On July 1, 2022, Interim Head of School David Mancos and Board of Trustees Chair Bill Zimmern shared the following announcement with the Country Day community:
"Dear Country Day Community,
With great pleasure and deep gratitude, we are honored to announce a transformational gift to Charlotte Country Day School from Smoky and Margaret Bissell. We are humbled and delighted to share that Margaret and Smoky have given the school approximately 330 acres of valuable property south of Weddington on Providence Road. In addition to the land, the Bissells are also giving the school a generous five-year monetary commitment to support the costs of owning and operating the property.
The generosity of the Bissells enables the school to take a long-term and thoughtful approach to determine the best and highest use for the property. Decades from now in Country Day history, this occasion will be viewed as a significant moment in our school, and the possibilities this gift enables are numerous.
"The Board is humbled by this amazingly generous gift," said outgoing Board of Trustees Chair Scott Stevens. "This extraordinary property creates long-term opportunities for Country Day that reflect the remarkable creativity and long-term vision of its donors."
The school will take its time to develop a long-term strategic plan for the property. Future generations of Country Day students deserve nothing less. In the shorter term, creative educational opportunities for consideration could include School in the Woods related programming, organic and sustainable farming methods, and hands-on ecology and biology lessons taking advantage of the native flora and fauna inhabiting the land and streams.
We are deeply grateful to the Bissell family for their unwavering devotion to Country Day students, faculty, and staff and for their faith in the school to be stewards of this gift. Please join us in offering our profound thanks for their leadership, support, and commitment to our school."
New Positions to Support the Property
In November 2022, new Head of School Marcel Gauthier announced two new positions to provide oversight and educational leadership relative to the opportunities provided by the new property in Weddington. One will be focused on uniting and coordinating educational opportunities inspired by our faculty; the other providing operational and logistical support.
“Our faculty have already presented a myriad of ambitions tied to student learning,” said Mr. Gauthier. “Our current work is to provide the human resources and facilities infrastructure to allow those opportunities to happen safely and with comprehensive oversight.”
The Middle School Garden Club, led by 8th grade science teacher Simon Keilty, recently worked a late-season harvest on the new property. They learned about marketing gardening by harvesting, washing, drying, and packaging various vegetables.
ABOUT THE DONORS:
Margaret and Smoky Bissell
Throughout their lives and careers, Margaret and Smoky have been visionaries in positioning the city of Charlotte and Charlotte Country Day School as nationally recognized leaders. Whether by bringing innovative businesses and organizations to our city through the development of SouthPark and Ballantyne or by leading our school through an unprecedented area of "firsts" and forward-thinking initiatives, the Bissells have accomplished great things for our community and done so in an unassuming and collaborative manner.
Margaret is Country Day's longest-serving Head of School. In total, she served our school for 32 years, first as an English teacher, followed by several administrative roles, and finally, for 17 years, as Head of School until her retirement in 2009. Her deep commitment to excellence in teaching, her passion for students and their success, and her strong desire to preserve our caring community have shaped this institution for many years. Margaret's significant contributions to Country Day and the impact she had on our school cannot be overstated. Significant advances in our school's history that occurred under Margaret's leadership include the development of the International Baccalaureate degree program, the introduction of Faculty Renewal Grants, the establishment of the Offices of Diversity Planning and International Studies, the oversight of significant capital campaigns and state-of-the-art facilities that transformed both campuses, and a revised Mission Statement and development of our Affirmation of Community. During Margaret’s tenure, she also served on the Board of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools and as a two-term President. To celebrate and honor her service to our school and our community, she was named Head of School Emeritus at the school's 75th Anniversary Celebration in 2016.
Smoky founded the Bissell organization in 1964. Highly regarded as the visionary leader behind the creation of Ballantyne Corporate Park, Smoky has developed more than six million square feet of Class A commercial office space, four hotels, and an 18-hole daily fee golf course. In 2017, Smoky partnered with his longtime friend, David L. Conlan, to engineer the largest commercial real estate sale in Charlotte history with the sale of Ballantyne Corporate Park.
Before conceptualizing Ballantyne, he developed more than two million square feet of commercial office space in SouthPark. Prior to becoming a licensed real estate broker, Smoky held positions as a teacher and an officer in the U.S. Navy.
Smoky is also deeply respected for his numerous civic contributions, and he and Margaret have been the recipients of the World Affairs Council World Citizen Award. He has been honored with the Echo Foundation Award Against Indifference, Charlotte Business Journal's Person of the Year, and Leadership Charlotte's Lifetime Achievement Award—and these are just a sampling of the numerous ways in which his leadership has been recognized.
At Country Day, Smoky began his service as a Board of Trustees member in 1967 and has served on and off in this capacity for decades before being asked to serve as a lifetime trustee in 1997. Smoky was also a charter member of the Honorary Alumni Association, which began in 1981 as part of the school's 40th anniversary.
Smoky is the parent of four children and eight grandchildren who have attended Country Day.