The Kiski Cougars will no longer tear up the field during sport events come August -- physically that is. The school's track and field will be replaced with turf to prevent wear and tear and muddy playing conditions.
This is part of the school's Leadership for the 21st Century capital campaign, which has been launched in conjunction with the school's 125-year anniversary. Lights will be installed around the field, a first for the Kiski School, a private all-male boarding school in Indiana County. The track and field are expected to be finished when classes resume in August.
"I am really excited to play on it, especially for football," said Artie Luptak, 17, of Sewickley. "I had to deal with the field which was not the most fun to play on and because of the mud, our shoes stuck in."
Head football coach Jim Perry said the new turf and lights will make the track and field state-of-the-art.
The Kiski School
• 100 percent of The Kiski School students attend college
• Over the past five years, Kiski School has been averaging 75 percent of students getting accepted to Top 100 College and Universities based on the U.S. News and World Reports
• Consideration for enrollment is given to legacies
• Tuition, room and board for 2013-14 year are $48,300
• Students must complete an interview
• Take the SSAT
• Submit transcripts
• Submit letters of recommendations from math and English teachers and principal or guidance counselor
• Application deadline is Jan. 31 and official boarding school notification date is March 10.
"For the style of football we like to play, it is nice to know that the surface will most of the time be in the best condition," said Mr. Perry, who is also a physics teacher and associate dean of students. "Week in and week out we will play in the state-of-the-art home field with the Kiski colors on the field. That's the thing I am most looking forward to. Every time I show our facilities to visitors, my chest swells with pride."
While officially launched at the school's 125th anniversary celebration on June 1, the campaign has completed its "quiet phase," headmaster Chris Brueningsen said, raising more than $8 million of the $12 million goal. Now, school officials are turning to the alumni base of about 4,800 for the remaining $4 million.
"We got a positive response, an overwhelmingly positive one," said Steven T. Szilagyi, associate headmaster for institutional advancement. "Alumni read and hear about it, but they don't feel it until they are back on campus."
More than 500 Kiski School alumni came back for the 125th anniversary celebration, including the oldest alumnus, Joe Wilson, 88, of Delmont, who graduated from Kiski in 1943. Alumni Jack Hanna of the TV show, "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild," and actor David Conrad, who starred in "Ghost Whisperers," also came back to speak at the reunion.
"Everyone was just so happy to come back and see all the projects at the school," Mr. Brueningsen said.
The $5 million renovation of campus buildings and fields includes the track and field and MacColl Hall, which will be LEED certified. The school also is putting $5 million toward endowment growth and $2 million for operational support, such as uniforms, scholarships and electricity. With the renovation to MacColl Hall, the oldest of seven dormitories all dating to the 1930s, students will study how sustainable the building is, as part of the curriculum.
"I think it all goes with making Kiski the best it can be," said Mr. Szilagyi, who graduated from Kiski in 1988. "There is no question that the addition of the sustainability part of the curriculum is going to continue into the future. We needed the upgrades to the track and field as sports use it every season and we need to have a good facility that can weather Western Pennsylvania ... ."
Despite the changes to the 350-acre campus, the Kiski School has remained consistent with the principles on which it was founded by Andrew Wilson in 1888. Some 200 students attend the Saltsburg school, about the same number as a couple of decades after its founding.
"You get to a point where a school is so big and when you are passing someone in the hallway and they don't know someone," Mr. Brueningsen said. "We don't have that. Everyone knows everyone."
About 25 percent of the students are legacies of the school. For the Swank family, the Kiski School dates back three generations.
When Andrew Swank entered the Kiski School in fall 1993, his brother, Derek, had graduated that spring. But, Andrew Swank was still in company with two of his cousins. And, Andrew's father, Russell Swank III, and his grandfather, Russell Swan Sr., graduated from the school in 1967 and 1942, respectively.
"My family was impacted a lot by Kiski and as a child, I spent time going to football games with my dad," said Andrew Swank, who is now president of his family's business, Swank Construction. "It was something to be like my father and grandfather and do the same thing as my role models."
Now the chairman of the Kiski School Board of Trustees, Russell Swank Jr. said the school has affected his sons and father's life in significant ways, and he is excited to see how the changes will impact future generations.
"We continue to build at Kiski and it is great to see that community supports it," Russell Swank Jr. said.
For Artie Luptak's first two years at Kiski, he was able to share his experiences with his older brother, Augie, 19. The Luptak brothers both attended Quaker Valley High School before deciding to transfer to Kiski. "You don't really realize it when you are there, but this place changed my life. It was really eye opening," Augie Luptak said.
The older Luptak brother completed his Kiski School experience at the end of May when he said farewell to faculty and the 54 other seniors at the commencement ceremony. At the start of a student's time at Kiski, there is a ceremony where each incoming student is presented with a Kiski School tie.
"There is a sense of belonging when they become a Kiski boy. It is a brotherhood," said Bill Ellis, associate headmaster for enrollment management. "Graduation is a fitting bookend to the Kiski experience, as there is the Kiski tie ceremony on one end and the graduation ceremony at the other end."
While stowed in tradition, the Kiski School is always changing because Mr. Brueningsen constantly looks for new ways to challenge the students, Russell Swank Jr. said.
"We love Kiski, and in my case I love Western Pennsylvania more, so if we can serve to a large degree our community, it is in a small way serving the Western Pennsylvania community where I was born, raised and continue to live," he said.
Claire Aronson: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-1964 or on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.