Family donates $1 million to girls' school in Towson Notre Dame Preparatory will build classroom wing


Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson has received its first $1 million gift, a pledge that will enable the 124-year-old girls' school to build a classroom wing, as well as enrich its scholarship and faculty development funds.

The family of the late Leroy E. and Irene B. Kirby initially pledged $600,000. Their daughter, Pat Kirby of Ruxton, pledged an additional $400,000 if the school could raise $2.1 million for the classroom wing by April 30.

"It's a tremendous expression of confidence in our school," said headmistress Sister Christine Mulcahy, who announced the gift after the challenge was met this week. "On a symbolic level, it mirrors the relationships that Notre Dame has fostered with its families."

Pat Kirby graduated from Notre Dame in 1967. Her sister, Eileen Kirby Zouck, attended the middle- and high school into the early 1970s. Both have daughters who are 1997 graduates of the school.

The sisters were joined by their brothers, Michael and Roy Kirby, in making the gift.

"My mother was very, very fond of Sister Helen Marie and Notre Dame and the education it gave us," Pat Kirby said. Sister Helen Marie was the former headmistress who retired last summer after 59 years as a teacher and administrator at the school.

Half of the Kirby family gift will go to the scholarship fund established in Sister Helen Marie's honor and will be used to award a four-year scholarship to one student each year. The new classroom wing will be named in memory of Irene B. Kirby.

Notre Dame has 635 students in grades six through 12.

Pat Kirby said she decided to make the $400,000 challenge grant to encourage more women to support their alma maters, particularly all-female institutions. Such schools have not received large gifts in the past because women have not been the primary breadwinners in many families, and married couples often support the husband's schools, development directors say.

In the past few years, multimillion-dollar gifts have become more common at area private schools, especially for building.

The 400-student Mount De Sales Academy in Catonsville, an all-girls high school, received a $2 million gift in 1996 from an elderly neighbor and longtime benefactor, Samuel Pistorio. The same year, Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills received $1.5 million from a parent for a middle-school addition and expansion.

Park School in Brooklandville received $1.5 million from the family of the late Morton K. Blaustein, and Boys' Latin School in Baltimore received $4 million for construction of a lower school and library from alumnus J. Duncan Smith.

Though such gifts are becoming more frequent, "They are still absolutely phenomenal. A million dollars is still a significant gift in our schools," said Sarah Donnelly, executive director of the Association of Independent Maryland Schools. The association has nearly 100 members across the state.

Pub Date: 5/02/98

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