Carrying On a Legacy
Three friends from Chevy Chase have built a scholarship fund to help women and to memorialize their mentor
From left: Meredith Moore, Rebecca Davis and Maggie Moore started the B.A. Rudolph Foundation with a $1 million inheritance. Photo by Deb Lindsey
When twin sisters and Bethesda natives Maggie and Meredith Moore sit around the dining room table of their childhood home with lifelong friend Rebecca Davis from Chevy Chase, the conversation indulges a few moments of reminiscing about their adoptive godmother, B.A. Rudolph. A political firebrand, she worked on Bill Clinton’s successful gubernatorial campaigns in 1978 and 1982. After moving from Arkansas to Washington, D.C., she became deputy chief of staff to the transportation secretary, Rodney Slater, and later chief of staff to the U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Brady Anderson. Rudolph made fast friends in her adopted city and, when those friends had children, she took them under her tutelage.
“B.A. once took us on a field trip to the White House during the Clinton era. There’s a really cute picture of us in the press room,” says Davis, scrolling through her phone to produce a photo of three grinning girls behind a podium with the presidential seal. “Apparently we were playing around and being too loud, and the Secret Service asked us to leave.”
“Then, when we got back to the car,” Maggie chimes in, “we accidentally locked her out.” The trio laughs at the memory, evidence of the enduring friendship that’s the nucleus of their present-day relationship as co-founders of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation.
They remember Rudolph as a living example of public service, always willing to make a networking connection or offer someone new to D.C. a spare bedroom in her home. She was especially passionate about empowering women. After being diagnosed with terminal throat cancer in 2011, she summoned Rebecca, Maggie and Meredith, all 25 years old at the time, to her home in Tenleytown. She’d chosen them as heirs apparent to her philanthropy. (Two other young women will join the board after they turn 21.) Unmarried and without children, Rudolph asked them to use the approximately $1 million in investment, savings and retirement accounts that she would leave behind to create a foundation dedicated to helping women.
“How do you want us to help women, B.A.?” Meredith recalls asking. “She looked at us, smirked and said, ‘Put on your big girl panties and figure it out.’”
This year, the B.A. Rudolph Foundation funded 19 scholarships for young women in the D.C. area who are completing internships and establishing careers in public service. The awardees are up-and-coming politicos, attorneys and leaders in science, technology, engineering and math. They are ethnically, culturally and racially diverse. Three have earned Fulbright scholarships, and one has been a Rhodes Scholar. To date, 57 women have received scholarships from the foundation. Mentoring is a critical component of the scholarships, and students are paired with one or two women from a growing roster of 100 mentors in fields ranging from journalism to law.
Applications have doubled every year, so managing the foundation and balancing demanding full-time careers is consuming work. Rebecca, a genetic counselor, and Maggie, a communications officer for USAID, are part-time members of the foundation staff, and Meredith, who teaches chemistry and psychology at the Washington International School, serves as a board member.
“We refuse to have founder’s syndrome, when the founders are like, ‘No, I’m going to stay in charge and nothing’s ever going to change,’ ” says Davis. So to grow the foundation, they’ve hired a full-time staff member and are eagerly searching for an executive director.
The learning curve has been the hardest challenge to negotiate. “None of us came in having any experience with nonprofit management, fundraising, running an organization,” Meredith says. “B.A. just told us, ‘Congratulations. You’re going to have a foundation.’ And as scary as that is, it’s a legacy I’m proud to have.”