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Development through Destruction

Tommy Hedman '21

President John F. Kennedy once said that “change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Change is often an idea that many of us associate with fear and reluctance. It is a concept that will thrust people out of their comfort zone and into the dark abyss of uncertainty that awaits. However, as President Kennedy affirms, change is necessary for progress, progress which will soon be achieved through the “Summer Splash” campaign at Saint Thomas Academy.

The campus will be revolutionized into a space that meets the ever-changing needs of the institution, forging a new path that will forever alter campus life for students. During the summer of 2021, the Saint Thomas Academy campus will be physically transformed in a variety of ways,  including an outdoor quad that allows more acreage and access to our beautiful Rogers Lake surroundings. Though the Academy added Vince Flynn Hall as well as Holtz and Sjoberg/Flynn gymnasiums back in 2008, this summer’s $5.5 million project, dubbed “STA Summer Splash,” is designed to transform the Academy and update features that have not been touched since STA moved to Mendota Heights in 1965.

Headmaster Kelby Woodard and other members of the administration are extremely eager to get these developments underway, as this campaign marks a historic phase of transition and transformation for the school. Without further ado, here are some of the major alterations that the STA community can expect to see when the 2021-2022 school year kicks off in August.

Among the most glaring changes to the campus will be the installation of a new quad on the lawn outside the Founders Hall campus. The current roundabout will be removed, and the new development will allow for an outdoor passageway between classes during the school day. This space will also be utilized to conduct formations outside when the weather permits. Additionally, this will include the expansion of the main parking lot outside Vince Flynn, and a new entrance to that lot. Space clearly is a point of emphasis for the administration, space that will allow our 88 acre campus to be utilized more efficiently for students, faculty, and the greater STA community.

The changes inside the school will be even more dramatic. Plans for the heart of our campus, the Court, to be expanded outwards are in the works, a project that will include three classrooms on each side and many of the administrative offices. Glass will enclose these spaces, allowing for more light and transparency, a design philosophy more in tune with modern values and aesthetics. In addition, FH 112, currently Mr. Zenner’s classroom, will be transformed into a functioning elevator that will make the entire campus wheelchair-accessible. Finally, all science and engineering labs will move to the Middle School, where there is more space for hands-on complex experiments such as demonstrations and labs that will inspire and energize students through their learning.

As if all of these modifications were not enough, Headmaster Kelby Woodard affirms that plans are in place for a Phase II to occur in the summer of 2022, as well as a possible Phase III in the near future. However, he maintains that with all of these new changes to modernize and transform the Academy for the better, the rustic and antique nature of the Court will be preserved: “We really tried to strike a balance between protecting the history of the area that has been an integral part of the Saint Thomas Academy campus since 1965 while also updating some features that would be greatly beneficial to both the students and faculty,” asserts Woodard. “It was important to us that we still give the alumni something that captures their memories of the building in the new look of the Academy while also providing for the current students.”

Although history, tradition, and connections to the past are undeniably important features of an elite institution such as Saint Thomas Academy, progression into the future through change is equally crucial to the maintenance and wellbeing of every cadet, faculty member, parent, and alumni. With all the unknowns in today’s world, it is our responsibility to forge ahead into the sea of troubles and blaze a new path. Although alterations to the building the STA community has called home for 56 years may be uncomfortable for some, it is the path the Academy must take through the Summer Splash campaign in order to keep pace with our rapidly changing and modernizing world. As Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

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