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Gonzaga gets facelift

$16 million renovation adds science and computer labs to 179-year-old school

(Published September 4, 2000)


Construction work continues in the courtyard of Gonzaga College High School near Union Station. A $16 million renovation brought new computer and science labs as well as a new rotunda that connects the school's two buildings.

Cardinal James A. Hickey will join Gonzaga College High School’s new headmaster Mike Pakenham Sept. 24 to dedicate the school’s renovated music center and state-of-the-art science and computer facilities.

The $16 million renovation of the Catholic high school located at North Capitol and K streets NW includes new science labs and classrooms, a computer center, an expanded music center and the installation of central air conditioning for the school’s 885 students, said the Rev. Allen Novotny, president of the school.

"Now that we have updated our facilities…our students and faculty members will be able to do even more," Novotny said, citing the somewhat trying conditions of working and learning in the outdated buildings. Gonzaga has been located at this location for 129 of its 179 years.

At the September dedication, the cardinal is expected to preside over the blessing of the facilities, two of which are being named for prominent donors and alumni.

Otto and Jeannie Ruesch of the D.C.-based international finance firm Ruesch International contributed to the renovation of the music and choral arts center, now housed in Ruesch Hall. The new computer network hub in Collins Rotunda bears the name of Francis X. Collins, the patriarch of a family that has been among the largest donors to the school.

Within the next year, the school also plans to begin a second phase of construction, which will include the expansion of its library and renovation of the theater, the oldest continuously used theater in the nation’s capital.

Novotny said the success of the capital campaign, which started in 1998 and raised a total of $22 million, "speaks volumes of the devotion to the school" by alumni, parents and friends. He also noted that the successful fundraising effort bodes well for the school’s future economic well-being.

"It means we’ll be around for another 175 years," he said.

Gonzaga also welcomed its new headmaster at the start of its school year Aug. 23. Pakenham, who was previously the chair of the science department and a physics teacher, assumed the helm vacated by Joseph Ciancaglini after 13 years.

In order to meet increasing student demands for facilities, several other secondary Catholic schools have initiated development projects as well. St. Anselm’s Abbey on South Dakota Avenue NE will break ground in October for a new gymnasium and theater complex. St. John’s College High School, located on Military Road NW, has already launched construction of the James V. Kimsey Science and Technology Center, which will include nine new science labs and classroom space. Kimsey, a 1957 graduate of St. John’s, was one of the founders of America Online Inc.

Most of the 8,500 Catholic school students in the District started their new school year last week.


Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator