what we liked was the small teacher-to-student ratio. Then, when I was considering becoming a trustee so many years later, I asked Emily about her experience at DV. She didn’t hesitate. She said, “In my first week at DV the teachers took the time to learn about me. They dealt with me as an individual rather than just a student in a classroom. They really believed that every kid learns differently, and that was the difference. And they taught me to have confidence in myself. …They made us believe we could accomplish whatever we wanted.” 


If you go to a DV graduation and hear kids speak, it’s a moving experience! They all say the same thing: “I was finally treated with respect. I can learn; I just learn differently. And DV gave me the confidence to do that.” That’s what DV does differently. We saw that happen with our daughter.


And so, with that kind of connection to the School, working on this project has been very rewarding for me. Hopefully, it’s rewarding for the school as we see things come to fruition. I’m excited about it.