Saint Bernard alum donates $100K to renovations campaign

Uncasville — Five years ago, Saint Bernard School leaders realized they needed to make some moves.

"We had to mend some fences," said Headmaster Don Macrino, speaking of "neglected" alumni. "We had to reach out to the community and alumni who were really so much a part of this school and the thousands of kids who've grown up and turned into adults and received an education here. We've gotten a great response."

That response grew louder this week.

Jason Cohenour, a 1979 Saint Bernard grad, and his wife, Dana, recently donated $100,000 to the Hendricks Challenge, a fundraising challenge for renovations sparked by 1972 alum Maureen Hendricks.

The five-year campaign — which sees the John and Maureen Hendricks Charitable Foundation and the Diocese of Norwich annually match alumni and community donations up to $200,000 — has already raised about $3 million and funded large-scale overhauls, including new chemistry labs; wireless technology; library and media center upgrades; enhanced building security; and a sparkling new cafeteria and new office areas.

In a statement released Monday, Cohenour called the Hendricks Challenge "a fantastic vehicle for giving back to an institution that has meant so much to so many."

"I look back on my days at Saint Bernard with great fondness and gratitude," added Cohenour, who lives in Blaine, Wash., and recently retired as president and CEO of Sierra Wireless Inc., after 35 years in the technology business. "The school will always hold a special place in my heart."

Macrino said the new donation — the biggest the school's received during the Hendricks Challenge — would help fund a range of capital projects, including second floor renovations, LED lighting installation and other energy improvements, and floor resurfacing, which he said "hasn't been done since 1966. It's time."

"We're also going to complete the replacement of lockers," Macrino said. "Kids carry large bookbags now and carry computers; for some reason they just seem to have more equipment. So we'll put in modern, full-size lockers that students will be able to use within the next few months. We'll come together, give some thought to it and do the improvements that are the most necessary."

Macrino added that Cohenour was "just a real down to earth, wonderful guy" who felt Saint Bernard "had a great deal to do with his success."

Macrino credited Director of Advancement Dana Williams for her leadership in reaching out to alumni and the community to garner financial support.

Williams noted Cohenour had given a total of $200,000 to the Hendricks Challenge over the last five years.

"Don and I called him that first year and he had never heard from the school," Williams said. "He was very happy to talk about his time here and happy we came to ask for support."

Once the school is fully modernized, Macrino said the next phase is reaching back out to the community to help build an endowment to fund tuition assistance.

"Saint Bernard can be a reasonable and affordable option for students who desire this type of education," Macrino said.


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