The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 14, 2014

St. John School to get new athletic facility with $1 million gift

By DAVE DELUCA - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — An anonymous benefactor donated $1 million to St. John School for the construction of a new gymnasium.

It’s the largest, single, private gift in the school’s 60-year history, Sister Maureen Burke, president of the school, said. Two other donations were also made to St. John School. One was from a local family and another from another anonymous benefactor.

Burke made the announcement Thursday night at a champagne reception held at the school. Conceptual plans for the new gymnasium and tennis courts were unveiled.

“This transformational gift will provide facilities equal to the quality of our students and faculty,” she said. “The donor and friend of the school believes in the power of Catholic education and providing options for education in Ashtabula County.”

The gymnasium will be constructed to accommodate the addition of 8-10 classrooms in order to provide for continued expansion as necessitated by growing enrollment, Burke said.

Currently St. John’s has 310 students, which is an increase in enrollment of 20 percent since last year. The new classrooms will be in a wing adjacent to St. John’s current cafeterria. Six tennis courts will be finished by the end of summer. The new gymnasium will not be completed until next year.

The overall athletic facility will have a $2.4 million price tag, Burke said. The gymnasium’s basketball courts will be built to NCAA standards.

St. John’s athletic director Nick Iarocci said, “I’m very excited about this generous gift. It will enable our athletes to train and compete at a top notch facility. It’s another step forward in fulfilling St. John’s bright future.”

Iarocci said the donation made this year a great time to be a St. John’s Herald.

In addition, the school has received two other major gifts for the construction of athletic facilities.

The Nassief family, Todd, a 1983 graduate, and Marybeth, 1975, and their mother, Helen Nassief, donated $125,000 for the construction of the new tennis courts.

St. John School director of enrollment, management and marketing, Kieth Corlew, said “It’s remarkable how far St. John’s has come in the last few years. It seems to just keep getting better. This will really help improve the quality of athletcis and academics for the kids.”

The third gift of $108,000 was donated by an anonymous alumni family and  given specifically for the construction of new athletic facilities.

Mike Riley, chairman of St John’s School Board of Directors, said, “I think it’s great to be part of St. John School. Sister Maureen (Burke) really has a great sense of the future and is always working to make it better.”

“These historic gifts demonstrate the support and confidence that local benefactors, businesses and alumni have in St. John School,” Burke said. “In the last two years, enrollment has increased and the school has become stronger financially.”

Christy Kovacs, development director at St. John, said 70 percent of the needed funds have been raised for the athletic facility. A total of $1.7 million has been raised so far.

“In the course of the next two months, our plan is to approach other alumni, businesses, foundations and benefactors for the remaining funds needed,” she said. “We believe our constituents and supporters will invest in St. John School’s growth.”

Kovacs said she was thrilled about the donations, and felt that the additons would be not only an asset to St. John School, but to the entire community.

Burke said, “The million dollar gift serves as an inspiration to others who have the financial capability of supporting St. John School.”

Nick Iarocci said the facility will enhance the entire St. John experience.

 “To have our own gym is a dream come true,” he said. “It will be a gathering place that every Herald will be proud to call home.”