Stephen Hyde sees a bright future for St. Mark’s High School and he wants to help set the course for others to join in his optimism.
“I’m very inspired by the direction St. Mark’s is heading and want to assist in that mission and that progress,” Hyde said.
His inspiration has led Hyde and his family to make a $1.5 million donation to the high school. Hyde and Bishop W. Francis Malooly were set to announce the donation following a Mass at the Diocese of Wilmington school on Dec. 8. It was the largest donation in school history, said principal Richard A. Bayhan.
“It’s a real shot in the arm for us, no question,” Bishop Malooly said. “For someone to be that generous is remarkable, but Steve and his family have always been there for St. Mark’s.”
Hyde, a 68-year-old Newark resident, has spent his professional life as a financial planner and money manager. He is not a St. Mark’s alumnus, but his wife, Lisa (’77), and daughter, Caitlin (’07), both graduated from the school.
“That’s the original link,” he said. He has also been a member of the St. Mark’s advisory board for nine years and its chairman the last three. The school opened in fall of 1969 and is readying plans for a 50th anniversary.
“I’m personally very committed to Catholic education,” Hyde said.
It runs in the family.
His father launched a foundation in his name, the Lawrence H. Hyde Jr. 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.
A combination of his belief in St. Mark’s and his family commitment led to the landmark donation that he’s hoping will move others to make financial pledges to the school
“I’m a person, I guess, who leads by example,” Hyde said. “I’m not a charismatic leader. I just do what I think is right and people hopefully will follow me.”
Bishop Malooly said each school in the diocese has its own distinction and offers something for each student.
“It’s important for us to keep them all strong,” the bishop said. “Steve has probably been the primary mover in keeping St. Mark’s moving ahead. He realizes that this kind of a gift, as large as it is, motivates others. And St. Mark’s has a large number of successful alumni. This will make a big difference.”
Many Catholic schools have faced decreasing enrollment in recent decades and St. Mark’s has not been immune, but Hyde says he believes leaders at the 521-student school are well positioned with the right offering of programs and recognize they have a strong and committed alumni that can be part of the future.
“It reminds people that went to St. Mark’s what their experience was there,” he said.
“We went through a period where we took the alumni for granted and thought we’d have 1,600 students forever, and we didn’t keep people together, keep the spirit alive. We didn’t tend to the orchard for a very long period of time. Much died off. We’re slowly getting it to grow back.”
In addition to his board work with St. Mark’s, Hyde is a member of St. John the Beloved parish finance council, the CYO athletic advisory and golf committees and chairman of the Little Sisters of the Poor annual golf outing.
Hyde was born in Boston and raised in Cleveland but has spent the last 45 years in Delaware. His father has a long track record as a successful manufacturing executive and has created a legacy of giving to Catholic schools worldwide. Law-rence Hyde’s distinguished career in business included his role as president of AM General, a division of then-American Motors Corporation.
Stephen says St. Mark’s and so many Catholic schools create an atmosphere of respect and appreciation for life that can be so easily forgotten in an everyday world that has grown accustomed to violence and hatred.
“We live in troubling and dangerous times. and I believe that for some people, Catholic education is the thing that sees them through. I’m not saying that public or charter schools can’t do that, but that’s not necessarily their vision.
“Just turn on the news any night of the week, it becomes clear to you there is a very real place for Catholic education,” he said. “Our values need to be restored. A Catholic education helps to do that.”
He sees those efforts specifically at St. Mark’s.
“St. Mark’s is part of a much larger picture, but it’s very important to me that St. Mark’s is prepared for the future,” he said. “Education is like life. I’m not the same person I was five years ago or the person I will be five years from now. We’re going to have to continue to adapt.”
“We’ve got great teachers, administrators, students,” he said. “We have a financial model that will work regardless of the size our student body is, and it will allow us to grow over time to whatever the market will bear. I’m very optimistic about the future.”
Hyde encourages people to focus on the school’s success stories.
“That’s what St. Mark’s is all about. It does welcome and challenge all kids. That’s one of the real beauties. Whatever the kid’s potential is, they’re able to find it, nurture it and help develop it.”