Donor’s generosity an unexpected windfall for Tenino High

lpemberton@theolympian.comMay 12, 2013 

New band instruments and a greenhouse have been purchased, and officials are talking to architects about building a pole barn for the agriculture program at Tenino High School.

It’s all thanks to a generous gift from an alumnus of the 400-student school.

School district superintendent Russ Pickett said the donor – who wishes to remain anonymous – graduated from the school during the late 1930s.

“He is in his 90s,” Pickett said. “He winters in Arizona and summers in the Fairbanks area. ... He just had real fond memories of the community and the school district and wanted to give back.”

The donor recently sent the district a check for $200,000, earmarked to bolster vocational and music education programs.

“For us, this is ‘found’ money,” Pickett said. “We’re not going to put it in the general fund to balance the budget or anything.”

The donor also set aside $1 million that will be given to the school upon his death, Pickett said.

The alumnus hasn’t lived in the area in decades; he gained wealth gold mining in Alaska during the 1930s and ’40s, Pickett said.

District officials tried to persuade him to come forward so they could acknowledge him publicly and name the greenhouse or barn after him.

“He absolutely did not want to go down that road,” Pickett said. “We tried.”

The gift comes at a time when many school districts are struggling financially.

“The whole thing is about 10 percent of our whole budget,” Pickett said. “That’s a lot of money.”

Band director Andrew Bowerly said the school was able to replace drums that were more than a decade old for Tenino High’s award-winning drum line, and buy some other large instruments, including chimes.

“Students love the new instruments – it’s like Christmas,” Bowerly said. “When you have the opportunity to play on drums not held together by duct tape, it gives students a great sense of pride.”

Meantime, the community is abuzz about the donation, and students are excited about the new purchases for their school.

“Everybody just thinks it’s really nice,” Pickett said. “It just makes everyone feel good that when you’re a small town, there are people with longevity that look back and say, ‘You know, that was a neat place to grow up.’ ”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com theolympian.com/edblog @Lisa_Pemberton

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