COLUMBIA — For 46 years, Ray Beck was a fixture in city government, spending more than 20 years as city manager before retiring in 2006. Now, Beck is lending his expertise to the efforts to create a regional Catholic high school in Columbia.
“You’ve got to ask yourself, what’s your purpose in life? Family, faith, career, education, leisure time, giving back to the community — a school meets all of these,” Beck said. “I found in my professional career, it was helpful to say we have a parochial school in Columbia. Employers are constantly trying to recruit some top-notch people, and it’s important to say we have more opportunities in the city, more alternatives. I think it’s going to be important to the community.”
As project director, Beck will oversee the work of various committees as plans for the high school become finalized. His appointment was announced Sunday by Bishop John Gaydos during an event celebrating the fundraising accomplishments of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City.
Over the past 20 months, the overall campaign has raised $25 million, $2 million more than its original goal. Of that, $1.5 million will be used as seed money for the high school. The rest will go toward priest and lay retirement funds and the Diocesan Excellence in Education fund, which helps keep parochial teacher salaries commensurate with those in the public education system. The city’s only other Catholic school, Columbia Catholic School based at Our Lady of Lourdes, serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Altogether, efforts have generated $5.7 million in pledges for the high school. The diocese encompasses 95 parishes and 15 missions throughout central Missouri.
“We got financial support from every parish,” said Beck, who was born and raised in the Catholic community. He has been a member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish since 1960.
Although the campaign’s original goal was to raise $10 million for the project by May, that timeline was pushed back.
“It was very optimistic when you consider a lot of things going on in the economy,” said Bob Schmersahl, senior campaign manager and representative of the Steier Group, which is a consulting group working with the diocese. “The fundraising capability is still out there.”
More than 200 volunteers have been working to contact the 3,500 families in Columbia’s three parishes, said Jane Rutter, director of the stewardship office for the diocese.
“We had a lot of people to contact,” Rutter said. “We still have major donors to contact within the Catholic faith and within the community. We want to really talk to the business community and show them the financial plan. There’s a lot of work to do.”
The school will be situated on 23 acres by Highway 63 and Gans Road. Beck said the location was especially desirable because the Highway 63 and Gans Road interchange is slated to be open by 2009, providing direct access to the high school. Beck said the county also has a five-year plan to extend Gans Road to Providence Road, essentially creating a loop around the city and providing more travel options.
“It’s a real nice site down there,” Beck said.
A building steering committee is searching for an architect to design the school, which has a target opening date of fall 2009. The school is intended to serve 250 students from the Columbia region.
“We look forward to getting a good high school built at the earliest possible date,” Beck said. “I really think it would be a great addition to the community.”