William McCarthy led project to build state-of-the-art high school
By Josh Tng
A 13-year project to revitalize a Catholic high school has earned a local real estate developer worldwide recognition for his work.
William McCarthy, a longstanding member of the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s finance council, was awarded the James Felt Creative Counselling Award for his efforts in Notre Dame Secondary’s campus upgrade.
McCarthy, a private real estate developer, consultant, and president of W.P.J. McCarthy and Company Ltd., received the award from the Counselors of Real Estate, an organization of real estate professionals.
McCarthy was appointed by Archbishop Adam Exner in 2002 to assist Notre Dame in revitalizing the aged school, which had been using the same 60-year-old temporary facilities since its opening in 1953, said McCarthy. “The school was in severe disrepair, and enrolment and morale were steadily dropping.”
In 2008, Archbishop Raymond Roussin appointed him to lead the redevelopment project.
“The existing design, construction, financing plans, and executions were simply not sufficient for a modern education system,” said McCarthy in an email to The B.C. Catholic.
He outlined several possible plans for redeveloping Notre Dame until a decision was made to “re-build the school and, in doing so, set a new standard for both the design and operation of state-of-the-art educational facilities.” The project was completed in 2015.
The new building has a capacity of about 800 students, compared with the original building’s 200. “Today Notre Dame operates as a true high school collegiate,” McCarthy said. “Students are offered a wide range of projects and extracurricular activities and athletics.”
Pat Waslen, one of the vice chairs of the Notre Dame building committee, noted the rebuilding of Notre Dame began slowly. “Notre Dame was to be expanded and totally rebuilt within 20 years of its opening. Despite the best intentions of many, 50 years passed before (McCarthy) was appointed to lead the project. From start to finish, he led by example.”
“He displays a reflection of his deep faith, enormous patience and open mindedness to those involved in the process,” said Rob DeLazzari, the other vice chair of the committee. “The Notre Dame community will consider our new school first and foremost a testament to one man’s faith and ability.”
The Notre Dame Alumni Association nominated McCarthy for the award, but he said the award recognizes the work of the entire building committee and community. “This was the best volunteer group I have ever worked with. It shows how much talent there is amongst the archdiocese’s laity,” McCarthy said.
The award means “the best real estate minds in the world have peer-reviewed my work and that of my colleagues,” said McCarthy. “Many fellow counsellors, who are also Catholics and have worked on projects within their own dioceses, understood the unique challenges this project faced,” he added. “Their verdict is the definite judgement on what we have accomplished."
McCarthy said the Church’s spiritual mission must be supported by meeting its temporal requirements, something he put into practice by designing a grotto to Our Lady of Notre Dame and building it with his own hands.
“You cannot have a school named after Our Lady of Notre Dame without a grotto to her,” said McCarthy.
Incorporating a statue that is more than 50 years old, the grotto was completed one day before the dedication Mass, offering a sheltered area “where the Notre Dame community can reflect and pray.”
After the dedication Mass for the new high school in 2015, McCarthy thanked everyone who worked on the 13-year project. He also challenged the students “to be worthy of this school,” to one day “give back to their alma mater and their Church,” and to live up to their school’s motto – Know, Love, Serve.
“In doing so,” McCarthy said, “You will be adhering to the timeless and enduring words of 2 Timothy, which have sustained all of those who have thought about and have laboured to make this day reality, and with it the promise of Notre Dame: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’