DeSales launches $5 million capital campaign

Dr. Rick Blackwell, president of DeSales High School, stood on the campus’ front lawn in the area where an Innovation Center will be built. The school launched the public phase of a $5 million capital campaign April 18 to fund the project. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

DeSales High School’s new capital campaign aims to create a space that students and faculty need to take its Science Technology Engineering and Math curriculum into the future.

The south-end school, located at 425 West Kenwood Drive, launched the public phase of its “Call to Post,” a $5 million capital campaign, April 18. The funds will be used to build an Innovation Center at the front of the school’s campus.

Dr. Rick Blackwell, school president, said the center will provide much-needed space, such as “innovation rooms” that will make hands-on and project-based learning easier. The new building will also house an 8,000-square-foot “flex center” featuring a raised roof and removable walls to accommodate the entire student body for Mass and a variety of other activities.  

“We’re excited about the versatility it’ll give us,” said Blackwell in a recent interview. “Our hope is this will be the academic equivalent of the stadium, where it can be used in any number of ways.” 

The school’s Paul B. Cox Stadium is an open-air multi-sport complex featuring football, soccer and baseball fields and a batting cage. It was built in 2016 following the second capital campaign in school history.

Blackwell said the COVID-19 pandemic and its challenges made it clear to school leaders that DeSales needed more space — the current gym and chapel are the school’s only gathering places. Even before the pandemic, school leaders were looking at their strategic plan and assessing the school’s needs, he said. 

Blackwell said he’s heard it said, “ ‘Great schools can’t rest.’ You have to continually look at improvement and ask, ‘How can we get better? How can we meet these guys’ needs? … We felt this (new building) met the most needs now and into the future.” 

Griffin Roney, a junior at DeSales High School, left, and Jonathan Kampschaefer, a senior, worked on a computer game project in the school’s gaming lab April 19. The school has launched a $5 million capital campaign to build an Innovation Center, which would double the space of the lab. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

The all-boys school received STEM certification in the spring of 2018. It currently has a gaming innovation lab — a large classroom — where students learn game development and coding. “The guys love it,” he said, noting that the new center will double the space for this type of work.

DeSales decided to name the campaign “Call to Post” because “we need to call everyone to join us,” Blackwell said. “Five million dollars is a heavy lift for DeSales. We knew it would be challenging, but I believe strongly we will get there.” 

During a quiet phase, the campaign received more than $3.3 million in gifts & pledges — 66 percent of its goal. 

Blackwell said the support of both alumni and community organizations has been “incredible.” And the number of people who have never donated before has increased sharply, he said. 

“We’re really proud of that. We’re thrilled. That’s growing now that we’re in the general phase and more people know about the campaign,” he said. 

In addition to the Innovation Center, the campaign will also allow DeSales to increase its endowment, primarily through planned giving, said Blackwell. Since October 2022, the school’s 1956 Society Endowment has grown by $3.4 million, according to a press release from the school. To learn more about the capital campaign and how to contribute, contact Jaclyn Grieshaber, the school’s director of advancement, at 883-2438 or visit

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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