Maryvale Preparatory School unveils a concrete tribute to McCarthy family's 'act of love'

As causes go, Bill and Maria McCarthy, who were co-chairpersons for "In Her Name: The Campaign for Maryvale," knew that their's was a special one.

Their daughter, Erinn McCarthy, died in 2007 at age 14 of osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

Before her death, Erinn urged her parents to do something positive for Maryvale Preparatory School, where she was in the ninth grade.

Armed with that mission, and with plans for a new humanities building and athletic fields on the Brooklandville campus, the McCarthys set out in 2009 to accomplish their goal.

It was quickly confirmed at the end of a meeting with Maryvale alumnae and philanthropist Mary Catherine Bunting, who gave $3 million, the first and largest gift to the campaign.

"She said we have to do this for Erinn," Bill McCarthy recalled. "That's how I know we connected, with that first, large gift. That was the moment."

A week before the five-year anniversary of Erinn's death, the McCarthy family took part in the March 5 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Erinn McCarthy Humanities Hall, a 28,300-square foot building at Maryvale that houses a 500-seat auditorium, six classrooms, a technology resource room, music rooms and a sacristy.

Additionally, a new turf field has been installed and could be used this spring, and installation of a new track is awaiting cooperation from the weather. Three practice fields will also be constructed, with the remainder of the $12 million raised for infrastructure improvements at the school.

"This is an amazing and exciting day for the Maryvale community and our guests who are here to celebrate with us," Bill McCarthy said during the ceremony. "What will take place in this humanities hall, and on our new track, and on our new athletic fields, only enhance our environment and the opportunity for each young lady."

The day was marked by a Mass — the first gathering of any kind in the new auditorium — celebrated by the Rev. W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of Wilmington, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the building.

After Malooly blessed the building, Brian Jarboe, chairman of the school's Board of Trustees, thanked those who made the project a success, then delivered a touching story.

Jarboe recalled his first father-daughter dance, at which he happened to sit at the same table with Erinn and Bill McCarthy.

"I had no idea, at the time, of the health issues that Erinn and her family were dealing with," Jarboe said. "Only that I left that night feeling good about the decision we had made to attend Maryvale, and felt welcomed into the Maryvale community in large part because of the hospitality that night of both Erinn and Bill."

When he first toured the building, Jarboe was struck by the "welcoming feel" of the building, as well as how it tied the whole campus together.

"Based on my experiences that night over seven years ago, I think it's fitting that Erinn's name and that of the McCarthys is on this building," he said. "This building does for this campus what they unknowingly did for me, my daughter and countless other individuals."

The new building will hold a time capsule, which will be installed at a later date behind a rock inscribed with "In Her Name 2012."

The school's yearbook journalism class filled the capsule with tokens of today's culture and the Maryvale they know and love, including a stuffed mascot, a list of the school's service opportunities, and an "In Her Name" blazer button, which each student was given Monday morning.

After the ceremony, Sister Shawn Marie Maguire, president and headmistress of Maryvale, spoke excitedly about the process of building the new humanities hall.

The project had already been in the planning stages when the McCarthy family asked if they could lead the project in Erinn's memory.

"Bill, I would be honored," she told him that day. "It's just been a real inspiration to worth with Bill and Maria."

Last week, Bill McCarthy explained how he felt the campaign's theme — "In Her Name" — universally resonated with the community.

"Anyone that I talked to, they would have a 'her' in their life," he said. "It could be a daughter, a spouse, their mother. It could be Sister Shawn ... there's a 'her.' "

Three flower paintings that adorn the windows of the first-floor classrooms in the Erinn McCarthy Humanities Hall were art projects Erinn never got to finish. The school's eighth-graders finished them this year, and the flowers provide a touch of color to the building's interior.

Additionally, a portrait accompanied by Erinn's story will be hung on the wall just inside the building's entrance.

Only this year's seniors were in school at the time of Erinn's death.

Senior Carly Ross, 18, said her class had a special connection with Erinn's because they served as her class' "big sisters" at the school.

Ross remembered that Erinn was always smiling when she was seen around school, and described the building named for her as "a breath of fresh air" on the campus.

With the event looming, Bill McCarthy had predicted the ceremony would be a day of emotions — from the joy that came with the realization that generations of Maryvale students will be able to enjoy the building to the simple, sad truth that he just wished his daughter could be there.

He searched for the right words to capture his feelings about the coming ceremony, and joked that his daughter's first question would be to ask what took him so long.

But after a fit of silence, Bill McCarthy settled on a succinct and all-encompassing way to describe his family's efforts, as well as all of the support and help they received from volunteers along the way.

"I would say," he said, again pausing, "I think it's completely an act of love."

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