Building on its success

Mercersburg Academy plans fund drive for arts center

Mercersburg Academy plans fund drive for arts center

March 17, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - If Mightily Onward, Mercersburg Academy's $100 million fund-raising campaign, was anything, it was mighty.

The drive netted the 430-student private prepatory school $103 million last year, said Douglas Hale, head of the school since 1997.

Emboldened by success, Hale is ready to launch a new fund drive - this one for $15 million to build the academy's first arts center.

The first campaign got its biggest single boost in April 2002 from a $35 million gift from H.F. Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite.


Lenfest, a 1949 Mercersburg graduate, is president of the Lenfest Group, which has made significant donations to area public school districts in recent years. He made his fortune in the cable television industry.

Hale said Lenfest's generosity inspired school leaders to set a goal of $100 million and encouraged others to donate large sums to the campaign. Hale was able to tap a well of more than 10,000 living alumnae for his fund drive.

Of the $100 million, 21 percent went to fund scholarships. Nearly half of the academy's students receive some financial aid, from $4,000 to full scholarships. Tuition, room and board next year will be $30,300, Hale said.

Hale said he put so much money into the financial aid program so the academy can be diverse and as accessible as possible.

He said 17 percent is being spent on improving salaries, benefits and quality of life for the school's 85 full-time faculty members, including classroom teachers, administrators and professional support staff. All live in apartments or houses owned by the academy on campus or in town, Hale said.

Another 10 percent went into academics, including the addition of new college-level courses such as Chinese, statistics and environmental sciences.

"We're expanding the arts department, adding a writing center and a counseling department," Hale said. "We've had to add staff to broaden our programs and enlarge the school."

He said 12 percent went into updating technology and 2 percent paid for campaign expenses.

The biggest single chunk, 38 percent, paid for renovating the 20 major buildings on the 300-acre campus, plus building a tennis court center and a greenhouse.

The $15 million sought in the new campaign will pay for a new 47,000 square-foot arts building. It will serve as a performing arts center and be available for community use, Hale said.

Boone Hall, the school's assembly hall, was built in the 1960s. It will be razed and the new arts center built in its place.

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