A few months ago, when Marquette University High School staff and faculty revealed the details of the school’s upcoming 31,000-square-foot addition, some students commented that the renderings of the new classrooms and collaboration spaces “made them feel like they were in college.”
And that’s the whole point, said Kriss Schulz, vice president of administration at MUHS.
The expansion and renovation project, expected to cost between $18 and $20 million, grew out of a strategic plan from 2011 that identified a need for the school to focus on providing a more college-based experience for its students.
“We looked at how are we teaching, and how do we need to teach?” she said. “We realized we really needed to look at how students are learning in college, since we’re a college prep school. So one of the big things in college now is collaboration – working together, doing team projects. We’re trying to create more flexible space.”
This “flexible space” comes in the form of larger classrooms and collaborative meeting spaces, as well as a new science lab, campus ministry center and academic success center. In addition, renovations will be made to roughly 75,000 square feet of the existing school, built in 1925.
The project, under the direction of Bray Architects and CG Schmidt, is expected to be completed in two phases over the next year and a half. Construction on the first phase, which includes the renovation of the school’s entrance and counseling centers, and the addition of a campus ministry center, will be completed in August. A renovation of the robotics center, gymnasium and library will begin in May 2016 and end sometime that summer, said Schulz.
It’s all part of an effort to make the school’s curriculum “more cutting-edge,” said president Jesuit Fr. Warren Sazama, and to expand their offerings of AP and STEM classes.
The expansion is part of the three-pronged Companions on the Journey capital campaign, which will focus ondeveloping optimal college prep curriculum, maintaining the school’s ability to help every student “succeed and flourish,” and keeping an MUHS education financially accessible to students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds.
It is the latter aspect of the campaign that is especially close to the heart of Fr. Sazama. The campaign is something of a swan song for him; he is retiring from his position at the end of June 2016, and he is anxious not to “squeeze out the middle class” from the pool of potential MUHS students. A 1964 graduate of the high school himself, Fr. Sazama recalled working a paper route to pay for his own tuition – a strategy that he acknowledges would, unfortunately, not work today.
“The more affluent families can afford the education, and the working-class kids will get financial aid. But we’re very proud of the fact that we have sons of policemen and firemen and social workers and public school teachers here,” he said.
He sees the economic and racial diversity of his student population as one of his greatest responsibilities. The school’s scholarship endowment fund has grown exponentially in the last 30 years, he said, noting that today it stands at $41 million, compared to just $500,000 in 1985.
“Our society is so polarized these days,” he said. “Here, you’ve got kids from Elm Grove and Mequon and Fox Point having class with kids from the city.”
The capital campaign has raised $27.5 million, $16.5 million of which is designated for the scholarship endowment fund. Eleven million dollars has been raised for the “core” of the construction projects, which includes the campus ministry center, academic success center, library renovation, robotics center and student study spaces. Seven million more is needed to complete the core projects, and Fr. Sazama hopes to raise $9 million in all so that the school’s gym, soccer and track fields can eventually be upgraded.
The money raised comes entirely from alumni and parents, said Fr. Sazama. Charlie DuBois (MUHS 1983) and his sister, Mary Wisniewski, through their company Standard Process, have donated $1 million to name the campus ministry center after their father, Frank. The Takton family donated $1.5 million to name one of the new lecture halls, which will be known as the Presidents’ Hall in honor of the school’s past Jesuit presidents. John and JoEllen Stollenwerk contributed $1.25 million toward the scholarship endowment, and class of 1980 alumnus Jim O’Rourke and his wife Maike have donated $1 million to the capital campaign.
“This will be something which I will feel good about leaving Marquette in a very strong place for success for the future,” said Fr. Sazama. “We’re a very rigorous college prep school and some of our students need support, obviously. So we want to make sure that our students receive both the academic support and the social and spiritual support that they need to be successful here.”