Beaumont students need athletic fields
It was with great interest that I read Colin Compton’s opinion, “In opposition to Beaumont’s plans to demolish the Painter Mansion." As the president of Beaumont School, I’d like to add additional perspective on this issue.
The Painter family sold the building in 1942 to the Ursuline Sisters, who found the house in severely deteriorated condition when they assumed ownership. Most of the interior had been stripped bare, including wood paneling, the electrical system and even the doorknobs. While the Ursulines invested heavily to try and restore the property, it was a structure that required significant expenditures simply to maintain in habitable condition as a convent. Even before Beaumont assumed ownership in 2009, outside experts provided the opinion that the cost to renovate the building and convert it back to an academic use would be cost-prohibitive. Indeed, two reputable firms with deep experience in preservation and adaptive reuse have each estimated the state of deterioration is such that it would cost $7 million to $8 million just to bring the building up to code, plus untold additional amounts for interior build outs and amenities were the building to be used for anything other than office space.
Yes, under ideal circumstances, all historic properties should be considered for preservation. That assumes they still have a purpose, they have not deteriorated beyond the point of rescue, that funds can be found to upgrade them to new uses, or benefactors come forward to maintain or transform them. For Beaumont, which has run out of land to serve its core mission, and operates as a nonprofit with limited dollars for operations and a limited endowment, these are not viable options.
One option, of course, is to consider moving the mansion off of Beaumont’s property. If we were approached with a sound plan that would absolve the school of all liabilities and costs, and guarantee that the removal would be completed by a deadline acceptable to us, we would consider that option. No one has come forward with such a proposal.
Students who attend Beaumont choose the school because it offers young women the opportunity for a well-rounded, global education that prepares them to be leaders.
Today, that preparation must include the ability for women to compete on state-of-the-art athletic fields. According to the Women in Sports Foundation, “61 percent of women executives held a belief that their personal involvement in sports contributed positively to their career success and advancement,” and “sports participation was directly related to teens having a more positive attitude toward schoolwork, improved academic performance and higher grades, and higher aspirations for earning a college degree and post-college education specialization.”
If we want to prepare women for leadership roles in today’s very complex world, we must give them the facilities and experiences their male counterparts have enjoyed for decades, if not centuries.
Wendy Hoke is president of Beaumont School, an all-girls Catholic school in the Ursuline tradition, dedicated to educating young women for life, leadership and service.