Ginny Waller Zanca ’76 expresses her gratitude by giving back
by Emily Tipton, Director of Annual Giving
Three strong threads run through Ginny Waller Zanca’s ’76 life: family, church, and St. Mary’s Episcopal School.
Zanca was less than enthusiastic when her parents decided to move her to St. Mary’s for her sophomore year of high school, following years of encouragement from her grandmother, Virginia Finch Waller, Class of 1928.
“I came to St. Mary’s kicking and screaming!” Zanca recalled. However, she quickly found her footing and began to understand why her grandmother had such fond memories of St. Mary’s. “My classmates welcomed me and made me feel as though I had been there since day one, which speaks to who they were and who they remain today.”
Zanca was also thrilled to discover that St. Mary’s provided her with an opportunity to participate in organized athletics for girls. She thrived as a four-sport athlete, competing in soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball. For Zanca, known by her teammates as “Big Wally,” it was “a dream come true.”
She even appreciated the academics at St. Mary’s, sharing that the teachers and curricula kept her challenged and engaged. Despite only attending for three years, Zanca credits
St. Mary’s for having a lifelong impact. In three years, she developed confidence and grew as a student, athlete, and individual while establishing strong, lasting friendships.
After graduation, she matriculated to the University of North Carolina, where she majored in economics. She then attended Emory Business School for her MBA in finance and accounting. While at Emory, Zanca met her husband, David. Following graduation, the two started jobs at large accounting firms in Atlanta, GA.
When their daughter, Nelie Zanca Lynch ’03, was born, the couple moved to Memphis to be close to family, and then they welcomed their son, Peter. The family briefly relocated to Orlando, FL, for David’s career. During that time, Zanca left her exacting job at First Tennessee in corporate finance to serve as a full-time parent.
It was on the sunny Florida courses that Zanca picked up golf as a hobby, eventually becoming a regular participant in women’s golf competitions. Her new hobby ultimately led
to volunteer leadership roles with the United States Golf Association and Tennessee Golf Association.
Zanca says that from the moment Nelie was born she knew exactly where she would attend school. When Nelie enrolled at St. Mary’s, Zanca was impressed with how the teachers demonstrated a strong understanding of the needs of each girl just like they did with her and her grandmother.
“How extraordinary the teachers were,” Zanca said. “They understood that each girl learned in her own way. They met students where they were and made the tools available.”
For Zanca, St. Mary’s is a place where three generations have grown and flourished. She has illustrated her appreciation for the school through 39 consecutive years of giving to the St. Mary’s Fund, which supports the school’s annual operating budget to ensure that every girl has what she needs to reach her individual potential.
Zanca has also given back to St. Mary’s by serving on the Alumnae Board and Board of
Trustees, where she worked to promote giving among alumnae. “We want alumnae to realize that we are the sustainers and constant thread of the school,” she said.
To Zanca and her family, supporting the school they love is a way of expressing their gratitude. Nelie and her husband Ben, as well as Peter and his wife Elizabeth Sharpe Zanca ’05, are also proud St. Mary’s donors.
“My children understand that none of us got here by ourselves,” Zanca said. “They understand how important it is to invest in something you believe in.”
These days, Zanca and her husband relish being full-time grandparents to their four grandchildren. When asked what she is most grateful for about St. Mary’s, Zanca quickly replied, “The extraordinary community. The recognition that the individual is important
to the whole. That is what sets St. Mary’s apart.”
Emily Tipton joined St. Mary’s in the spring of 2023 as the Director of Annual Giving. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee and over 12 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and communications. Tipton is the mother of Dottie ’38.