Our Lady of the Elms School Announces $7.31 Million Donation

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Our Lady of the Elms School, which offers a Catholic Dominican education to female students from Summit, Cuyahoga, Stark, Medina and Portage counties, announced a $7.31 million donation today and broke ground for campus expansion.

Our Lady of the Elms School, which offers a Catholic Dominican education to female students from Summit, Cuyahoga, Stark, Medina and Portage counties, announced a $7.31 million donation today and broke ground for campus expansion.

The donors are Ann and David Brennan, who contributed $6 million, and sisters Lynn Holland Gorman and Lisa Holland Toth, who contributed $1.31 million combined.

"The Elms provided my daughters and me with a solid academic background and the confidence to pursue our passions," said Ann Brennan. "Now my granddaughters are receiving the same gift from the school, a legacy of the Sisters. This thank you gift is an investment in the Elms and in the West Akron community."

Gorman and Toth are also Elms alumnae with daughters at the school.

The funds will be used primarily to renovate the existing gymnasium into performing arts and fitness centers, renovate the theater, build a new gymnasium, renovate the student commons and expand parking.

"Beyond rigorous academic preparation, athletics and the arts are essential in developing the talents and leadership of young women," said Sister Mary Ann Wiesemann-Mills, prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic. "Now, thanks to God's grace and the generosity of Ann and David Brennan, Lynn Holland Gorman and Lisa Holland Toth, the Elms is equipped to provide state-of-the-art fitness and performing arts facilities for student use."

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said, "Our Lady of the Elms holds a special place in this community, both for the education of our daughters and granddaughters and as a generous institution, valuable to the neighborhood it embraces in West Akron. Ann and David Brennan are to again be applauded for their love of community and their munificence."

The Brennans chose to name the new facilities The Sr. Elizabeth Ann Schaefer, O.P., Performing Arts & Athletic Center. Sr. Elizabeth Ann Schaefer, better known as Sr. Libby, was a much-loved prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic (founders of Our Lady of the Elms School). Sr. Libby, who died in 2003, earned numerous awards and commendations for her selfless service in El Salvador and the Akron area.

Green Building
The Sisters of St. Dominic are committed to supporting and engaging ecologically-friendly programs and projects. They have owned and operated Crown Point Farm and Ecology Center in Bath for 40 years. Having such an ecological focus, the Elms has sought out an architect with an expertise in green building. Lead by Doty & Miller Architects, which employs a LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building system, Our Lady of the Elms will be renovated with low-VOC paints, adhesives and sealants to improve indoor air quality; recycled content building materials including gypsum board, metal studs, concrete and steel; an energy-efficient HVAC system with environmentally friendly refrigerants and more.(1)

Another energy-efficient element of the construction includes a light-colored roof to reduce the heat-island effect, which produces greenhouse gases and increases energy costs.

"Taking a green sustainability approach to building is the appropriate business practice for architects in today's environment," said Bill Doty, president of Doty & Miller Architects. "We have to build with energy, health and community concerns in mind and provide for this generation without robbing from the next."

"The Sisters of St. Dominic are dedicated to connecting spirituality, social justice and environmental protection," said Sister Mary Ann.

An Added Benefit
With a continuous two-year construction project enveloping the school, the opportunity will be created for additional learning possibilities.

During construction, educational interaction opportunities will be available for Elms students to learn directly from contractors in order to capitalize on this expansion for a broadened education.

"We will provide opportunities for our students to connect mathematics, science and engineering with the project that will be unfolding before them," said Lisa Massello, principal of Our Lady of the Elms High School. "Nationally, graduates of all-girls schools choose mathematics and science-related careers, not only more than their female peers who attended co-educational high schools, but more than their male counterparts."

The construction will be completed by Regency Construction, one of Ohio's largest female-owned construction firms. Beginning in September 2007, the renovations will be made in phases with an estimated completion date of September 2009.

"The Elms is committed to providing an all-girls environment where young women become confident and articulate," Massello said. "Elms graduates listen openly, evaluate wisely, speak bravely, lead justly and minister compassionately. We take pride in educating future women leaders."

(1) Other environmentally friendly building methods include the use of: recycled carpet (Green Label Plus, a carbon neutral product); a recycled EcoResin glazing system; low-flow plumbing fixtures with automatic sensors; fluorescent light fixtures used to reduce energy consumption with advanced lighting controls; low-mercury bulbs; skylights and glazing used to transfer daylight into interior spaces; recycled formaldehyde-free ceiling tile; and water-efficient landscaping materials.

To view and download high-res visuals (300 dpi) of artist renderings of the significant campus improvements at Our Lady of the Elms High School, please:

To view a backgrounder about Our Lady of the Elms, please go to

About Our Lady of the Elms
Our Lady of the Elms is an all-girls Catholic Dominican school that was founded in 1923 by the Sisters of St. Dominic. With the four pillars of prayer, study, community and preaching, the Elms serves 375 students in preK through grade 12 from Summit, Cuyahoga, Stark, Medina and Portage counties in Northeast Ohio. Our Lady of the Elms is the only environment for an all-girls education from grades one through 12 in the five-county area (preschool and K are co-educational). The Sisters of St. Dominic strive individually and corporately to preach the Gospel.

The $7.31 million will be used to:
Renovate the current gymnasium:

  •     1600 sq. ft. dance studio
  •     Fitness center
  •     Athletic offices
  •     Administration and advancement offices
  •     Home and visitor locker rooms

Renovate the theater
Build a new gymnasium:

  •     400 spectator seats
  •     Walking track

Renovate the student commons
Expand parking:

  •     87 new spaces
  •     Improved entrances and exits

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Karen Humphrey
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