All anyone needed was to hear the outburst of excitement at St. Mark’s High School gymnasium to know major news had just come from the dais.
More than 600 students, alumni, parents, faculty and Diocese of Wilmington officials erupted with joy when it was announced Dec. 8 that the school had received a $1.5 million donation from Stephen Hyde and family.
“Mr. Hyde and his wife have been generous supporters of the church and Catholic education for a long time,” St. Mark’s Principal Richard A. Bayhan told those assembled after Mass in celebration of the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception. “They have shown passionate support of our school.”
Hyde and his wife, Lisa (St. Mark’s, class of 1976) presented Bayhan and Bishop W. Francis Malooly with the donation. Their daughter, Caitlin (’07), is also a St. Mark’s alum.
Stephen Hyde, 68, of Newark, is also chairman of the St. Mark’s advisory board. He told students he has great faith for a continuing legacy at St. Mark’s.
“Like past generations, you are the best representatives of the school and Catholic education,” said Hyde, who was swarmed by grateful students after the presentation. “You are further proof of our theme here at St. Mark’s: ‘All Things Possible.’”
Bishop Malooly credited his predecessors, Bishops Michael W. Hyle and Thomas J. Mardaga, with getting St. Mark’s off the ground. The school was opened in 1969.
He thanked the Hydes and encouraged others to follow the lead and “pass it forward.”
“I want to thank Steve and Lisa for their generosity and strong support of Catholic education in so many ways,” Bishop Malooly said.
Among those greeting the Hydes after the check presentation were students Natale Allessandrini and Ben Korleski, both members of the Class of 2018.
“I was sitting in the stands after Mass and said ‘Is that a check?’ and then … boom, it was completely out of the blue,” said Korleski, the senior class president who wants to pursue nursing and has already been accepted to four schools.
“This means we get a whole new start,” said Allessandrini, the school’s executive president who would like to pursue industrial engineering in college.
Korleski said he hopes the gift may enable the school to upgrade technology. Allessandrini said it’s a great chance to take advantage of a school with great spirit.
“We need to get the word out,” she said. “Let people know how much we love this school.”
Bayhan said he was excited by the “spontaneous reaction” of loud cheers and applause when students heard the surprise announcement. He said the school will take steps to assure a bright future.
“Things like making sure our endowment is solidified, financial aid, scholarship money. This is so important to us.”
Hyde said he has no plans to dictate how the funds are used.
“This is a no-strings attached gift,” he said. “I trust them to make the right decisions.”
Hyde, president of HFM Advisors, spent his career as a financial planner and money manager. His father launched a foundation in his name, the Lawrence H. Hyde Charitable Trust, dedicated to supporting Catholic education around the world. The $1.5 million donation includes $1 million from the Lawrence Hyde trust and $500,000 from Stephen Hyde and his family, Stephen said, adding that Lawrence, 93, turned over supervision of the trust to Stephen several years ago.
Lisa Hyde said she and her husband believe in the school and want the donation to help secure its future. She said she recognizes the sacrifice Catholic education can be for many families and she has experienced it first-hand.
“My mother had to go back to work to send me to high school,” she said.
Louis De Angelo, superintendent of schools for the diocese, said the large donation should quiet those who have speculated about the future of 521-student St. Mark’s.
“We hope it lets them know that St. Mark’s is here to stay,” De Angelo said. “This is an affirmation of the quality of education here and the generosity of those who were educated here.”
Dr. Patricia Curtin White (’76), St. Mark’s board vice chairperson, is a graduate who also sent three of her children through the school.
“It really does confirm what we all know – what a wonderful school and education that our students receive,” she said. “We think that all things are possible for any student at St. Mark’s.”