Anonymous donor gives Trinity School $1 million


The Trinity School has received a $1 million gift, one of the largest donations to a Catholic school in the Baltimore area, the school announced yesterday.

Local parochial and public school officials think the donation also is the largest ever to a school in Howard County, and it more than doubles the small Roman Catholic school's endowment.

"The gift happened to occur at the same time we were celebrating my 25th anniversary at the school, which made it very exciting for me," said Sister Catherine Phelps, principal of the school, which has 380 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. "It's just wonderful."

The donor declined to be identified except as a relative of an alumnus, said Eleanor R. Logue, the school's director of development. The gift was announced to the school's faculty and students last month during the celebration of Sister Catherine's quarter-century as principal, but it was not made public until yesterday.

School administrators and board members said they have no plans for the money, but some of it probably will be used for renovations that will include computer and science laboratories, Sister Catherine said. Some of the older buildings on the property may be converted into classroom and office space.

Although there is no plan to expand enrollment beyond the current two classrooms for each grade level, the school is considering adding a preschool program, she said.

William J. Boulay, chairman of the school's board of trustees, emphasized that the board of directors will move slowly in deciding what to do.

"We have 380 families, and I'm sure we'll get 350 different ideas for what to do with the money," Mr. Boulay said.

The donation far exceeds the largest individual or foundation donations ever given to the school, which were about $2,500 and respectively, Ms. Logue said. The school's entire fund-raising effort for all of 1994 yielded $66,000.

"We hope now that this will be very encouraging for future donations, especially for corporate support," Ms. Logue said.

The school is funded by tuition and private donations, and receives no financial support from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Annual tuition is about $4,000 for an elementary school student and about $4,500 for a middle school student.

Ronald J. Valenti, the superintendent of archdiocesan schools, called the $1 million donation "amazing" when he learned of it yesterday afternoon.

Dr. Valenti and other local school officials said they knew of no other donation of that size to a Howard County school. There are about a dozen parochial and nonparochial private schools in Howard County.

Dr. Valenti said the gift is among the largest ever received by a Catholic school in the Baltimore area. The largest gift to any Baltimore-area school was the $6 million given to the McDonogh School in Owings Mills this year by the estate of a 1928 alumnus.

Trinity is on 160 wooded acres off Ilchester Road, between Patapsco Valley State Park and Rockburn Branch Park in northeastern Howard County. Some of the buildings are from the turn of the century.

The campus originally was the site of the Donaldson School for Boys. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur bought the property in the late 1930s, after the boys' school ran into financial difficulties during the Depression, Ms. Logue said.

The order began Trinity Preparatory School, a private boarding school for girls in grades six through 12. In the early 1940s, the school became a coeducational day school for students from elementary through high school age, she said.

When the high school closed in 1972, the school became known as the Trinity School, which operates independently of the order.

In 1990, it was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 41 "exemplary" private schools nationwide.

The order recently sold 38 acres of the campus to the Howard County school system, which plans to open an elementary school there in 1996.

Additional acreage might be sold by the order to finance the retirement of the order's sisters, but the school will maintain its campus.

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