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Promoting academics

St. Anselm’s new gym built to enhance learning environment

(Published March 25, 2002)

By BRIAN BRADFORD

Staff Writer

Most times when a school invests millions of dollars into an athletic facility, the intention is to promote the athletic program.

But officials at a private school in Northeast Washington with an enrollment of only 253 students looks at their recent construction of a $6.5 million athletic complex as a needed part of the academic curriculum.

St. Anselm Abbey, a private school for boys in grades 6-12, completed construction of a state-of-the-art athletic complex in February. St. Anselm Abbey is known to have one of the strongest academic programs on the East Coast.

The project was not done to win games or attract better athletes, but rather to offer the school’s current students a better learning environment, officials said. Football teams won’t be added and the school will not be moving into a more competitive conference.

"We wanted to better the balance of emphasize we put on developing the mind, body and soul, but we are not changing our focus," said the Rev. Peter Weigard, the school’s headmaster.

Athletic scholarships are not awarded to lower the $13,000-a-year tuition. The average SAT score of the senior class is 1430 and 18 of the 23 seniors are National Merit scholars.

Last year the school placed a graduate at every Ivy League school in the country except Cornell – to which none applied. March Madness at St. Anselm Abbey surrounds not basketball playoffs, but rather, WRC-Channel 4’s "It’s Academic" playoffs.

The school’s athletic teams play in the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference. The schools in the conference give points to schools for their participation in sports and at the end of the year the leader is awarded a Director’s Cup.

Students in grades 11 and 12 are required to play one sport at the varsity level each year as part of their academic matriculation. With a small enrollment, this allows almost all of the boys to earn a varsity letter in a sport, officials said. The school fields soccer, basketball, baseball, cross country, wrestling, tennis and track teams.

The school’s enrollment outgrew its old gymnasium and now enjoys a center that houses a gym, wrestling room, weight room, fencing room, classrooms and offices. The old gym, designed for 140 students, will be turned into a theater.

Father Weigard is credited with raising most of the needed funds. The school’s small alumni group of 1,300 raised $3 million to match donations from private sources. Past and current parents put the rest together. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the gym were held on Oct. 21, 2000, and this season St. Anselm Abbey began hosting home games on its new court on March 1.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator