Monday, October 25, 2021

Marco Island Academy Celebrates

Tremendous accomplishments cry out for a celebration.

It was with that in mind that members of Marco Island Academy’s board of directors and the school’s major donors gathered to the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort recently. They assembled there at the invitation of the resort’s general manager, Sharon Lockwood.

The gathering was sparked by something truly historic and definitely unexpected, the cascade of millions of dollars in donations that will enable MIA to build its permanent campus at one time, rather than in three phases.

Lockwood felt the cocktail party was in order to celebrate the outpouring of financial support from the school’s benefactors, on the order of roughly $5 million over about six days.

“I was inspired by the generosity of the community and the way in which we were a bit concerned before the groundbreaking that we were going to have the initial funding that we needed,” she said.

“Plans had called for construction of just Phase One to begin in June. Reaching the fundraising goal of $4.5 million by June 1 for that phase was in doubt until Myrt Rose donated $1 million mere days before the project’s May 13th groundbreaking ceremony. Her gift was soon followed by the flood of additional sizable donations. As a result, construction of the entire project is now possible, although fundraising is still continuing for the $12.5 million project.

“For those four individuals, over a short period of time, to open up their hearts provided the ability to feel very confident that we can raise the remaining funds,” added Lockwood. “So for me, it was a quick email to (MIA founder and board chairman) Jane Watt and I said, ‘We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to celebrate, and we’ve got to honor those individuals who are going to make this happen.”

Marco’s JW Marriott was among the contributors that enabled the change in plans. MIA opened in 2011 and has operated from portable modular buildings since moving to its San Marco Road campus in 2013.

Work will begin in June on the project, which will include:

  • A two-story building including a multi-use gym with a stage and a school lobby;
  • A three-story addition to that building containing an academic center with 16 state-of-the-art classrooms;
  • A soccer field and, lastly;
  • Removal of the modular classroom buildings the school has utilized.

Completion is expected to take one year, and Watt has said it’s hoped the school can move into the new buildings some time in 2020.

Rene and Tish Champagne have been among MIA’s major financial supporters. In fact, the groundbreaking ceremony was held at the school’s Champagne Pavilion. They’ve also purchased naming rights for the school’s new academic center and interior gym and their $1.5 million donation helped spur the change in construction plans.

Capital Campaign Co-Chairmen Dinos and Marianne Iordanou and important MIA financial supporters donated $1,000,000 for naming rights to the exterior of the Arts and Athletics Facility during that six day period, while Kurt and Lori Lacks donated $2 million for naming rights to the campus.

“It’s incredible and I think when you get the enthusiasm going and all of us who have been so involved with the academy realized that we had to step up,” said Tish Champagne of the influx of donations. “We had to get it done. Thank goodness the right people stepped up.”

Rene Champagne, who is vice-president of MIA’s board, believes the school will play a vital role in Marco Island’s future.

“The academy will be ensuring that young professionals interested in moving to Marco Island for careers will have a K-through-12 system that will be as sound academically as any in other locations around the country,” he said. “We think it’s going to be a major attraction in recruiting new employees for careers to the island. We think it’s going to be a major step forward for students, for the community and quite frankly, for the state as a whole.”

The school’s capital campaign is still short of its $12.5 million goal. A website,, has been created to track the effort. Donations can also be made there, including for unreserved naming rights.

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