Benedictine College Preparatory’s jewel of an on-campus arena has acquired one of the few things it previously lacked: a distinct identity.
A joint pledge of $2.5 million by Alex McMurtrie Jr., a 1953 Benedictine graduate, and Randy Reynolds Sr. has pushed the school’s ongoing capital campaign past its target of $20 million. Simultaneously, it has given the new gymnasium a name: the McMurtrie-Reynolds Pavilion.
The combined gift, the largest in Benedictine’s 110-year history, was announced Monday in a ceremony on the main floor of the not-quite-completed arena on Benedictine’s Goochland County campus.
Benedictine headmaster Jesse Grapes said the impact of the pledge will transcend athletic competition.
The gift is significant, Grapes said, because it supports and sustains “the social epicenter of school life. Every dance, every military exercise, every young man holding a young girl’s arm as he walks onto the floor for the Sponsor’s Ball or the Figure, the pride on a young man’s face as he walks across this floor to receive his diploma after four years of hard work — all of it will happen here, in this building.”
The gift was presented by McMurtrie and Reynolds as a salute to two deceased members of their families. Both were cadets. Sean Reynolds, Randy’s grandson, graduated in 2015. He died in an automobile accident in October of 2017. Sean served as the pipe major in Benedictine’s bagpipe and drum corps when the group traveled to Normandy, France, to participate in the international commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
“Sean was never happier than when he was at Benedictine,” said Randy Reynolds Jr., the young man’s father. “He thrived here. He loved it here. He loved the school, he loved the structure and he loved the people.”
Edward McMurtrie, Alex’s older brother, graduated in 1942. He entered the Army and attended underwater demolitions school. He died in a 1944 training accident in Norfolk while preparing for the Allied invasion of occupied Europe.
Then, as now, Alex regards his brother with something approaching reverence.
“I looked up to him,” Alex said. “I’m honored to make this gift in his memory. I hope his story will inspire the same work ethic and patriotism in future generations of young people.”
McMurtrie, an attorney who served in Virginia’s House of Delegates from 1972 to 1982, transferred to Benedictine from Richmond’s now-defunct Cathedral High School. He was the valedictorian of Benedictine’s 1953 graduating class. Thereafter he earned a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame and a law degree from Georgetown.
Reynolds, a native of Louisville, Ky., is a principal and co-founder of Reynolds Development and a former vice chairman of the Reynolds Metals Company. He is a member of the board of trustees of the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, a charitable trust established in 1955 by his grandfather.
Reynolds said his family’s contribution to the historic gift was motivated largely by two factors. The first was Randy Jr.’s deep appreciation of the fulfillment his son discovered as a cadet. The second was a sharp sense of community consciousness.
“I’m a blessed person and we’re a blessed family,” the elder Reynolds said. “Giving back and trying to help people — I feel like those things are very important. I’d like to think that maybe we’re setting an example that others can follow.”
He paused and looked around the fully lit main arena. “I can only imagine how many careers are going to be started in this gym,” he said.
This is not the first occasion on which allegiance to Benedictine has linked the McMurtrie and Reynolds families. A reddish-brown brick memorial plaza in front of the school’s academic building serves as a reminder of the sacrifices of former cadets who died as members of the Armed Forces. The names of those cadets are engraved in black on gray bricks. One of the gray bricks bears the name of Edward A. McMurtrie, Class of 1942. The plaza’s creation was made possible through the assistance of the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation.
Monday’s ceremony represented the apogee of the Campaign for Benedictine, the public portion of which was launched in April of 2019. Its intent was to generate funding not only for the gymnasium but also for endowed scholarships for current and future cadets and professional development of faculty and staff.
School officials said the McMurtrie/Reynolds gift will be applied to the gymnasium.
Construction of the new gym began in 2018. Monday’s announcement nudged the project within sight of the finish line. The state-of-the-art, 65,000-square foot facility includes a sunken main floor with coliseum seating for 2,000, two additional courts, a skybox and an indoor track.
Other highlights: a Hall of Valor to honor graduates who served in the armed forces, and a Hall of Fame to recognize superior athletic achievement.
The building’s signature architectural characteristic, a 97-foot bell tower that frames the main entranceway, links Benedictine’s future to its past.
It is reminiscent in style, material and color of the academic building Benedictine inhabited during its 102-year residence on North Sheppard Street in the Museum District.
The arena’s general contractor was unaware of the McMurtrie/Reynolds pledge when he selected Monday as the date for the installation of a 15-foot bronze cross atop the bell tower.
“They could have done it any day over the past 18 months,” Grapes said. “You can call it coincidence if you want. I prefer to call it providential orchestration.”
Benedictine officials expect to formally open the McMurtrie-Reynolds Pavilion in late August. It will become immediately busy.