On a glorious fall day, the St. Charles Preparatory School community held the official groundbreaking for the new Frank E. Murphy ’54 Convocation Center and the beautification of a cherished school landmark, Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto.
The $11.5 million project is the centerpiece of an ongoing major campus expansion plan which are part of the school’s Vision for the Future; Building Leaders for the Next 100 Years campaign. The ceremony took place at the east end of the grotto’s long meadow where guests gathered following Mass commemorating the Feast Day of the school’s patron, St. Charles Borromeo (November 4th).
The Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, assisted by numerous other alumni priests and deacons, served as the main celebrant for the liturgy which was held in the school’s Robert C. Walter Student Commons.
St. Charles Principal Jim Lower began the official ceremony by praising Bishop Brennan, saying that “we are especially grateful to have you with us today for this historic occasion and thank you for your encouragement in the development of our campus master plan. We want you to know how much you will be missed as you take on your new position as the Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn. You have meant so much to all of us and we all wish you God’s blessings as you continue in your ministry. Please join me in thanking our Bishop for his service to the Diocese and to Catholic education.”
Next, Principal Lower welcomed back St. Charles alumnus Frank Murphy, 1954 graduate who grew up in Immaculate Concepcion parish. Lower noted that Murphy credits St. Charles with developing the skills and work ethic that have carried him successfully through life.
“Like so many of our graduates and benefactors, Frank wants to pay forward for the next generation of St. Charles men. Please join me, along with his many classmates from the class of 1954, our brother, for his generous support and donation to building this new space,” Lower said.
When completed in the spring of 2022, the convocation center will include a 1,200-1,400 seat arena with flexible space to accommodate athletic events, public presentations, educational programs and cultural activities to benefit the St. Charles and Central Ohio Communities. The octagonal facility’s vaulted ceiling will feature a dramatic superstructure of interwoven wooden trusses and the building’s 27,000 square feet of space will also include The Paul G. Heller ’82 Family Hall of Fame, The Riat Family Court, and The Anne Park Foyer.
The campaign’s other major undertaking is the beautification of Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto. Built in 1932, it stands as a fond reminder of the school’s earliest years and graduates as well as a lasting devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Changes will include the addition of two waterfalls to frame the grotto in addition to the Mackessy Family Area of Reflection, sitting walls and paved pathways.
Standing alongside Principal Lower at the podium during the ceremony were several people whom he praised for their support and leadership roles in the successful campaign: Paul Heller ’82 (Honorary Campaign Chairman), Tom Mackessy ’77 (Friends Initiative Chairman) and Alex Loehrer ’94 (Alumni Initiative Chair). Joining them were Bob Corna ’63 and Brent Foley ’98, who have worked closely together as the designer and architect of the center.
In addition to the campaign’s supporters and donors who helped the school raise the campaign funds, St. Charles also wishes to extend its gratitude to those people and companies that have and will continue to play pivotal roles in the project’s current planning and future construction work in the months ahead: Gary Huston (Oakland Nurseries), Matt Ferris (E.P. Ferris & Associates), Chris Eramo (John Eramo & Sons Construction Company), Jim Negron (Corna-Kokosing Construction Company), Bob Sission (Diocese of Columbus Facilities Director), Jim Valentas (Corna-Kokising Construction Company) and Jeff Schumaker (TRIAD Architects).
Principal Lower also spoke again to the future center’s namesake, Mr. Murphy. “Frank, like the many other generous benefactors who are supporting this campaign, is a strong believer in the traditions and educational philosophy of St. Charles Preparatory School,”
Principal James Lower said. “He feels that he received a great education during his time here as a student and developed special friendships with his classmates that last to this day. Like so many of our alumni, parents and friends, Frank is very proud to be able to support the next generation of young men who walk these halls,” Lower said.