Ho-Ho-Kus Public School Receives $10M Gift to Build New Gym and Wellness Center

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The Ho-Ho-Kus Board of Education announced yesterday the receipt of a $10 million gift from Dave and Cheryl Duffield for the construction of Duffield Hall, a new gymnasium and wellness center, at the Ho-Ho-Kus Public School. The gift represents the largest donation ever received by the district. The project will involve the demolition of the current gymnasium area and construction of a new, state-of-the-art gymnasium and wellness center that will include flexible classroom space. The project was designed by LAN Associates and will be built by Donnelly Construction. The project is planned to be completed in the spring of 2024.

The project seeks to reinvent the athletic and wellness spaces in the district with an addition designed to improve both mental and physical health by focusing on the development of children. The Wellness Center addition will feature space for dance, yoga, and mindfulness lessons.

The gymnasium renovation will include a raised roof to allow more natural daylight into the space, while also providing enhanced recreation equipment such as rock-climbing walls, retractable screens, and motorized bleachers. The team redesigned the existing locker rooms to allow for additional spaces including a health classroom and much needed community bathrooms

In the Wellness Center, large operable partitions will allow lessons to flow both inside and outside. The design includes a large green wall that starts as a teaching accent wall and transitions to the ceiling, promoting a connection to nature through biophilic design elements. The spaces also includes a mirrored wall for dance lessons and sliding whiteboard doors for writable space with storage beyond.       

The project’s benefactor, Dave Duffield, is a 1954 graduate of the Ho-Ho-Kus Public School, where his mother, Mary Duffield, was a beloved fourth-grade teacher for decades. Mr. Duffield went on from Ho-Ho-Kus to graduate from Ridgewood High School and Cornell University. He is a well-known tech entrepreneur who profoundly impacted the software industry as the founder of several innovative companies, including Workday, PeopleSoft, and his most recent company, Ridgeline.

Dave’s entrepreneurial spirit came to light in the small, idyllic borough of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, in the 1950s. As a young student, he launched his first business venture by growing gladiolus in his backyard and selling them to neighbors for a dime each. Dave remembers his childhood in Ho-Ho-Kus fondly and with gratitude, saying “I attribute my foundation to my folks, the school system, and a good community.” He is pleased to be able to make such a lasting impact on his childhood community.

Superintendent Dr. Diane Mardy, who has spent the majority of her 40-plus year career in the Ho-Ho-Kus School District, was originally hired as a teacher to replace Mary Duffield when she retired in 1978. “This is a full circle moment for me,” Dr. Mardy said, “and it is a wonderful testament to our school and community that Mr. Duffield, who has achieved so much professionally and personally, has decided to give back to this place where it all began for him. I am grateful for Dave and Cheryl Duffield’s incredible generosity and excited to be able to oversee this transformative project for the school and community and to honor the memory of the Duffield family in Ho-Ho-Kus.”

Board of Education President Mary Ellen Nye added, “Words cannot express our gratitude for the scale and scope of this donation. Duffield Hall will be a beautiful, modern facility devoted to the health and well-being of Ho-Ho-Kus students. We are all so excited for this project!”

The Ho-Ho-Kus Public School District serves children who live in Ho-Ho-Kus from grades Pre-K through 8 at the Ho-Ho-Kus Public School and students in grades 9-12 through a send/receive relationship with Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, New Jersey.

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