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Riverside Military Academy just got the largest donation in its history - here's what it will buy
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Riverside Military Academy's press box will be upgraded with a second story and named after Phil Jackson, Hall County sports writer legend, thanks to an anonymous $1 million donation. - photo by Kelsey Podo

Receiving recognition didn’t cross the mind of the anonymous donor who recently gave $1 million to Riverside Military Academy.

“They did it strictly for altruistic reasons of wanting to give back and serve others,” Ellen DeFoor, Riverside’s vice president for advancement, said. “This speaks to the unique community we live in and the generosity. They give for the joy of giving.”

DeFoor said she was surprised to find that the donor had no personal connection to Riverside. She said they believed in the academy’s mission of developing boys into young men of character and wanted to become an instrumental piece in the process.

“They’re not a parent, grandparent of alumnus,” DeFoor said. “They wanted to do something that would be transformational for Riverside. I think the more people get involved with Riverside and understand the impact of our educational model, I think that’s when they see it as a worthy charitable cause.”

Riverside is a private college, preparatory, boarding and day school for boys grades seven through 12. The fortress-like campus sits before a mountainous backdrop on Riverside Drive in Gainesville.

This $1 million gift represents the largest single donation in Riverside’s history. 

“It is fitting that this announcement comes at this time of year when we are counting our many blessings,” Brian Daniel, chairman of Riverside’s Board of Trustees, said in a press release. “This is a very generous community. We are incredibly grateful for what this gift will mean to the cadets currently enrolled as well as those who will join the Corps in the years to come.”

Around 20% of the donation will be used to upgrade the press box at Maginnis Field and the rest will go toward revitalizing the school’s athletic facilities, which includes resurfacing the tennis courts and installing lights around the soccer field. 

Construction for the press box will begin this winter and is expected to reach completion this summer.

DeFoor said the project is near the top of Riverside’s list of renovation priorities. After the upgrades, the press box will double in size with the addition of a second story. 

The space currently has one level that can only accommodate Riverside’s coaches. 

“It’s so tight and cramped, we can’t even get the visiting team’s coaches in there,” DeFoor said. “Across the field when we have football games, we have a truck that has a platform in the back and that’s where the visiting coaches have to work from.”

The new press box will also have a new sound system and underground cabling, so Riverside can livestream its football games and other activities on the field. 

Riverside’s students come from 26 different states and 24 different countries. 

By having the ability to livestream games, parents unable to travel to Gainesville can feel connected to their children and the activities on campus. 

The anonymous donor decided to name the space “The Phil Jackson Press Box.”

DeFoor said the donor was a friend of Phillip Jackson, who died in 2014 after a 60-year writing career, which entailed working as a sports editor and columnist for The Times. 

“The donor wanted there to be something in the community with Phil Jackson’s name on it that represented all that Phil had done and accomplished here,” DeFoor said.