Bishop blesses new construction at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot School

Bishop Barry C. Knestout blesses the grounds of the Brower Student Center Feb. 20, 2024, before the ribbon cutting. (Photo/Claire Bebermeyer)

On a bright, mild morning, Feb. 20, Bishop Barry C. Knestout blessed the new Brower Student Center at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot School (BSH), Powhatan. Col. Keith Brower and his wife, Kathleen, who have donated over $10 million to BSH since 2018, performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

The Brower Student Center is a brand-new, 18,000 square-foot facility featuring a basketball court, weight room, classrooms, art room, theater and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) innovation lab. The building is part of an $8.25 million project that also includes a new visual arts center and renovated gym. The renovations were funded by the Brower family and by donations from the Knight’s Charge, the BSH Learn to Lead Campaign.

“It’s an exciting day, a beautiful day, not only because of the sunshine, but because the school is refreshed and rejuvenated,” Bishop Knestout said. “This is a beautiful environment to study, to understand God’s presence, to learn, to care for each other and to grow in faith.”

The Browers’ involvement with the school began after their granddaughter, Arabella “Bella” Brower, died from an undiagnosed heart defect in 2015. The 17-year-old would have been part of the BSH Class of 2016.

“When Bella died, we started getting calls from the parents of her classmates and from people at the school who wanted to talk about her,” Col. Brower recounted. “When we buried her ashes in Westmoreland County on a Saturday, the seniors all rescheduled their prom so they could come. Every one of her classmates showed up.”

The response of the community after Bella’s death inspired the Browers to set up a scholarship fund in her name, but this was just the beginning of their journey with the BSH community. “As we were out here one day talking to the head of school [in 2018], Kathleen looked around and said, ‘This place needs a little bit of paint,’” Col. Brower recalled.

Since then, the Browers have had a hand in countless projects, and the community has rallied around what Col. Brower called a “renaissance” at BSH. The visual arts center was erected in 2023; 34 classrooms have been modernized with LED lighting, new floors and doors; the library and gymnasium have both been upgraded and renovated; a dual-enrollment program with college credits has been implemented; 5,000 square feet of sidewalk have been replaced.

According to BSH, the improvements have coincided with a 76% increase in enrollment. In the 2018-2019 school year, there were 262 students; today, there are 462, and the incoming freshman class is the largest in over a decade. Col. Brower called the unveiling of the student center the “culmination” of a five-year process, though there are still a few projects underway, including a resurfacing of the parking lot, scheduled for this summer.

Bishop Knestout thanked the Browers and the BSH community at large for the donations that have made the improvements possible. “We are in the midst of Lent,” said the bishop. “Fasting reminds us that we are called to make sacrifices so that we have more available to give to others.”

In his blessing, Bishop Knestout said that the new building will provide an environment “in which the spirit of the faith can come alive.”

“All learning must … bring us to the knowledge of the truth and the worship of the one true God,” the bishop said. “Today, we ask God’s blessing on campus for seeking, learning and teaching what is true.”

Tracy Hamner, BSH head of school, called the event a “momentous occasion in the history” of the school.

“This remarkable facility will serve as the heart of our school community for generations to come,” said Hamner.


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