Kevin Plank donates $1 million to Baltimore Catholic schools

Kevin Plank's private foundation funds scholarships at Baltimore Catholic School

The Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore will offer 100 more scholarships for city students to attend its schools, thanks to a $1 million donation from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.

Plank’s charitable organization, the Cupid Foundation, presented the gift at the archdiocese’s annual back-to-school breakfast.

Church officials said it would support the Partners in Excellence scholarship program, which they said has provided more than 25,000 need-based scholarships to elementary and high school students to attend Catholic schools in the city during the past 20 years.

“On behalf of the many children who will greatly benefit from this gift, I offer my sincere thanks to Mr. Kevin Plank and the Cupid Foundation for their confidence and support in the ability of Catholic schools to transform the lives of the children entrusted to their care,” Archbishop William E. Lori said in a statement.

The archdiocese, facing rising costs and declining enrollment, closed more than a dozen schools in 2010.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said an independent 18-month study of the health of Catholic schools in and around Baltimore is underway.

“Today’s generous gift ... will allow us to educate even more children, and will free up valuable resources that we can invest in programming, facilities and technology that will help keep our schools competitive and increase academic rigor,”  Sean Caine said.

Cardinal William H. Keeler and business leader Raymond “Chip” Mason created the PIE scholarship in 1996 to help provide a high-quality education to students in disadvantaged communities.

Most of the students who have benefited from the scholarships come from families with an average household income of $34,184, according to the archdiocese. Ninety-six percent are nonwhite, and 79 percent are non-Catholic.

Nine out of 10 scholarship recipients graduated from Catholic high schools in four years, and more than 80 percent went on to college.

Tom Geddes, CEO of Plank Industries and executive director of the Cupid Foundation, said the archdiocese was chosen for the $1 million gift because Catholic schools have a reputation for educational success.

“When looking for ways to help in our city, Kevin Plank likes tried-and-tested programs that work,” Geddes said.

The donation comes as Plank’s Sagamore Development Co. seeks $660 million in taxpayer-backed bonds to fund construction of roads, parks, utilities and other infrastructure around his $5.5 billion Port Covington project.

The Cupid Foundation donated $1 million in July to the CollegeBound Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that has helped thousands of city graduates attend and complete college.

Baltimore’s Catholic schools have also benefited from a new state program that helps low-income families pay for private school.

The Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today program was approved by the Maryland legislature this year.

Roughly $5 million in scholarships was awarded to the inaugural group of low-income Maryland students to  attend private schools.

Of the more than 3,000 applications certified by the state Department of Education, more than 600 students chose schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, according to the organization. About 38 percent of them were new to Catholic schools.

The students received a total of $1.5 million in BOOST scholarships to attend Archbishop Borders, Cardinal Shehan, Holy Angels and other schools. As a result of the program, enrollment at Cardinal Shehan School in the Northwood section of the city is up nearly 100 students this year.

erica.green@baltsun.com

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