Fender family matches $5 million gift to build Center for Innovation at Bolles

The construction project is the largest on the property since the San Jose Hotel was built in 1925.

  • By Max Marbut
  • | 12:00 a.m. December 1, 2023
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
A rendering of the Frank R. Sanchez & Hope and Dana E. Fender Center for Innovation at The Bolles School.
A rendering of the Frank R. Sanchez & Hope and Dana E. Fender Center for Innovation at The Bolles School.
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Dr. Dana Fender and his wife, Hope, signed a commitment Oct. 30 to match a $5 million gift from Frank Sanchez to build the Center for Innovation on the Bolles Upper School San Jose Campus.

The school said the 47,000-square-foot, three-story building is the most expansive construction undertaking on the San Jose Campus property since the building now known as Bolles Hall was constructed as the San Jose Hotel in 1925.

“The Center for Innovation is a work of both art and engineering, but like all campus structures, it exists to support the learning that happens within its footprint,” Bolles President and Head of School Tyler Hodges said in a news release.

“In this case, this means collaborative hands-on learning, academic exploration with inspirational faculty and the ability for students to experiment and gain practical experience as they work toward their highest potential to serve our community and the world.”

Groundbreaking on the $26 million building, designed by Miami-based Zyscovich architects and constructed by the Jacksonville-based Stellar design-build company, was in June 2022 with construction scheduled to finish by spring 2024. 

The $5 million donations from the Fenders and Sanchez are the largest single gifts to The Bolles School in its history. The structure will be called the “Frank R. Sanchez & Hope and Dana E. Fender Center for Innovation.” 

From left, Frank Sanchez and Bolles President and Head of School Tyler Hodges with Dana and Hope Fender as they sign the matching $5 million commitment to build the Frank R. Sanchez & Hope and Dana E. Fender Center for Innovation.

The building will house Bolles’ science, math and technology programs, as well as areas for advanced courses in robotics, computer programming, information technology, engineering and design. 

Department leaders said the new academic areas will deepen Bolles’ curriculum and cultivate the country’s next generation of innovators.

Bolles Science Department Chair Nancy Hazzard said in the release the new facility would bring renewed student engagement, innovation and ultimately, achievement, in all areas of science.

“Although the Center for Innovation will be a hallmark building like all campus structures, it will be an intellectual incubator for young minds who will serve and change our community as entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, explorers and creative leaders,” Hazzard said.

The Center for Innovation features classrooms and 12 specialty labs, including spaces for anatomy, biology and chemistry lab instruction.

In addition to being built with technology for advanced study, the Center for Innovation will include spaces for small group discussions, collaborative learning and independent study. 

“The ornate design was meant to be a living building bringing an abundance of windows and glass walls throughout,” Bolles Associate Head of School Mike Drew said in the release.

“Walls can move to make multiple classrooms into one big open room or open a classroom to the outdoors in many cases. We wanted to capitalize on the proximity of the building to allow all students to be inspired by the beautiful outside views of the river,” Drew said.

“Every floor has its own terrace and gathering place that encourages discussion, collaboration and creativity. As technology and science evolves the building will be able to evolve with it.”

While the milestone Sanchez and Fender gifts continues the Center for Innovation on a course for success, Bolles Chief Advancement Officer Carol Nimitz said the school continues to seek support for the ongoing development of the facility. The school needs an additional $8 million in philanthropic gifts to meet the $26 million cost of the building.

“We are grateful for the Fenders and Frank Sanchez’s historic gifts to the institution. Their commitment exhibits extraordinary support to our students and faculty in their pursuit of always raising the bar of academic excellence, which is truly humbling,” Nimitz said in the release.



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