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Providence High receives major donation

Gift will be used to establish a faculty endowment to promote professional development.

November 06, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

What started out as a phone call quickly turned into a nearly $1-million no-strings-attached check for Providence High School — the largest gift from an individual in the school’s history.

Now, Providence High officials are using the anonymous donation to establish a faculty endowment designed to help retain top-tier teachers and foster professional development.

“Donations like that don’t come every day, so the opportunity to set up an endowment as a lasting legacy of the gift was very important for the administration,” said Paul Kaminski, director of advancement. “They gave it a lot of thought, and instead of buying this and buy that … they wanted something lasting.”

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The $943,572 was gifted to the school last month as part of the distribution of an estate, but even high-ranking school officials say they don’t know who the donor was.

The private Catholic high school in Burbank has received larger contributions from foundations to help finance capital projects, but has never received such a significant sum from an individual, officials said. What’s more, the money was unrestricted, meaning school officials were free to use it however they saw fit.

“I think what is most telling about it was that this is not a gift because of what is happening right now. This is a gift because of what has happened since 1955, and because of the belief in the future of this school,” Head of School Joe Sciuto said.

He described the decision to create an endowment as an investment in the future of Providence.

“The reason I wanted to make it into an endowment is because that is what schools are about,” Sciuto said. “Schools are about teaching, they are about learning. The teachers really are that front line — they are what the students remember most.”

Providence High School opened in 1955 with 81 female students. Fifty-six years later, the now-coed campus enrolls 401 students taught by 41 faculty members. The school is perhaps best known for its specialized medical- and media-focused programs that give participants hands-on work experience.

The newly created Blessed Emilie Gamelin Endowment is named after the woman who founded the Roman Catholic religious order — the Sisters of Providence — that established the high school.

“I think it came at a time when donations probably around the United States are at a low with the economy,” Kaminski said. “I think it is a testament to the donor that they had faith in the longevity of the school. Those types of planned gifts are sustaining for nonprofits for the long term.”

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