Schwarzman Gives $25M to Abington Senior High

Stephen Schwarzman | Photos provided by Abington School District

Stephen Schwarzman is investing in the future — and that begins at Abington Senior High School.

Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm, announced a landmark gift of $25 million to Abington School District, which will fund a new science and technology center at the high school and renovations to the original 1956-era building.

Schwarzman was raised in Huntingdon Valley and graduated from Abington Senior High School in 1965, where he played on the varsity winter and spring track team and varsity soccer team.

In 2004, he donated $400,000 to the high school for a new football stadium.

Abington School District Superintendent Amy Sichel, who has known Schwarzman for more than a decade, approached him about the gift last year.

Sichel and Schwarzman announced the bequest at the National Conference on Education of the School Superintendents Association a couple weeks ago, hoping to encourage others to contribute to their respective school systems.

“Many people have reached out to tell me that they simply haven’t considered giving to their public schools because they didn’t know it could be done, and have never been asked,” Schwarzman wrote to the Jewish Exponent. “I hope my gift can help change this.”

Abington School District Superintendent Amy Sichel

The four-year renovation includes a state-of-the-art facility for ninth-graders. Abington is a 10-12 senior high school, but will add on ninth grade — an additional 600 students — over the course of the renovations, meeting the needs of “tomorrow’s students and what they’ll need to be career and college ready,” Sichel said.

(The elementary school would then become a K-5 school, and the middle school 6-8.)

The current building on campus dates to 1956. It’s had substantial renovations over the last 60 years, including a new classroom wing added in the late ’90s, a renovated library, cafeterias, an auditorium and a gym, but never a complete renovation from the original structure.

The planned major expansion is the two-story science and technology center. With it comes general classrooms, art rooms and more specific science rooms that are built on a collegiate scale, includings labs and room for teacher- and student-driven discussions. The expansion will also sprinkle in smaller additions: a gym, a third cafeteria, larger guidance and administrative areas, and updated tweaks to the 1956-era classrooms.

Phased renovations begin this fall.

“You don’t just build a building — you build a building with new vision and new direction and, of course, for the future for Abington students,” Sichel said.

A rendering of the Science and Technology Center

Schwarzman said his experience at Abington provided a foundation that allowed him to attend Yale University and Harvard Business School and work his way up to where he is now. He hopes his gift inspires other public schools to set up the infrastructure to receive gifts like this one.

His past contributions include a $40 million gift to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund; a $550 million international scholarship program at Tsinghua University in Beijing; a $150 million gift to Yale for a new student center and performing arts hub; and a $100 million donation to the New York Public Library.

Schwarzman is also the former chairman of Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

“We need a paradigm shift in how we think about private support for public schools,” he added. “There is a strong tradition in America of giving to private schools, parochial schools, colleges and universities, but not to public schools, which need support in order to better prepare the 50-plus million American students who attend them.”

With the upgrades, Schwarzman hopes the technological skills — regardless of the field students ultimately pursue — will better prepare them for the future and “help lift entire communities.”

“My goal was that these changes ensure that every student who attends Abington High School has the skills needed to succeed in the workforce,” he wrote.

Schwarzman’s contribution will also benefit the development of pathways, which allows students to follow courses like that of a college major but with more personalized flexibility to dabble in different tracks. Sichel said it grants more hands-on practical experience.

Computer literacy is a key component to the remodel, which was instituted this year in seventh grade, requiring all students to learn coding.

“That was extremely important to Mr. Schwarzman that kids become very computer literate and be able to use computers for problem-solving, analysis, et cetera, in a much different way than what’s being done now so they really have top-notch digital skills,” she added.

The counseling program will get a makeover, too, shepherding not only degree attainment but career and college counseling.

“From our research, this is the largest single gift to a single [public] school,” Sichel said. “It’s a game-changer. It gives us the ability to not only rebuild Abington High School, but to add this space, to renovate almost the entire building and to make sure that it is state of the art.”; 215-832-0737


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here