Advertisement
  1. The Education Gradebook

Tampa private schools raise millions for grand construction projects

Published Sep. 22, 2016

These days, the campus of Jesuit High School is more of a construction zone than the beautifully landscaped grounds for which the highly regarded institution is known.

Gone is the 60-year-old St. Anthony's Chapel, where the all-male student body convened at the start of the school day for prayer. Jesuit's administration building also will go the way of the chapel, and erected in its place will stand a two-story, 32,000-square-foot structure that will house several school departments.

It's all part of the school's $40 million "For Greater Glory" fundraising campaign, a two-phase development that will transform the 40-acre campus, which has remained mostly the same since Jesuit moved to its N Himes Avenue campus from downtown Tampa in 1956.

But it isn't the only school raising dollars and additions. After patiently weathering the gloomy days of the economic downturn, Jesuit, Tampa Preparatory and Berkeley Preparatory are among the private institutions that have embarked on grand construction projects.

Over the past couple of years, those schools have raised close to a combined $100 million.

Meanwhile, Academy of the Holy Names plans to cut the ribbon on a heritage center next month, and will open the Bailey Family Center for the Arts in April. And Carrollwood Day recently celebrated the opening of a $5.5 million football stadium.

And it all starts with ambitious fundraising efforts. If you're a private school, one official said, you're either in the middle of a capital campaign or planning to start one.

•••

In the year since Jesuit launched its campaign, it has received several seven-figure donations from alumni, including real estate developer Ted Couch and restaurateur Richard Gonzmart.

Much of the money raised under the "For Greater Glory" campaign has come from large donations made by a circle of about 60 supporters, said Nick Suszynski, Jesuit's director of development.

"We've been able to raise lots of money without hundreds of donors," he said. "Individuals have increased their gifts."

•••

Berkeley, founded in 1960, also has surpassed the $50 million goal set for its four-phase "Above & Beyond" campaign with just a small number of supporters contributing large donations, Headmaster Joseph Seivold said.

About 10 families have given seven-figure gifts while about 100 families each have donated $50,000 over a five-year period, he said.

Launched in 2010, "Above & Beyond" supports a master plan approved by the school's board of trustees a few years earlier – right at the start of the economic downturn.

The dramatic change in the country's economic climate resulted in some "hesitancy" early in the campaign, Seivold said.

Contributions poured in after a member of the school's board stepped forward to make a donation. Construction on the first building was key to the campaign moving forward, he said.

School officials appealed to donors by pitching the campaign as an investment in the school's longevity, Seivold said.

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Subscribe to our free Gradebook newsletter

We’ll break down the local and state education developments you need to know every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

"We talked about Berkeley and what kind of school we want to be, that we want to provide outstanding experience for students today and tomorrow," he said.

Today, about three-quarters of the improvements and new construction outlined in the plan have been completed, including a field house, cafeteria, and center for the arts and sciences.

"Momentum remains high" within the Berkeley school community about the campaign, Seivold said.

"The community understood it's our responsibility to shape our own future. We are the community we create."

•••

At Tampa Prep, Upper School students started the 2016-2017 school year in a newly renovated building complete with technologically advanced classrooms called active learning environments.

The Middle School was outfitted with the same makeover last year. Both projects fall under a $15 million multiple-phase capital campaign that began in 2013.

A new science center with college-style lecture halls and new office space for volunteers and administration are other projects ahead for Tampa Prep, which opened in 1974.

Like Jesuit and Berkeley, Tampa Prep raised the most money from a small number of donors, development director Jay Goulart said.

About 15 people donated 90 percent of the money to its "Campaign for Prep," which is close to the halfway mark, he said.

But smaller donations have been critical to the campaigns success, Goulartt said.

"We don't want the person giving $100 to feel like they're not appreciated," he said. "The reality is we have to be aware of both (types of donors)."

Tampa Prep's circle of supporters want to be part of the school's vision for the future, which include transforming classrooms into tech-savvy active learning environments so that today's students are ready for the job market of 2028, Goulart said.

"What's required to be successful for that world is what we're looking to create," he said.

•••

While most of these projects are simultaneously underway, officials say it's more about schools looking to meet their needs and much less about competing against each other in a fundraising arms race.

That includes Academy of the Holy Names, which is in the middle of a seven-year renovation plan. The heritage center, also spurred by a donation from Gonzmart, will highlight contributions made by the Sisters of the Holy Names since their 1881 arrival in Tampa. The Bailey Family Center will give the school a dedicated space for visual and performing arts.

"During the recession, many schools put their plans on hold until the economy could recover," Academy president Art Raimo said. "Campaigns that would have taken place over those years had to be delayed. The Academy engaged in our project because we had a need here, irrespective of what other schools were doing."

Contact Kenya Woodard at hillsnews@tampabay.com.