A friends-giving for Marco Island Academy founder Jane Watt’s birthday on Wednesday, November 18, ended with a big surprise when Colonel David Gardiner pledged $500,000 to the capital campaign after touring the new campus with a group of donors.
“It’s funny,” Jane Watt said, “because my birthday was last week. Somebody said, ‘Do you want to have a birthday party?’ I said, ‘Uh-uh, no birthday party for me. I want to have friends-giving. Let’s invite everybody to the school and celebrate what we have done.’”
Hilary Noyes, who is in charge of donor relations for MIA, got busy contacting everyone. A campus tour preceded a small ceremony at the campus’s Champagne Pavilion.
As campaign chairperson Marianne Iordanou was thanking everyone for the incredible success of the capital campaign to date, she was interrupted with the news of Gardner’s surprise donation.
“A very special surprise has come from someone here,” a startled Marianne Iordanou announced to the crowd. “Colonel David Gardner has pledged $500,000 to bring our campaign home! Thank you, Colonel Gardner. Thank you, thank you.”
Watt was delirious with joy after the ceremony. “I would have to say that I’m overwhelmed with joy right now,” she said. “We’ve been blessed with incredible surprises from incredible people. I’m overwhelmed with joy; it’s all I can say. I’m absolutely overwhelmed with joy. It’s like being surrounded by the people who mean so much to you, and sharing in a moment that’s just… I actually can’t even describe it. When you’ve dreamed of something for a long time, and you’ve believed it’s possible, but you weren’t sure how. Then you see all the people around you who’ve made it possible. It’s pretty powerful. We have some pretty special people here; they’re like family.”
Iordanou thanked fellow-donors Rene and Trish Campagne and Bill and Karen Young during her speech. She made a special tribute to Mark Melvin, who recently put up a $2 million match that was the impetus for completing the $17.1 capital campaign.
“Mark Melvin has been hands-on since he came onboard the committee,” Iordanou said. “He has steered us through many a storm. Each time we began to lose hope because of COVID or other situations, Mark came forward with a match that got us excited again and back on track. He made the dream a true reality. He will do anything to bring this campus to completion. From dirty work, to technical support, to drone footage, to finance.”
It was a special day for Kurt Lacks too. Lacks and his wife Lori have donated $2 million for the naming rights to the campus. They also stepped up to name the STEM Wing.
“The matching deal,” Kurt Lacks said, “bringing this thing home, is why we did it. To bring it to conclusion. I’ve got to hand it to Mark Melvin. Without that match, we wouldn’t have been able to bring it to conclusion. Everyone was so stunned by COVID they couldn’t think of anything else. It all came together.”
“We’re done,” a relieved Watt said. “We have $170,000 left, but someone is planning on helping with that. We’ll still have some naming opportunities available. Any money that’s over and above what is needed for the construction will go into an endowment. That’s our next plan. We not jumping into endowment yet, but that’s something down the road that we’ll be looking at.”