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Saint Mark’s High School unveils renewed vision, largest campaign in school history: ‘We’re well on our way’

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Tom Fertal looks at plans at Saint Mark's High School. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

Bold visions aren’t rooted in small thinking.

That’s good because Tom Fertal doesn’t believe in thinking small.

Fertal and officials from Saints Mark’s High School and the Diocese of Wilmington hosted an event Sept. 28 announcing a comprehensive campus master plan.

The “Renewing the Vision” campaign looks to raise $8 million to help improve innovation and technology, fine and performing arts, campus ministry and student life, athletics and student fitness, endowment and “The Fund for Saint Mark’s.” The school has already surpassed $5 million in fundraising for the project.

“This came out of the master planning process, which was ‘Where do we see the campus evolving over the next 10, 20 or more years?’ $8 million is what we’re doing, but we’ve got $23 million more in plans and aspirations to keep transforming the campus. This is not the end.”

Tom Fertal in the auditorium at Saint Mark’s High School.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

Fertal said leadership givers of nine donors of $100,000 and above have pledged $4.4 million, including $2 million from longtime Saint Mark’s supporters Stephen and Lisa Hyde.

The leadership at the school share a vision, he said.

“It’s a judgment call to share with the world,” said Fertal, president of the high school in Pike Creek since 2019. “It’s a multi-year, multi-phase plan.”

The school has an e-sports center already under way. Renovated dressing rooms underneath the theater are also completed and a list of other improvements are in the works.

“We anticipate these projects will be going on the next two years. Some of these things we are doing can be done during the school year. Others will be done next summer and the year after. It’s a three-year window for the campaign.”

The technology piece includes creation of a robotics lab, a multipurpose media and broadcast studio, and augmented reality learning lab and the e-sports center. The arts element spells out renovation of the theater control room, sound and lighting upgrades, pit and other renovations, a new art room and upgrade of the band room.

Campus ministry and student life work will feature installation of a low ropes/leadership challenge course, an outdoor gathering space featuring a multi-use pavilion, and an outdoors shrine of Our Lady of Wilmington and renovation of the Student Leadership Center.

For athletics and student fitness, this phase will be $2.3 million and includes the addition of a fitness and training center and wrestling facility and multi-purpose space along with development of master camps plan for outdoor athletic facilities.

“It’s the biggest piece because it’s the addition. If people say, ‘What if you exceed your goal?’ If we exceed eight, we’ve got 23 more million to do. People say, ‘What about the football stadium?’ That’s six million dollars. It’s there. We could do that, but that’s all we could do. We’re not going to do that.”

But upgrading the football stadium is in the plan for the long term. So are tennis courts, practice fields and more. And it’s not just about sports.

Tom Fertal in the gym at Saint Mark’s High School.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

Using a dedicated planned giving campaign to fund the endowment, donors can make a commitment to the mission, Fertal said. And the Fund for Saint Mark’s aims to raise $900,000 in annual fund donations over the next three years to support student programming, and enrichment activities, faculty and staff professional development and tuition assistance.

Foundation support already achieved includes the Longwood Foundation ($250,000), Welfare Foundation ($150,000), Laffey-McHugh Foundation ($25,000), Loyal and True Foundation ($25,000) and Anthony and Catherine Fusco Foundation – ($30,000).

Fertal said more than 250 people planned to be on hand for the announcement. Conceptual renderings and comprehensive campaign booklets were available. Speakers included Bishop Koenig, Saint Mark’s alums and campaign chairs Patricia Curtin White and Mike Carney, and Fertal.

Fertal said plans beyond this phase of the campaign includes development of a football/track complex, renovation of lecture halls, a culinary instructional kitchen, addition of a retreat center and more.

Work on the first phase should be completed by the start of the 2024 school year, he said. It’s the largest campaign in school history.

“We’re well on our way,” Fertal said.

Enrollment increases have been at the heart of the Saint Mark’s success story. The student body was somewhere around 500 when Fertal arrived, and Saint Mark’s opened this year with 770 students.

“Obviously, the enrollment is part of all this picture. We’re up 54 percent. We still have a senior class that is in the 140s, so if we keep with what’s been going on and bring in another 200, minimum, next year with transfers we’ll be over 830.”