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VOL. 130 | NO. 167 | Thursday, August 27, 2015

Memphis' Bigger Brothers

In 50 years, CBHS goes from no hot water to $25 million makeover

By Don Wade

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If spending begins with saving, then Brother Adrian Powers’ fingerprints are all over the $25 million improvement campaign at Christian Brothers High School that includes a $10 million athletic development center.

Christian Brothers High School’s $25 million capital campaign includes a new STEMM building (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine) and a $10 million athletic complex.

(Fleming Architects)

No matter that Brother Adrian passed away in 2008, at 91, and had retired as the school’s superintendent and director some 20 years prior. Brother Adrian was assigned to open the new facility on Walnut Grove Road in East Memphis in 1965 when the Brothers moved from the Parkway campus.

And he had a clear vision. When a death led to a large gift for CBHS, he put away 50 percent in an endowment fund.

“Brother Adrian grew up in the Depression,” said Ken Kimble, director of capital projects and foundations. “He was very thrifty, very responsible with the school’s money, and he did not spend where he did not have to spend. He is the patriarch of this campus.”

In those days, the school didn’t have a board of directors. So Brother Adrian made the tough decisions on money. When he learned a smaller basketball court would cost less – but not allow the school to host postseason tournaments – he opted for the non-regulation-size court.

“When we built the building, he didn’t even put hot water on the academic side because he said the boys didn’t need it,” Kimble said.

After Brother Adrian retired, he continued to live on campus. If you traveled Walnut Grove in those days and glanced over at CBHS, he was the solitary figure in a white T-shirt pushing a lawn mower; he was the older man forever picking up trash in the parking lot.

Now, 50 years after the campus opened, Brother Adrian might be shocked at the change that is coming. CBHS is still, as it ever was, an all-boys college preparatory school in the tradition of the De La Salle Christian Brothers.

But when the school on Walnut Grove was built, the athletic building was designed to house 150 athletes. Now 600 of the school’s 900 students play sports.

“That’s what boys do,” said principal Chris Fay.

Space had become so cramped, “We had kids changing in the parking lot,” Kimble added. “That didn’t go over well with moms.”

The new athletic building will be two stories and cover 50,000 square feet and will include weight and training rooms; expanded locker rooms for football and lacrosse (the latter now the second-largest sport at the school); a therapy and sports medicine area; a film area; and a wrestling arena.

The first phase of the improvement campaign also features McEniry Hall, a science, technology, engineering, math and medicine facility that costs an estimated $2 million. Fay says 70 percent of the freshman class has applied to be part of the STEMM program. Heffernan Hall, the school’s dining room, also is getting a $1 million renovation.

Still to come are a new fieldhouse and associated facilities that carry a price tag of $10 million. Kimble says more than $15.5 million has been pledged so far toward the $25 million total, including $8 million that has come in the form of commitments of $1 million or more. No tuition revenue is being used to build the facilities, Kimble said.

The school launched the silent phase of the campaign last fall. CBHS alumni David Popwell, president and COO of First Tennessee Bank; Bob McEniry, NexAir chairman; and Tim McCarver, a two-time World Series champion and Hall-of-Fame baseball broadcaster, are chairing the campaign.

Linkous Construction is the general contractor and Fleming Architects is the project architect. Construction is expected to last more than a year. The athletic development center will have its ceremonial groundbreaking Sept. 11.

“The Brothers are known for their humility and they take a vow of poverty,” Kimble said. “So the engagement piece and asking for help is not something that comes easy to them. Brother Chris (Englert, president of CBHS) gets the credit for this. He realized we needed to ramp up what we were doing internally in terms of our alumni relations, the donor relations, being more strategic, and that has been going on a good three or four years.

“But this is the first time there has been a call to action at a major level,” Kimble continued. “The campaign reflects the commitment the Brothers have to Memphis. As an order, they don’t have to be here (they opened Christian Brothers College here after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871).

“They choose to be here. By raising $25 million-plus, that shows real commitment that they want to stay in Memphis, and at this location, for many years to come.”

PROPERTY SALES 28 290 16,197
MORTGAGES 33 165 10,087
BUILDING PERMITS 184 608 38,544
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