Garrison Forest dedicates center

Expansion: The private girls school celebrates its new building, made possible by alumnae generosity.

May 10, 2002|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

A $10 million campus center that houses athletic facilities, a dance studio, a fitness center and a dining hall was dedicated yesterday at Garrison Forest School, although workers are still putting the finishing touches on the 53,000-square-foot building.

G. Peter O'Neill, head of Garrison Forest, called the new center a "wonderful dream of ours" and credited the philanthropy of women, all of them alumnae, for making the dream come true at the all-girls school.

"Women were the largest donors to the school," O'Neill said, with more than $7 million for the project coming from them.

"It's part of the changing nature of philanthropy. More women are supporting their alma maters, the way men have supported theirs for years.

"The alumnae were speaking to other alumnae and asking for donations," O'Neill said. "They succeeded in their fund-raising efforts and supported their school."

In the past eight years, he said, the Owings Mills school has raised about $35 million because of the generosity of female donors. The school has built an arts center, and has expanded its lower school, technology program and equestrian center.

With the new campus center, O'Neill said, the school has doubled its square-footage in the past seven years.

The Elizabeth B. Searle Athletic Center, housed in the campus center, was named in honor of a former president of the board of trustees, who served as head of the board from 1994 until 2000 and was a major proponent of the new facility. Searle, of Denver, who graduated in 1974, did not attend yesterday's ceremony.

The campus center is based on the concept of healthy lifestyles, O'Neill said, and will be used by students and faculty.

The center, the largest building on the 115-acre campus, also features three full-size basketball courts, volleyball and badminton courts, an indoor elevated track, a sports medicine facility with whirlpools, locker rooms and physical education offices, in addition to a 240-seat dining hall with a kitchen.

The center replaces an old gymnasium that was built in 1922 and torn down this spring.

O'Neill said the center will not be in full use until the next school year because athletic and kitchen equipment needs to be tested.

The dining hall and kitchen will be moved from Manor House, built in 1912, and one of the school's original buildings. Manor House is too small for the enrollment of 630 girls.

Garrison Forest is a private day and boarding school from preschool through 12th grade. The preschool is coeducational.

O'Neill said the school's next project is to create more green space and to divert traffic from the middle of campus.

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