St. Thomas Academy alum gives $4M toward planned aquatic center

Two private schools in Mendota Heights have announced a $3 million matching gift to spur fundraising for a new shared aquatic center.

St. Thomas Academy hopes to open the $10 million pool on its campus in 2025, to be shared by Visitation School.

Chip Michel, who was 1967 captain of the Academy’s swim and dive team, along with his wife Mary, already had given $1 million toward the project. They now are offering an additional $3 million in matching funds.

That $4 million represents the largest gift in either school’s history, the schools said Wednesday.

“Chip and Mary’s incredible generosity is a testimony to their belief in both schools’ programs,” said Thomas Lee, vice chair of the Saint Thomas Academy Board of Trustees. “They recognize the pool where he trained in the 1960s is not representative of the talent of today’s student-athletes and the schools’ high standards.”

The planned aquatic center will feature a 25-yard pool with eight lanes, a diving board and seating for 300. The current five-lane pool was built in the 1960s and is not deep enough to host diving competitions.

The all-boys Academy has won 15 Minnesota State High School League state championships since 1995, and the all-girls Visitation team took nine consecutive state championships between 2013 and 2022.

Besides serving the swim teams and other school purposes, the new pool will be available to local swim clubs and other Catholic schools.

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