Campaign for Cary Academy

September 10, 2020

From Blueprints to Brick and Mortar

Last year marked a monumental milestone for Cary Academy, as numerous, long-planned campus improvements came to fruition. Made possible, in part, by generous private support of our first-ever capital fundraising effort—the Campaign for Cary Academy—each renovation, addition, and upgrade reflects our strategic plan and vision for student-centered,
future-oriented learning.


As CA works towards creating more personalized and flexible learning environments, it seemed obvious to prioritize a library renovation in the Master Facilities Plan. Construction began in summer 2019, and the community celebrated its completion last winter at the PTAA’s Taste and Toast in January.

The approach to the library renovation reflects a reconceptualization of the library itself. In addition to being a quiet spot to conduct research or study, the library is now also an inspiring hub for collaboration and community-building with functionally-diverse spaces that meet a variety of student needs and personal learning styles.

Want to work together in a group? Pull together the plush seats under the rotunda and collaborate with your peers. Need some peace and solitude to study? Choose from the solo seating options in the new designated quiet area on the second floor. Ready to put design-thinking to work and take a team project to the next level? Head for one of the glass-enclosed conference rooms that now line the second floor and tap into built-in screens for easy sharing or whiteboards for brainstorming.

That flexible, forward-thinking vision is one that parents Greg and Dana Hinn could get behind. Greg fondly recalls his own quality time spent studying in Philips Hall at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Upon learning their family could contribute to providing a similarly valuable community space for CA students, Greg and Dana jumped at the chance.

“While touring Cary Academy last fall, we learned of the planned library renovations, including the study rooms that allow small group collaboration.

We decided to donate to the Campaign for Cary Academy to assist the school in offering a quiet, beautiful study environment to students. Between 2016 and 2025, we will have seen three children graduate from Cary Academy. We consider our contribution as a legacy in their honor to benefit all CA students.”\


Arguably, one of the most exciting features of the newly-renovated library is CA’s new café and store. In addition to offering a community-building hang-out spot, the cafe and store will serve as a learning lab for entrepreneurial students.

Rather than studying marketing and branding, human resources, and supply- chain economics in an isolated classroom, our students will have opportunities to gain expertise by participating in real- world business decisions in the café or bringing their products to market in the store (under the supervision of a manager and teacher, of course).

A bonus of the renovation? You no longer have to traverse campus to pick up the latest CA swag. The Charger store is located within the café, giving visitors— whether parents, alumni, or community members—a chance to sip, shop, and purchase CA branded t-shirts, mugs, and, eventually, student-developed products.


Featuring state-of-the-art laboratories, an enormous maker space, greenhouse, versatile working spaces, and classrooms, the construction of the 24,000 square foot Center for Math and Science (CMS) might be the most transformational infrastructure project undertaken during the Campaign for Cary Academy.

Michael and Melissa Colantuoni are two of the many parents who recognized how the CMS would enhance the hands-on scientific inquiries and mathematical modeling that prepare our students for college and careers.

“We love that CA is still new, its history still being written by the students, faculty, and parents,” notes Michael. “Giving to CA’s first capital campaign was an impactful way to directly support and provide unique learning opportunities, not only for our children, but for their classmates, and for graduating classes for years to come.”

Joe and Sevanne Epperson were also moved to make a difference in the CA community. Inspired by maker spaces they saw during college visits, the Eppersons were intrigued by the potential of establishing a similarly-outfitted space at CA—one centered around interdisciplinary discovery and innovation. Working with Director of Technology and Innovation Karen McKenzie, and Upper School Design and Programming Teacher Betsy McDonald, they developed a plan to equip the 2,400 square foot maker space with the equipment, tools, and supplies needed to conduct research, design machines, and even create art.

“We were excited for the opportunity to contribute to the maker space and to help fund the incorporation of advanced technology into the hands-on learning environment,” offer the Eppersons. “Students from across CA—from the arts to robotics— now have a resource similar to what they would find at the university level.”

Last year, these state-of-art 3D fabrication tools—including 3D printers for high-quality, high-fidelity, rapid prototyping, and an abrasive waterjet and laser cutter for precision cutting and engraving—were put to good use. CA’s robotics team has flourished, designing, and building (and sometimes tearing apart and rebuilding) robots that have performed well in competitions across the region. CA even hosted our first FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament last winter—sure signs of more expansion to come.

Per the original vision, the maker space also supports multi-disciplinary and cross- departmental projects. This year, it served as a backdrop for set design for theater arts, a collaborative data visualization project that bridged visual arts with statistics and calculus, and even the creation of CA-branded keychains for the Admissions department.


The Campaign for Cary Academy touched nearly all areas of campus, not just our dedicated learning spaces. Thanks to the financial contributions of Ralph and Gizelda Willard, we now have a top-notch strength and conditioning center where students, employees, and alumni alike can pursue their personal wellness goals.

“We were watching a baseball game with Dr. Ehrhardt after a tour of campus, which included the weight room. He mentioned that more than 85% of our students are involved in interscholastic sports,” says Ralph.

“With a campus as innovative and thoughtful as ours, we couldn’t believe that our students’ only outlet for fitness and wellness was in a crowded, windowless room with antiquated equipment. We saw a need for all students to have ready access to quality training and fitness instruction in a modern, spacious environment. We knew this was an area we would be excited to support.”

Today, visitors will enjoy a vastly different experience than that witnessed by the Willards on their first tour. Capitalizing on the unused real estate of an adjacent office and storage closet, the expanded strength and conditioning center offers users ample space for coordinated, sport-specific workouts. An astroturf floor and new state-of-the-art equipment provide everyone the tools needed to achieve their whole-body wellness goals. And a separate glass-enclosed sports medicine room allows for treatment and rehabilitation of injuries in appropriate privacy.


Our track underwent a significant upgrade over the summer of 2019. CA is now home to one of the best tracks on the East Coast, featuring an Olympics-quality MONDO surface.

“The older I get, the more I appreciate how my time at Cary Academy positively impacted my life,” explains Bryan Fisher ’03, who made a significant contribution to the project. “And my experiences with Coach Hall and fellow teammates and running cross country and track were probably the most impactful. For that reason, I was excited to be able to support the construction of the new track.”

Offering a uniform dynamic response to runners, the technologically-advanced MONDO surface is designed to help athletes go faster and farther without as much wear and tear on their bodies.

Made of all-season performance material, it also means that environmental and climate factors—like the rainy spring season—will no longer impede our athletes’ ability to practice and compete.


CA is fortunate to be supported by a generous community. Together, they helped to bring our Master Facilities Plan to life, moving it from blueprint to drywall, brick, and mortar. And while infrastructure projects may not always seem as enticing as other programmatic impact opportunities, they are crucial. They allow our programs to flourish and our students to reach their fullest potential.

When we are able to safely welcome everyone back to campus, we invite all our community members to stop by to enjoy all that your support has made possible. Visit the Charger store and pick up gifts for family—or yourself. Try the special Port City Java roast blended exclusively for CA. Or get a tour of the CMS building and maker space. We look forward to showing you around.


When construction for Cary Academy broke ground in 1996, the entire campus was built and opened within a whirlwind 18 months. With classrooms designed around personal desktop computers and labs featuring state-of-the-art equipment typically reserved for collegiate spaces, it reflected innovations that were, at that time, ground-breaking; it was a school like no other.

Impressive as it was, the all-at-once construction revealed a challenge. As our campus buildings and equipment aged on the same timetable, needed improvements emerged simultaneously—from routine maintenance needs like new roofing, carpet, and furniture to more substantial technological and infrastructure upgrades required to keep us on the cutting- edge of innovation.

Thus, almost twenty years after our campus opened, as the 2015 strategic plan began to take shape, so too did CA’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. The Campaign for Cary Academy was born, comprised of two related fundraising efforts. The first, a capital campaign, sought to raise a lofty $10,000,000 to support mission-driven capital improvements. The second, an annual giving effort, aimed to increase CA Fund giving to $2,000,000 over five years.

Over the past five years, parents, grandparents, alumni, employees, board members, and members of our extended Cary Academy community have stepped forward. Thanks to this effort, we officially crossed the Campaign finish line this spring, not merely meeting our fundraising goals, but far exceeding them in a truly inspiring display of generosity.

In total, the Campaign secured an astonishing $13,205,692— reflecting more than 10,000 individual gifts, 45 of those representing commitments above $25,000—for capital improvements, including new and renovated campus buildings, as well as upgraded educational and technological equipment, and an expanded financial aid program. CA Fund giving yielded $2,598,661 in flexible dollars that have enabled us to remain responsive to our community’s needs.

“We are truly humbled and deeply moved by the success of the Campaign for Cary Academy. Our community’s dedication, commitment, and generosity have helped to secure the future of our campus and community, ensuring that our physical environment continues to reflect and support our mission,” reflects Director of Development Ali Page. “From all of us at Cary Academy, we extend our deepest heartfelt thanks. We look forward to seeing the fruits of your generosity reflected in the exciting discoveries, innovations, and personal, relevant learning experiences that our students and faculty will enjoy in the years to come thanks to your contributions.”

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications

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