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Thompson Island to receive $12 million gift from Stone Foundation

Banner Staff
Thompson Island to receive $12 million gift from Stone Foundation
Boston Public School students experiencing the benefits of Outward Bound at Thompson Island. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THOMPSON ISLAND OUTWARD BOUND EDUCATION CENTER

For more than four decades, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center has provided experiential learning opportunities to thousands of children, teens and adults.

Now the Boston-based nonprofit will be able to do a lot more thanks to a $12 million gift from the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation.

The Stone Foundation gift, which the center officials say is their largest ever, will allow the center to enhance its programs and partnerships, expand its team to meet the growing need for hands-on climate change learning and create educational opportunities for students and visitors alike.

The Thompson Island Center programs emphasize experiential learning through challenge and discovery. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THOMPSON ISLAND OUTWARD BOUND EDUCATION CENTER


“This gift is an investment in our future that will accelerate our growth and development and change the trajectory of our organization,” said Sylvia Watts McKinney, the center’s CEO and president, in a press release. “Through outreach and education, we will continue to improve the lives of children and young people and help create a more equitable, healthy, and just society.”

She said the gift will make an enduring impact on the lives of Boston Public Schools students and the broader community by expanding the organization’s reach, building a team that reflects those it serves, safeguarding the island’s natural treasures, eliminating barriers, and promoting innovation within historically marginalized communities.

The center will also be renamed to honor Cathleen Stone for a lifetime of environmental activism, community service and commitment to equity and education, officials said in an announcement. Stone’s contributions to the creation of the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park are also noted.

The center will now be named the Cathleen Stone Island Outward Bound Education Center and the island Cathleen Stone Island.

“Throughout her distinguished career and as an environmental activist, philanthropist, child advocate, and tireless volunteer, Cathleen Stone has been a changemaker who has had a profound impact on individuals and institutions. By redoubling our efforts in climate education and conservation efforts, we will honor Cathleen’s legacy and inspire others to create positive change,” said Mark Keating, chair of the Thomas Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Board of Trustees, which voted on the renaming.


The center’s history can be traced back to 1833 when a group of Boston residents established an educational institution on Thompson Island. Since then, the island has continuously served as the site of innovative programs that have influenced the lives of young people from the city’s under-resourced communities.

The Thompson Island center provides immersive, evidence-based programs that blend social-emotional learning and science, technology, engineering and math. It emphasizes experiential learning through challenge and discovery. The center also offers programming to youth groups, the business community, visitors, and area residents.

The $12 million gift comes as the center is finalizing a new strategic plan, which includes a significant emphasis on climate education and the adoption and promotion of a green economy, officials said in a press release.

Watts McKinney said climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color, and its negative effects are evident on Thompson Island, one of the area’s most biodiverse coastal habitats.

“I believe that expanding our programming to include climate resiliency education will prepare Boston Public Schools primary and secondary school students for careers in the green sector and inspire a new generation of Black and brown environmental activists,” Watts McKinney said.

The gift will also allow the center to renovate existing structures, build new facilities, and care for the island. It would also create new exhibits to showcase often untold stories of indigenous communities and the island’s social, historical, environmental, and political impact on Massachusetts, officials said.

Stone Foundation, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center