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Richmond couple gives over $6 million for Blessed Huguenot renovations

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A dry weekend follows with comfortably low humidity

Ground was broken Wednesday at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot School in Powhatan on a 2,664-square-foot visual art center. It is the first part of an $8.25 million project helped by a $6.25 million donation from Richmond couple Keith and Kathleen Brower.

The center is part of Phase 2 of BSH’s Knight’s Charge renovation and expansion plan and is the first building to be added to the campus since 1959, Head of School Paula Ledbetter said. Two new scholarships also were announced at the ceremony.

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Keith and Kathleen Brower walk with Paula Ledbetter, principal of Blessed Sacrament Hugenot Catholic School in Powhatan, VA Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. The Browers, of Midlothian have donated more than $1 million to the school for much-needed renovations and improvements.The back of the bench says, "Faith in every student".

“This is the most ambitious initiative undertaken by the school in its history,” she said.

The donation from the Browers will help the school pursue strategic growth and major renovations, officials said. The center is expected to be complete this summer.

“They’ve changed the lives of all of us who work at Blessed Sacrament,” Ledbetter said. “They’ve changed the life of the school for the better. They brought life to us, in a way, and are inspired by the work that we do and by our mission. But likewise, we are inspired by what they have done for us. It’s truly amazing.”

Brower and his wife were introduced to BSH through their granddaughter, Arabella, who attended the upper school from 2012 to 2014. After moving to another school in the midst of her parents’ divorce, she died in her sleep from an undiagnosed heart condition in 2015 — what would have been the fall of her senior year.

Kathleen Brower received phone calls from parents of Arabella’s classmates, and Keith Brower said that about every member of her graduating class at BSH attended her memorial service.

“We decided to go out and look at the school, and the people were just so kind and so gracious that we thought we needed to do something for this school,” said Keith Brower, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

In the military, Keith Brower said, he learned to appreciate the things in life that worked: “And what they’re doing at Blessed Sacrament — it works.”

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Keith and Kathleen Brower talk with visitors while standing in the playground of Blessed Sacrament Hugenot Catholic School in Powhatan, VA Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. The Browers, of Midlothian have donated more than $1 million to the school for much-needed renovations and improvements.

A scholarship was endowed in Arabella’s name, and in 2019 a $2 million donation from the Browers jump-started what would become the school’s first major renovation and expansion project. Along with a new playground, repainted buildings and other upgrades, the school saw a 35% growth in enrollment.

“It’s just a phenomenal school,” said Kelly Lazzara, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. “It is a family-like community that has exceptional education and the traditions of our Catholic values, and that’s something that everyone should come out and see.”

The Browers’ $6.25 million donation will also go toward a new two-story student center and other upgrades to the school, with a focus on academics, arts and athletics. Phase 2 will introduce new courses to prepare students for college, an investment in resources for teachers, the renovation of more than 30 classrooms and a major overhaul of Parker Gymnasium.

“Doing something in the world that makes a positive difference gives me heart every time I go out there [to BSH],” Kathleen said. “It reminds me that the world is still turning on its axis, and there are still good people in the world who do good things for others.”

The Browers met in college while he was attending the University of Richmond and she was at Virginia Commonwealth University. He grew up in a military family with a mother from Richmond. He finished high school in Germany before coming to UR and joining the ROTC.

After graduating and going on to receive a graduate degree, the Browers traveled all over the world before he retired from the Army in 1997. He later began a successful company in 2010 — Procure Analytics in Atlanta — that he later sold.

Today, the Browers live in North Richmond. He sits on Blessed Sacrament Huguenot’s advisory board. In total, the couple has donated over $8 million to the school.

At the ceremony, Keith Browers said he and Kathleen were always asked why they gave to BSH. The couple was not from Powhatan, did not identify as Catholic and had no children attending the school.

“But I will tell you,” he said, “our first exposure to Blessed Sacrament exposed us to something special within this wonderful little corner of Powhatan County. Kathleen and I want to love and nurture the school because it is uncategorically one of those places that we know is truly special.”

mfitzgerald@timesdispatch.com

Twitter: @MaddyFitzWrites

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