Princeton Day School Athletic Center’s Field House Lobby Named for Beloved PDS Director of Major Projects

Ronald Tola smiling next to a plaque that reads, “The Ronald Tola Lobby is named in honor of Ronald Tola, Director of Major Projects. In recognition of his expertise, heart and soul, which were vital to the creation of this building for our community. Given on behalf of trustee Marc Brahaney and Family.”

Representing a Community

Princeton Day School honored Director of Major Projects, Ronald “Ron” Tola, by officially naming the Field House lobby in The Princeton Day School Athletic Center “The Ronald Tola Lobby” in a surprise ceremony held just before the end of the school year.

“I thought we were having a committee meeting!” Ron exclaimed on a steamy afternoon in late May when he walked into the PDS Athletic Center’s Linville Lobby and saw PDS administrative leadership, trustees and other colleagues gathered for the field house lobby dedication.

Ron Tola's decades of experience leading major construction projects to enhance schools,  universities and other organizations made him a strong match for PDS. Hired in 2012 as the Director of Facilities, Ron found that his talents were best put to use focused primarily on the THRIVE! Campaign’s many emerging campus construction projects. With that focus came a new title for Ron: Director of Major Projects, of which the Princeton Day School Athletic Center is the most recent and biggest project yet. Completed in time for the opening of school in September 2020, the PDS Athletic Center is a central feature of the eight year, $55 million THRIVE! Campaign, which has also funded endowments for financial aid and professional development, as well as new academic programs and several other major facilities enhancements, including the renowned Wellemeyer STEAM Center, the Shepherd Commons ninth-grade gathering spaces and US history and English classrooms, Isaac’s Greenhouse and the new Middle School STEAM Center, along with the new classroom teaching kitchen and reimagined library, arts and STEAM spaces in the Lower School (the latter scheduled to be completed for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year). 

While the PDS Athletic Center was a transformative campus project for everyone involved in the planning, funding, design and construction, it was also an opportunity for Ron to personify the sense of community he always felt at PDS. To have the field house lobby named for him brought that sense of community full circle for Ron.

Head of School Paul Stellato pictured with Board Chair Rebecca Bushnell ‘70, Ronald Tola, Katherine Schulte, Bert Decowski an

Head of School Paul Stellato pictured with Board Chair Rebecca Bushnell ‘70, Ronald Tola, Katherine Schulte, Bert Decowski and Trustee Marc Brahaney in front of The Ronald Tola Lobby plaque.

“I really appreciate this honor and all the accolades from my colleagues and friends. But in truth, this place and the planning that went into this Athletic Center was unique. PDS is a more community-minded institution than any I’ve worked with. It was always my personal goal that this Athletic Center would be an exceptional representation of the PDS community. It fits this institution so uniquely, in my view, and I believe it is the best of all the athletic centers I’ve ever built. From the planning all the way through, including a great contractor, all the stars aligned because everybody worked together with such passion. This project was a utopia, completed on time and close to budget. That doesn’t happen often.”

Building a Space for every Generation

Ron’s commitment to transforming the PDS campus into a place that reflects the importance of community, academic excellence, physical fitness and personal growth has been witnessed by every person who has had the opportunity to work closely with him. Head of School Paul Stellato believes that even those who have not had the chance to work directly with Ron can experience the benefits of his commitment to PDS: 

“Though they may not have the good fortune to have worked with and come to know Ron Tola, as I have, every student and faculty member owes him a debt of gratitude. His careful, thoughtful stewardship and leadership of all of the major projects in the THRIVE! Campaign have had one goal: ensuring that the spaces in which our faculty and students teach and learn are as excellent as are those who inhabit them. His success in pursuit of that goal is immense. His partnership with Core Committee chair Trustee Marc Brahaney stands as a model to us all. Generations will benefit from the good work of this great man.”

Head of School Paul Stellato pictured with Ronald Tola and Marc Brahaney

Head of School Paul Stellato pictured with Ronald Tola and Marc Brahaney

PDS Trustee and Construction and Core Committee Chairperson Marc Brahaney, of Lasley Brahaney Architecture, worked closely with Ron on the Athletic Center project and grew quite fond of him, not only for his talents but also his gregarious and witty personality. It was Marc’s idea to name the field house lobby for Ron. As Marc stated during the ceremony, while it is true that Ron is a “dedicated colleague and co-conspirator,” he also had the ability to fully recognize the Head of School’s vision and create spaces that would advance the personal and academic lives of students, as well as the professional lives of faculty and staff. 

“Ron is smart and very knowledgeable in all matters of construction and building systems. He is also passionate in his dedication to the mission of educating young people. Moreover, he has a great sense of how to work with people of all temperaments and dispositions. My inspiration for naming the PDS Field House lobby for Ron stemmed from his central role in the success of the entire project. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with Ron,” Marc explained.

Speaking directly to Ron at the naming ceremony, Head of School Paul Stellato summed up how Ron epitomizes the School’s commitment to being better together by building supportive partnerships and collaborations:

“Anything that we achieve at PDS that is meaningful is done through partnerships that hopefully bring out the best in us and allow us to influence one another. Ron, you have shown us the way to build partnerships. You have entered every endeavor with optimism and enthusiasm that allowed us to do things we couldn’t imagine doing, and that every one of these opportunities is an opportunity to build friendships. That is a magical quality you have, Ron, that we have all benefited from. It has been a soulful adventure for all of us. And you have made us so much more than we would have been. And for that we thank you.”

Thank you, Ron, for your dedication to the Princeton Day School community and all who are part of it! View our Flickr album of photos from The Ronald Tola Lobby naming ceremony.

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