PROFILE: Whitty Ransome

March 6, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

BY SUSAN ERWIN
Boca Grande resident Whitney “Whitty” Ransome has dedicated a good portion of her professional career to helping motivate young women to realize their potential and recognize their strengths. She co-founded the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools in 1991, started a program in Baltimore to serve underprivileged girls, and even though she is now retired, her work in philanthropy has still not stopped.
Whitty was instrumental in getting retired NASA astronaut Dr. Kathryn Sullivan to speak on the island this past December. As a Boca Grande Historical Society board member, she took it upon herself to reach out to Sullivan’s publicist (Molly Grote of MIT Press) and initiate a request. After several months of emails, phone calls and planning, it finally solidified, and it was a sold-out event at the Boca Grande Community Center. 
Whitty was introduced to Boca Grande at a young age. Her grandfather would come here to tarpon fish every year, starting in the 1940s. Then her father began bringing the family to The Gasparilla Inn for Christmas in the 1970s. 
Originally from Riverton, a small town in the southern part of New Jersey, her brother-in-law fondly refers to her as “Exit 4,” because the town was just across from northern Philadelphia. Growing up, Whitty recalls spending a good amount of time at her dad’s farm in Burlington County, New Jersey. He raised cattle and owned a caterpillar tractor business.
She attended Quaker Day School at Moorestown Friends School, a private school in New Jersey, for 12 years. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of North Carolina and studied political science at the Greensboro campus. It was originally an all-women’s college, but it changed to co-ed at the beginning of her sophomore year.
“I loved it,” she said. “I had been attending a small private school, and this was a very large public university. It was a huge change, and it was partly intentional because I wanted to see a different part of the country.”
Whitty thrived in the new setting and was active in student government and president of her sophomore class.
“That was the 1960s, and things were really starting to heat up politically,” Whitty said. “It was a time of change, both socially and politically.”
She spent a summer working in Washington for a congressman in New Jersey. At one point she thought she might want to go into politics, but she realized that was not the path she wanted to take. She went on to pursue higher education and earned a master’s degree in American studies at the University of Miami, Florida.
Her first job was teaching English as a second language (ESL) at Puerto Rico Junior College. Her father had some business clients in Puerto Rico, and that’s how she found out about the opportunity. 
“When I look back now, every position I held over the years was interconnected to something in the past,” she said. 
After that, Whitty accepted a job offer at an inner-city public high school in Miami for 8 years. She taught American studies, which included literature, history and political science.
“It was very challenging, but I really loved it,” she said. “Over the years, my philosophy has been, ‘give more than you take’ – there is so much that we all are given in life — all of us. It doesn’t matter what your economic or social status is … giving back just makes the world a better place. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, and I’ve been blessed with a life and a career that have allowed me to achieve that goal.”
She was eventually hired away to be the dean of students at a private boys’ school, the Ransom School in Miami. It eventually went co-ed and merged with The Everglades School, an all-girls school also located in Miami. The irony was that she was a young female who succeeded the football coach at the school. Whitty said it was another amazing challenge, and she later became director of admissions. Five years later, she accepted the position of director of admissions at Dana Hall, an all-girls day school in Wellesley, Massachusetts. 
“It was really at that time that I became a strong advocate for all-girls education,” Whitty said. “That was where my passion for single-sex education began. It’s not equal opportunity – it’s every opportunity.”
Whitty met her husband, Tom, in 1977 while he was working at Concord Academy in Massachusetts. She had recently started a consulting business and assisted Tom in his new role as headmaster at Concord when the school very unstable and in pretty rough shape.
“We ended up entertaining between 2,000 and 3,000 students, teachers, partners and alumni with the purpose of revitalizing the school and bringing on more support for the school.”
A few years later, she was recruited by a group of administrators to help form the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, and she co-founded that organization in 1991. It was at a time when all-girls schools were declining in enrollment. Whitty immediately got to work and submitted articles to various newspapers. She also worked with television and radio media to spread awareness about the success rates of all-girls schools.
“We did a research project with UCLA and looked at the data that proved the success of girl school graduates — they tended to take more math and science classes, they held more leadership roles, and many of them had careers in technology and engineering.”
When she started the organization in 1991, there were only two all-girls public schools in the country. Today there are more than 200; many of them are charter schools.
After 20 years with the NCOGS, she started a program in Baltimore that served underprivileged girls who might not have ever had the chance to pursue higher education. 
Throughout the years, Whitty has always been an athlete. She was a junior golf champion and was pictured in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1963. Most recently she won the “Honeycup” – a match-play tournament held annually at Lemon Bay Golf Course. She’ll be competing again in the tournament this year.
Whitty is also involved with a program at Lemon Bay Golf Course called “A Better Shot.” It’s a summer golf program for youth in Englewood and Port Charlotte.
“We teach about 150 kids from all ages, and it’s funded through donations and fundraising,” Whitty said. “We refer to the program as a ‘better shot at life,’ because most of these kids would never have picked up a golf club in their lives … it just would have never been an option. It helps teach responsibility, etiquette and leadership.”
The program also raises money for scholarships for local students.
Tom and Whitty have owned property on the island since 1986. They have two grown children: Kate and Christopher.
Kate lives in New Orleans and is an assistant film director. Christopher lives in Seattle and works with nonprofit organizations.
Whitty and Tom also enjoy sailing and traveling. Recently she has also been more focused on personal writing. Years ago, she wrote a piece that was published in Pirate Coast magazine about her “Outward Bound” seven-day adventure experience aboard a sailboat with seven perfect strangers.
“I wasn’t sure I would ever make it back to the dock, but it was an amazing team-building experience.”
Whitty and Tom spend half the year at a cottage in North Hatley, Quebec. His grandfather bought the property in 1901, and visitors can only get there via boat.
“There’s no road or electricity … It’s so quiet and beautiful up there.”