Donation match helps fund new Bolles center


Dr. Dana Fender and his wife Hope signed a commitment Oct 30 to match a $5 million gift from Frank Sanchez to build the Center for Innovation on the Bolles Upper School San Jose Campus.

The 47,000-square-foot, three-story building marks the most expansive construction undertaking on the San Jose Campus property since the building now known as Bolles Hall was constructed as the San Jose Hotel in 1925.

Groundbreaking on the $26 million building, designed by Miami-based Zyscovich architects and constructed by Jacksonville-based Stellar design-build company, began in June 2022 with construction expected to finish by spring 2024.

The $5 million donations from the Fenders and Sanchez are the largest single gifts to The Bolles School in its history. The state-of-the-art structure will now be called the “Frank R. Sanchez & Hope and Dana E. Fender Center for Innovation” in honor of their generosity.

“The Center for Innovation is an exciting work of both art and engineering, but like all campus structures, it exists to support the learning that happens within its footprint,” said Bolles President and Head of School Tyler Hodges. “In this case, this means collaborative hands-on learning, academic exploration with inspirational faculty and the ability for students to experiment and gain practical experience as they work toward their highest potential to serve our community and the world.”

The state-of-the-art structure is being constructed on the San Jose Campus’ last prime development site adjacent to Bolles Hall on a bluff overlooking the St. Johns River. The building will house Bolles’ science, math and technology programs, as well as expansive areas for advanced courses in robotics, computer programming, information technology, engineering and design. Designs for the facility accommodate opportunities for new offerings and provide space for collaboration and dialogue across disciplines. The new academic areas will deepen Bolles’ curriculum and cultivate the country’s next generation of innovators, according to department leaders.

The Center for Innovation features numerous cutting-edge classrooms and 12 sophisticated specialty labs, including spaces for anatomy, biology and chemistry lab instruction. The building also will house Bolles’ Anatomage table, the world’s first and only virtual dissection table used by medical schools and universities around the globe. Bolles has long-been one of the few high schools in the country to offer students this college-level science resource.

In addition to being built with the latest technology for advanced study, the Center for Innovation also will include spaces for small group discussions, collaborative learning and independent study. Faculty and school leaders felt strongly the building’s design should complement the school’s focus on real-world learning that allows students to create, invent and explore using a variety of tools, materials and technology. And it should also highlight the campus’ greatest natural asset — the St. Johns River.

Construction of the Center for Innovation, and the subsequent relocation of programs from classroom space in Bolles Hall and other buildings, also provides space for other areas of academic advancement and Resident Life — including the expansion of the Llura “Lulie” Liggett Gund ’58 Residence Hall for Girls on the second floor of Bolles Hall.

While the milestone Sanchez and Fender gifts continues the Center for Innovation on a course for success, Bolles Chief Advancement Officer Carol Nimitz said the School continues to seek support for the ongoing development of the facility. The Bolles School needs an additional $8 million in philanthropic gifts to meet the $26 million cost of the building.