"Standing among our Rambler family and friends as we celebrated the transformation of our new pool and piazza from vision to reality, I was filled with tremendous gratitude,” says Executive Vice President Dennis R. Stonequist ’90, whose leadership was integral in the years of planning and fundraising that paved the road for these large-scale capital projects. “I am grateful for the faithful support and unwavering partnership of so many individuals who made this possible, and I look forward to this new era for Loyola Academy.”
The morning began with Mass in the West Gym celebrated by Loyola Academy President Rev. Patrick E. McGrath, SJ.
“We’ve gathered together this morning to pray in gratitude to the God who has made it all possible,”Fr. McGrath addressed the crowd during his Homily. “To the God whose spirit has moved generations of Jesuits and companions in this place to make this school, this community, this mission vibrant, lively, hopeful, joyful, forward looking, future-centered. Recognizing that none of it matters—no pool, no Piazza, no classroom, no stage—none of it matters if we don't stay rooted in this mission to be companions of Jesus. Women and men for others. People of hope. All for the greater honor and glory of God.”
Following Mass, visitors assembled in the beautiful, new, light-filled Piazza—inspired by the St. Ignatius Piazza in Rome, a new gathering space for students, art exhibits, concerts and more—for a special blessing of the new facilities.
“Today we open the John D. Norcross ’54 Aquatic Center, an extraordinary facility,” Fr. McGrath began. “So too we open this Piazza, a way of enclosing this space between the west gym and the new aquatic center and creating a space of light and height, a happy place for people to congregate. This is the students’ space, it’s for them to claim and use as their own. It’s also a place, we hope, for impromptu artistic moments of performance as we put a stake in the ground looking forward to the last piece of the puzzle in this vision that we’ve had in our strategic plan, which is our new performing arts center and our new theater. That day, too, is coming. It’s on the horizon.”
Fr. McGrath thanked the generosity of John D. Norcross ’54, the Loyola Academy Board of Trustees, chaired by Roger P. Hickey ’79, and the Building and Grounds Committee, chaired by Peter J. Broccolo ’74, along with Canon Design, Valenti Builders (including alumni Joe Valenti Jr. ’68, Dan Valenti ’01 and Jack Scapin ’98) and Loyola Academy students, faculty and staff.
“Loving God, you have blessed us with so many good gifts, and we pray that all the gifts that we possess we would use to your greater honor and glory. That those gifts that you have blessed us with might help us to become whom you’ve created us to be. Bless this space. Bless everyone in this room. Remind us of our Baptism through these holy waters. Bless this Piazza and this swimming pool, that it may be for a very long time a place of joy and creativity and community and conversation. And may what we do here, may what Loyola is everyday, give you honor and glory.”
Guests then had the opportunity to preview the new aquatic center, named in honor of the monumental generosity of late John D. Norcross ’54. Mr. Norcross was a member of the swimming and diving and water polo teams during his Rambler days and remained a steadfast supporter of Loyola Academy long after he graduated and moved on to Stanford University, where he studied economics, and then Northwestern University, where he earned his law degree.
After Mr. Norcross passed away in November 2014, Loyola received word that this loyal alumnus had engaged in a final act of generosity by leaving a multimillion-dollar estate gift to Loyola Academy in his will. John’s extraordinary gift is the largest philanthropic commitment in the history of Loyola Academy.
Tours of the pool revealed to guests for the first time Loyola’s spectacular new aquatic center, a bright and airy two-story complex that will enhance the aquatic experience of every Rambler—from the novice in need of basic water safety and swimming instruction to the varsity swimmer, diver and water polo player. Among the highlights of the new pool—now an eight-lane, IHSA-approved, competition-size pool—includes two one-meter springboards, a moveable bulkhead, a wet classroom and a 294-seat spectator gallery with retractable bleachers.
“The Aquatic Center is the result of a wonderful collaboration between the neighbors, the Village of Wilmette and Loyola Academy,” says alumnus and past swimming and diving parent Christopher S. Canning ’81. As the former Village of Wilmette president, Canning served as an indispensable adviser to Loyola during Phase 1 of the Campus Master Plan. “I am thankful for the hundreds of people who worked tirelessly on making the dream of a new pool for Loyola a reality. Loyola swimming and diving has had a huge impact on our family, and many of the families gathered here today, and I hope the new Aquatic Center will positively enhance the lives of generations of Ramblers to come,” he said.
“The new space, from the grand Piazza entrance to the poolside wet classroom, is transformative,” adds Todd T. Ford ’72, whose swimming career as a Rambler earned him a place in Loyola Academy’s Athletic Hall of Fame. His lead gift to the pool was among many substantial contributions that helped bring the project from vision to reality. “I love the wall of windows, a special place for swimmers, coaches and the entire Loyola Academy community. It was a treat to see the enthusiasm from current student athletes. Almost makes me wish I was back in high school!”
The pool and piazza mark the successful completion of Phase 1 of Loyola’s Campus Master Plan which is guided by the Second Century Campaign, a bold vision for a vibrant Jesuit faith and education center for the 21st century. As these exciting capital enhancements make the transition from blueprint to reality, planning for Phase 2—a new theater for the performing arts to support our students’ creative endeavors in dance, music and theater—is now taking center stage. To learn more, visit our Second Century Campaign web page.