From Groundbreaking to Christening

April 22, 1990, was a landmark day at SI for several reasons. First, the Ignatian world celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Ignatius Loyola and the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Jesus. And at SI, a steam shovel broke ground in the parking lot to begin the first phase of the Genesis III building project. The day began with a procession of students, faculty and administrators down 37th Avenue. Comedian Bob Sarlatte ’68 served as emcee and offered humorous commentary as each dignitary took a golden shovel and broke ground. After the backhoe dug up the first shovelful of dirt, Archbishop John Quinn, flanked by Frs. Sauer and Carlin, blessed the site, and Frank Corwin, who would retire that June, spoke at the ceremony. The success of the event foreshadowed the success of the entire building project.

By October 1990, the $1.4 million four-court tennis facility, built by the Amoroso Corporation, sat atop the new student parking complex, completing the first phase of the project. (The four courts were named for the Brusati, Christen, Kelleher and Kitt families.) Work then progressed to the second phase, which included a newly remodeled campus ministry center (named for the Nejasmich family) on the north end of the campus. Most of the first floor of the school enjoyed a makeover, with a new Fine Arts Wing (named for the Barbara and Jay Fritz Family) emerging on the southwest corner of the campus complete with a sculpture studio and display cases. Workers built a roof over the student activities center, where the bookstore, yearbook and athletic offices were, and created one of the most attractive centers in the school, complete with skylights and arches. To remake this center, the Herrera Bros. Construction Company had to tear down a load-bearing wall between the school and the center, opening up the campus and allowing for one long breezeway between the southern and northern ends (now called the Ann Eve and Paul Hazen Student Concourse). Workers completed this $2.2 million project in 1992. That year also marked the graduation of the last all-male class, the beginning of a completely coeducational school, and the start of the third and final phase of the building project.

For years, SI students joked about a rooftop swimming pool. (A typical senior prank was to sell fourth floor pool passes to freshmen to this fabled oasis.) In September 1992, work began in earnest on a pool, one named for the Herbst Foundation. It would serve the SI and San Francisco communities as both a school facility and a public natatorium. Webcor Builders also began construction on a new gym (later named for Barbara and Robert McCullough ’48) that would seat 2,650 and allow for two full-court practice sessions. That third phase, costing $12.3 million, also included a theatre (named for the E.L. Wiegand Foundation), a fine arts pavilion (named for Mr. & Mrs. Martin D. “Pete” Murphy) and a remodeled library (named for Alfred S. Wilsey).

The SI administration also decided to spend an additional $1.2 million to remodel the third floor science labs (later named the Spohn Science Center in honor of famed physics teacher Fr. Richard Spohn, SJ) to double the space available for labs. The school then repaved the track and named it in honor of Jack Wilsey ’34, who had captained his high school track team.

The school formally dedicated the new buildings and the newly remodeled science labs at the President’s Cabinet Dinner on December 11, 1993, though the pool and gym would not formally open until March 30, 1994. At the spring ceremony, Matt McCabe ’67, a former SI swimmer, brought a 5-gallon glass jug containing water from Fleishhacker Pool that he collected shortly before that pool was demolished. Over the years, he filled that container with $100 in silver coins and gave it to Fr. Sauer to pour into SI’s new pool. At a rally before the entire student body, Fr. Sauer showed off that bottle and announced that he would unite two Sunset district pools, one long past and one quite present. He asked a swim team captain James Fussell ’94 to carry that bottle to the pool. A tad out of breath, Fussell put the bottle down a little too quickly, shattering the glass and sending the water and coins slipping, rather unceremoniously, into the pool. Buildings and grounds workers quickly gathered the broken glass, and thus the new pool was christened, marking the end of the Genesis III building project, but not the end of the capital campaign, which still had to raise $4.4 million to pay for the new structures. In what the Development Office termed its “full-court press,” the school raised enough funds to pay for Genesis III in full by December 1995. In all, the school raised $15,980,240 in five years to ready the Sunset District campus to meet the challenges of the new millennium.