Friday, November 23, 2007

Sioux Falls' O'Gorman receives $10M donation

Avera McKennan will donate $10 million for improvements at O'Gorman High School in a gift designed to let the health system help reshape Catholic education in Sioux Falls.

The gift announced Wednesday pushes the Catholic school system's fund drive past the $19 million milestone identified as the cost to construct three new classroom buildings on the O'Gorman campus at 41st and Kiwanis. That total is part of a larger $40 million campaign that's also intended to boost teacher pay, provide student scholarships and build a new performing arts center.

The gift from the Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center is the largest in history to the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools. It's also a first for Avera. The health system has been a longtime supporter of higher education. This is its first leap into K-12 classrooms, a sign that health officials want a direct role in guiding younger students into medical professions.

"Clearly the students here are the intelligent, energetic, enthusiastic people we're looking for," Fred Slunecka, regional president for Avera McKennan, told an audience of almost 1,000 in an assembly at O'Gorman.

Tom Lorang, superintendent of Sioux Falls Catholic Schools, said the Avera gift brings total commitments on the fund drive to $22 million.

A first phase of construction at O'Gorman will begin in the spring. Two of the three new classroom wings should be ready by fall 2008, with the third wing and other improvements ready by fall 2009.

A $6 million on-campus performing arts center should open in 2010 if the second phase goes well, Lorang said. The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce has endorsed this part of the campaign. Lorang hopes those donations are in place by April.

A third $15 million phase would set up an endowment to support salaries and help families pay tuition fees for their children. [...Snip] Sioux Falls Argus Leader

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