With the honors being performed by the person for whom it’s named, construction of the Sister Mary Carmella Coene Science Wing at Elmira Notre Dame High School got off to a festive start Sept. 7.
Groundbreaking for the new wing took place in a morning ceremony that featured Sister Coene, a Sister of Mercy who has been affiliated with Notre Dame since it opened in 1955. A longtime teacher and department head, Sister Coene taught full time until 1998 and has been involved in education for more than 75 years. As she approaches her 96th birthday Dec. 21, she still tutors regularly at Notre Dame.
Sister Coene not only served as ribbon-cutter at the groundbreaking, she also dug a few honorary shovelsful of dirt while numerous other dignitaries — such as Sister Gaye-Lynn Moorhead, president of the Rochester Sisters of Mercy; Southport Town Supervisor David Sheen; and members of the school’s board of trustees and capital-campaign cabinet — looked on. A reception followed the ceremony, which coincided with the first week of school.
“It was just a wonderful day. It was so great to be able to see Sister Carmella out there turning dirt, and being so really pleased that we were honoring her,” commented Sister Mary Walter Hickey, Notre Dame’s principal, who officiated the groundbreaking.
The Sister Mary Carmella Coene Science Wing is due to be ready for use by September 2005, coinciding with the beginning of Notre Dame’s 50th-anniversary year. The wing will contain badly needed laboratory and lecture space, featuring state-of-the-art equipment such as a projection system that teachers can incorporate into their lectures via lap-top computers.
Prior to this renovation, the school’s science facilities have been essentially unchanged since Notre Dame was built. “This is very necessary if these kids are going to continue to get the best education,” Sister Hickey said.
Funding for the science wing and other initiatives is being provided through Notre Dame’s Legacy of Values Capital Campaign that began in 2001. According to Mark Wayne, the coeducational school’s capital-campaign and major-gifts director, approximately $3.35 million has been collected toward the overall campaign goal of $4.5 million. Those interested in donating may call Wayne at 607/734-2267, ext. 316.
Sister Hickey said progress on the school’s first-ever capital campaign is “slow but true. I’m really pleased with the generosity of our benefactors.” She added that work at the school has only been done “as the money has come in.”
This marks the school’s largest renovation effort ever. Work began in 2003 when several health-and-safety issues were addressed, and locker-room facilities were renovated and expanded to accommodate an athletic program in which more than two-thirds of all Notre Dame boys and girls play sports. Wayne added that the campaign also includes a cafeteria expansion as well as $1 million toward an endowment fund for scholarships and financial aid.