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O’Dowd Unveils New State-of-the-Art Bishop John S. Cummins Center


Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber and O’Dowd President J.D. Childs cut Grand Opening ribbon in front of the new Bishop John S. Cummins Center
Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber and O’Dowd President J.D. Childs cut Grand Opening ribbon in front of the new Bishop John S. Cummins Center

This week, O’Dowd officially opened its doors on a landmark state-of-the art building that will serve as the new center for community Mass and celebrations, athletics, performing arts, and, as always, academic excellence.


Spearheaded in large part by an extraordinary matching grant of $20M from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, the new center will keep O’Dowd at the leading edge of Catholic education in the East Bay.


“O’Dowd nurtures students to become strong leaders in our local community and across the country,” declared President J.D.Childs. “This investment in our school from The Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, alongside so many families and alumni, faculty and staff, ensures that we continue to give students the best, most holistic learning experiences - all of which prepare them to go out and transform the world.”

The names of the many families who contributed to build the Cummins Center are celebrated in rays of light on the wall outside the Kovach Family Community Room
The names of the many families who contributed to build the Cummins Center are celebrated in rays of light on the wall outside the Kovach Family Community Room

The Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation have elected to dedicate the building in honor of retired Bishop John S. Cummins.


“We chose to name the building for Bishop Cummins because he was an Oakland native who served our Diocese his entire life,” says Tamara Valley, President of the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation Board. Bishop Cummins presided over the Oakland Diocese from 1977 - 2003, but he was first a teacher at O’Dowd from 1957-1962. “He was a lifetime friend of my parents and he taught me freshmen history at O’Dowd,” Tamara remembers. “He was hugely instrumental in garnering support for Diocesan schools, parishes and ministries.”


Cummins is known throughout the Bay Area Catholic community as a champion for higher learning, having served as a Campus Minister at both San Francisco State and Mills College, as well as helping to bring three Catholic schools of theology to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. In addition, he served as the board of the National Catholic Educational Association in Washington.

Dragon Cheer Team celebrates on the new Steve Phelps Memorial Court
Dragon Cheer Team celebrates on the new Steve Phelps Memorial Court

“Cummins deeply believed in the holistic power of Catholic education,” says Childs. “He was a tireless advocate for the ways that Catholic education strengthens students both intellectually and spiritually, and prepares them to act in the spirit of service and justice. We are proud to name our new Center in his honor.”



 

The LEED certified Cummins Center features:

  • a new gymnasium with an NCAA regulation size court

  • sophisticated strength and conditioning facilities

  • professionally designed rehearsal and instructional studios for both music and drama

  • a black box theater for small-scale productions

  • modern classrooms with advanced audio/visual technology

 
Audrey Ohwobete ’23, left, O’Dowd’s Associated Student Body President, leads a student procession into the Knauss Family Gymnasium for the building dedication.
Audrey Ohwobete ’23, left, O’Dowd’s Associated Student Body President, leads a student procession into the Knauss Family Gymnasium for the building dedication.

“I can’t wait to play my senior year of varsity volleyball on the new court,” exclaims Audrey Ohwobete ’23, O’Dowd’s Associated Student Body President. She is also a member of the Black Student Union, and participates in the theater program. “Our Spirit Week Night Rally is going to be amazing in the Cummins Center! And of course I’m really excited to rehearse and perform in the black box theater.”


 

A number of special spaces within Cummins Center have been named for the families who gave so generously to the possibilities this modern building will create for students. These include:


The Elizabeth Cabrall Cabraser ’70 Music Studio

One of the nation’s leading class action litigators, Elizabeth also finds joy in music as a drummer. With her generosity, Elizabeth recognizes how the arts unify our community and provide a sense of belonging for students.


The Kevin and Debora Sweeney Athletic Performance Lab

Parents to four O’Dowd graduates, the Sweeneys were parents at O’Dowd for 27 years and have just become O’Dowd grandparents this year. The Sweeney’s gift honors O’Dowd’s mission to provide an education with heart - helping students turn their hopes and dreams into reality.


The Kelly Family and Erin Jaeb Black Box Studio

The third generation of Rosaleen and Jim Kelly includes five O’Dowd graduates. Kevin Kelly has served on the Board from 2011 and as chair from 2017-2021. Through their generosity, the family honors O’Dowd’s charism by supporting spaces that encourage creativity and joy for students.


The Knauss Family Gymnasium

Don and Ellie Knauss are parents to two O’Dowd graduates and Ellie served as a Board member from 2012-2019. Don and his wife Ellie are committed to the power of quality Catholic education to advance opportunities for all students. Their gift celebrates O’Dowd’s charism of community in diversity.


The Madden Family Terrace

The third generation of John♰ and Virginia Madden’s family included 3 O’Dowd graduates. Committed to financial assistance and helping youth, the Madden’s are active in supporting the East Bay community. The Madden Terrace provides a perfect perch to look onto the O’Dowd football field.


The Counts Family Welcome Hall

Tom and Annette Counts are parents to three O’Dowd graduates. Annette has served as the school librarian for 18 years and Tom served on the Board of Regents from 2008-2016. The Counts gift celebrates the unique identities and shared values that make up the O’Dowd community.


The Kovach Family Community Room

Alexandra Kovach du Pont ’88 and her four siblings (Margaret ’80, Anne ’81, Marty ’83 and Kate ’85) attended O’Dowd. The gift honors the Kovach family’s commitment to the importance of a high school community that supports students in discovering their best selves – unlocking their academic, creative, spiritual potential and launching them on a path toward lifelong personal success.

 

“I gave to build the Cummins Center because, as I looked back, I loved everything about O’Dowd,” says alumni Andy Rogers, who graduated in 1985. “I’m excited for how this center will support drama, music, sports, and community gatherings. They are each as important as academics, and I know the friendships that students build will support them throughout life.”


Band students in the new Elizabeth Cabrall Cabraser ’70 Music Studio
Band students in the new Elizabeth Cabrall Cabraser ’70 Music Studio

At the heart of the Cummins Center, O’Dowd has also chosen to honor the memory of Steve Phelps, former O’Dowd President and the original visionary behind the Cummins Center, with the Steve Phelps Memorial Court. Winding around the center circle and the 3-point throw lines are the names of donors who gave to the Steve Phelps Memorial Court because they were touched by his legacy.


“Steve was committed to leveling the playing field,” remembers Ellie Knauss, parent to two O’Dowd graduates and former Board member. “He knew that Catholic education gives people a fighting chance in the world, and he was dedicated to making the Cummins Center a reality so that O'Dowd would continue to be a world class institution, providing the best possible opportunities for all kids."


As O’Dowd opens the Bishop John S. Cummins Center, it opens the door for a whole new generation of O’Dowd students to gather as one community for Mass and celebrations, to train and compete, to practice and perform, and to build lifelong friendships, learning and growing together.

Theater students show off the new Kelly Family and Erin Jaeb Black Box Theater
Theater students show off the new Kelly Family and Erin Jaeb Black Box Theater

“The Cummins Center makes our school modern and cutting-edge,” enthuses Kevin Kelley, former Board Chair and parent to three O’Dowd graduates. “O’Dowd is literally a shining city on the hill, serving a wide and diverse community across the East Bay. As our institution grows and thrives, our students and future leaders grow and thrive.”



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