MILLTOWN — Saint Mark’s High School took a significant step toward reaching its goal of $8 million for its current capital campaign when 1977 graduate Linda McConnell and her husband, Paul, donated $1 million to the effort, “Renewing the Vision: The Campaign for Saint Mark’s High School.” The gift was announced on Dec. 19 at the school.
The McConnells were joined at Saint Mark’s by Bishop Koenig; Msgr. Steven Hurley, the moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Wilmington; superintendent of schools Louis De Angelo; and several Saint Mark’s students and staff members. The money will be used for several aspects of the campaign, Linda McConnell said. It will be distributed to the endowment for tuition assistance, the robotics lab and the communications center/broadcast lab.
“It’s very promising what’s going on here, very exciting,” McConnell said.
She said she and her husband began discussions with Saint Mark’s officials in the past few months and decided it was time to donate.
“I don’t just think it’s the campaign itself,” she said. “I think it’s the direction the school has gone in the past few years under the leadership of Tom (Fertal) and the people he’s brought in.”’
McConnell said Saint Mark’s is being innovative and progressive, concentrating on areas that make the most sense in attracting students.
Fertal, the school president, said the campaign has surpassed the $6 million mark since its inception. He noted that Steve and Lisa Hyde gave $2 million in the early stages. Lisa Hyde and Linda McConnell, whose maiden name is Rowe, were classmates at Saint Mark’s.
“If we’re keeping track of class competitions, the Class of ’77 is doing all right,” Fertal joked.
He said the campaign has been successful because donors share the mission and the vision of the school. The McConnells, he noted, have “a long record of generosity,” which includes a $1.75 million gift to Ursuline Academy this past fall. The areas being addressed by the campaign match their interests, Fetal said.
“These areas of innovation are right up their alley, as is helping students with a financial need,” he said.
Paul McConnell, a 1970 graduate of Salesianum School, confirmed that the commitment to “change and innovation” was a factor in their decision. “We are pleased to invest in their plan of action to continue to serve young people in both traditional and in new and dynamic ways.”
Their donation will have an immediate impact, Fertal said. By the start of the 2023-34 school year, the robotics lab and communications center should be done. In addition, he expects upgrades to the sound system and lighting in the theater to be done, along with work on the theater control room, the outdoor gathering space with a pavilion, and the leadership challenge course. Other projects are in the design and planning stages.
McConnell and her husband own McConnell Development. Linda McConnell said she has kept tabs on the school over the years, and the growth in enrollment over the past few years.
“You wouldn’t want to see something like this disappear, that’s for sure. And the Catholic education part, it’s so important,” she said.
That was a key part of this donation, according to Fertal. If people see success, they are more likely to invest. That has been true throughout this campaign, he said.
Fertal said he hopes other alumni hear about the McConnells’ gift and are inspired to give. The school appreciates donations of any size.
“We have thousands of alumni, and we want everybody to rise up and help us get to that goal and beyond that goal,” he said.