BAY RIDGE — A generous donor has bestowed a $250,000 gift on Fontbonne Hall Academy, the largest endowment in the school’s 82-year history, school’s officials confirmed.
The $250,000 gift from the Callaghan & Pierog Family Foundation will be used to renovate the school’s STEM lab and to create a new science lab, according to Director of Development Joseph Geraci.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
The foundation made the donation in the name of Eileen Callaghan Halpin, according to Geraci, who said one of the labs will be named in her honor.
“This is a generous gift and we are extremely grateful to the foundation,” Geraci told the Home Reporter. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for our school.”
Fontbonne Hall Academy, a Catholic high school for girls located at Shore Road and 99th Street in Bay Ridge, has increased its efforts over the past several years to introduce students to STEM and encourage students to pursue studies in technical fields.
Fontbonne Principal Mary Ann Spicijaric said the $250,000 gift isn’t the first time the Callaghan & Pierog Family Foundation has assisted the school’s STEM program.
“The Callaghan-Pierog Family Foundation was instrumental in helping Fontbonne become a leading school in the use of educational technology seven years ago. We are just so grateful that they continue to see the need to support women in science,” said Spicijaric.
She called the latest donation a “transformational gift” and “a turning point for our school and for the future of education of each of our students.”
The foundation’s founder, a relative of Callaghan’s who requested that his name not be published, told Fontbonne he is excited about the opportunity to help the school expand its STEM labs.
“We are awaiting the first installment of the gift. Then we can go to an architect and an engineer to talk about plans. We have some general ideas, but we want to sit down with the experts,” said Geraci, who added that the large amount of the donation “gives us great flexibility.”
Upgrading the STEM program will not require the construction of a new building on the campus, according to Geraci. Rather, the school will renovate existing space.
Fontbonne officials pointed to studies showing that more than 62 percent of all careers as of 2020 will involve some form of science, technology, engineering and math.
To get a jump on the future, Fontbonne established partnerships with colleges and universities that promote STEM careers for women, including the Brown University School of Engineering.
Under a unique program, Fontbonne offers pre-college engineering courses that are taught via video by Brown University professors. A few years ago, a group of Fontbonne students visited the campus of Brown University and took a course.
The Brown University program has proven to be a big success, Fontbonne officials said.
“We started with 10 students in that program. Now, we have 30,” Geraci said.”We have seen an increase in interest in STEM careers in our students.”
Fontbonne Hall Academy was established by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Catholic religious order of nuns, in 1937.