A generous gift by a Bolles kindergarten teacher has inspired a $1 million donation that will help build a gym for the school’s Ponte Vedra campus.
It all started when Cathy Stupski, a kindergarten teacher at the Bolles Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach Campus, was inspired to donate $500,000 to build the campus’s first gym in honor of her late husband, who died suddenly last year.
At first, Stupski considered donating a bench to her late husband and youngest son’s alma mater, Florida State University, but ultimately decided against it because she wouldn’t be able to see it every day. She also had concerns about what would happen to the bench if the school ever decided to get rid of it.
Then while staring out her classroom window one day, the idea struck her: a gym. She remembered how her two children, both Bolles graduates, had enjoyed using the gym at the Bolles Lower School Whitehurst Campus for school events.
“At Whitehurst, we used to have sock hops in the gym; when it was raining, we had the gym,” Stupski said. “I said well, what about a gym out here? Because we’re really lacking one – at least I feel we are, because my children had such great memories of pep rallies and sock hops.”
A gym, Stupski said, is also a fitting tribute to her husband, who enjoyed working out at Epping Forest Yacht & Country Club’s fitness center at least five days a week after work. He was also a former basketball coach.
“Karl really loved the gym,” Stupski said. “He believed in keeping fit and having fun.”
$1 million gift
Touched by Stupski’s generous donation, a Bolles family committed $1 million to assist in funding the project. Collectively, the contribution marks the largest gift The Bolles School has received for a capital improvement project on the Lower School Ponte Vedra Campus in recent years.
Faculty and staff were able to share in the celebration when the $1 million commitment was announced during the campus’ first meeting of the year. Immediately before the meeting began, Stupski said, she was handed a note from the donors stating that her contribution was what inspired them to come forward. Balloons and streamers adorned the meeting room and Bolles employees were treated to a sneak peek of the new campus addition with a video and artist renderings of the gym.
“It was very exciting!” said Stupski, adding that it ended their first meeting on a positive note. She was glad the entire faculty and staff were there to get the news.
Construction of the 10,800 square foot multipurpose gym is expected to begin once all funding is secure. Preliminary plans include a facility close to the school’s existing athletic fields with a basketball court, bleachers, restrooms and a stage for school performances. The new stage will allow for bigger productions and more room for attendees to sit. In addition, the multipurpose gym will allow for an indoor place for kids to play when it rains.
The building will be one of the largest on the campus, which opened as Bolles’ second Northeast Florida lower school facility in 1999.
The Ponte Vedra Beach multipurpose gym is the latest in several facilities projects ongoing at all four Bolles campuses. A four-classroom science and technology building is nearly complete on the Bolles Middle School Bartram Campus thanks to a $1 million gift from another anonymous donor. Three new playgrounds have been installed on the Lower School Whitehurst Campus and a new girls’ pool locker room is under construction on the Upper School San Jose Campus.
This will be Stupski’s 11th year teaching at Bolles, and she will be able to observe the gym every day from her classroom window.
“Bolles is a unique community; my children are what they are because of Bolles,” Stupski said. “(The school) was so good to my family, I had to give it back.”