St. Basil graduate donates $1 million to school

The money will be used to establish a learning commons area with computers and other technology.

A generous gift: Last Friday, Helena (Olijnyk) Mazur, St. Basil Academy class of 1961, presented a $1 million gift to her alma mater. St. Basil is a commuter school, with most of the students coming from the Northeast. Source: St. Basil Academy

Helena (Olijnyk) Mazur, St. Basil Academy class of 1961, last Friday presented a $1 million gift to her alma mater.

Mazur, who lives in North Jersey, was joined by her husband Leonard in their visit to St. Basil, 711 Fox Chase Road in Jenkintown.

Mazur was born in Ukraine, and her family fled to German to escape Russian Communism. The family later moved to the United States, settling in Pittsburgh.

Mazur attended St. Basil when it was a boarding school. Today, it is a commuter school, with most of the girls coming from the Northeast.

“I remember the Sisters and how they taught us,” she recalled. “It was like family. There were so many fun memories. There were a lot of memories to share.”

Mazur’s parents ran a business and sent her across the state to learn at what they considered a “safe haven.”

“They knew I was in good hands,” she said.

Mazur said she would have sent her daughters to St. Basil had she not moved to Morris County, New Jersey when her husband received a promotion at work.

Mazur’s husband, Leonard, was born in Germany. His family moved to the United States, ultimately settling in Southwest Philadelphia.

Both families were friends in Germany, and after they arrived in the U.S., Helena’s family looked up the Mazurs in the Philadelphia phone book and showed up at their door. Leonard and Helena have been married for 52 years.

The Mazurs said they value education, particularly Catholic education. In fact, Leonard Mazur, a successful pharmaceutical executive, two years ago donated $5 million to his alma mater, West Catholic.

In his remarks, Leonard Mazur asked the girls to repeat, “SBA is great.”

The St. Basil concert choir sang Allelujah in appreciation and joined the rest of the assembly in singing the alma mater.

The Rev. Joe Campellone, former president at Father Judge and now the advancement consultant at St. Basil, described the gift as “Miracle-Gro for our garden.”

A reception followed, with the Mazurs, of course, receiving the first two pieces of cake.

Principal Connie D’Angelo explained that the money will be used to establish a learning commons area with computers and other technology, furniture, collaborative space and a classroom setting. A plaque in honor of Helena Mazur will hang in the area. Some of the funds will be used to hire new teachers for courses that will encourage entrepreneurship and improve life skills.

D’Angelo recalls opening the mail one day and receiving a card from Mazur that included a check for $750,000. The gift was later rounded up to $1 million after further discussions with Campellone, whom Leonard Mazur called “persuasive.”

The donation caps a great first year for D’Angelo, who cited the school’s National Merit Scholars, college acceptance for seniors, state finalist soccer team and league championship track and field team.

D’Angelo said the money will benefit the “SBA sisterhood.”

“We are most grateful,” she said.

Grace Clement, student council vice president, presented Mazur with flowers.

“We will hold you and SBA forever in our hearts,” she said. ••