‘A turning point for our school’: Fontbonne Hall Academy debuts new science suite

Fontbonne Hall Academy opens new Science Suite
Fontbonne Hall Academy cut the ceremonial ribbon on its new state-of-the-art science suite on Dec. 7.
Photo by Isabel Song Beer

Fontbonne Hall Academy, a private all-girls Roman Catholic high school in Bay Ridge, cut the ribbon on its new state of the art science suite Wednesday, thanks to generous donations from the school community.

The facilities, which were designed by Fontbonne alum Constance Gangemi Slampiak of CGS Architecture, feature brand new rooms, equipment, and several 3D printers for students to utilize.

“For our students to be able to come into this room, to look at the mysteries of life … you come to be able to think about the essential things,” said interim Fontbonne Hall Academy Principal Fred Heron during the unveiling Dec. 7. “For a Catholic community this is as deep a spiritual insight as you might be able to get. You may wonder, why in a Catholic school does a lab matter in that kind of way — because knowing reality, digging into the depths of it, is to be able to experience the wonder, the majesty of the creator.”

The science suite’s construction was made possible with funds from the Fontbonne community, including a $250,000 donation from the Callaghan-Pierog Family Foundation — the largest single gift in the school’s 85-year history.

The money was donated in memory of Theresa Callaghan, a graduate of Fontbonne’s Class of 1954. The Callaghan-Pierog Family Foundation previously supported Fontbonne’s technological expansion with a gift in 2010.

“The Callaghan-Pierog Family Foundation was instrumental in helping Fontbonne become a leading school in the use of educational technology seven years ago,” former Fontbonne Hall Academy Principal Mary Ann Spicijaric told the press when the science suite was first announced in 2019. “We are just so grateful that they continue to see the need to support women in science. This transformational gift is a turning point for our school and for the future of education of each of our students.”

On Wednesday, students and faculty alike lauded the new facilities.

“I am very excited about the new science suite,” said Alla Tandilashvili, chair of Fontbonne’s science department. “Not many schools have facilities like this. It is very beneficial to our students so they can access modern equipment, even modern technology. [The science suite] gives students a huge hands-on experience which is very important in science. So students can see how the concept I’m teaching them in class could be applied to real life.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, the suite was blessed by Brooklyn Bishop Robert Brennan after a mass held at Fontbonne to commemorate the life of Sister Ita Ford who was martyred in El Salvador.