THOUSAND OAKS — An 87-year-old Port Hueneme woman who never set foot on the campus of La Reina High has bequeathed $475,000 to the all-girls Catholic school.
It is the largest donation in the institution's 33-year history.
Jeannette Jordan, who died in October, directed in her will that nearly half a million dollars be given to La Reina, where her grand-niece, Robin Jordan, will enter her junior year this fall.
Sister Lisa Megaffin, the school's principal, said the gift was a gesture of a woman who felt a bond with the students and staff because she herself had attended a school run by the Sisters of Notre Dame.
"She was inspired to do this. It is the work of God," Megaffin said.
In the two years before her death, Jordan formed a close relationship with Megaffin and made smaller donations to the school to pay for, among other items, a color computer monitor. Every four to six weeks, the principal would visit Jordan, whose emphysema made her too frail to get to the school.
Jordan did not have children, although Megaffin would often tell her that the La Reina girls were her children. The bequest represents a "generous portion" of Jordan's estate, Megaffin said. Jordan's relatives could not be reached for comment.
The gift will substantially boost the school's endowment fund, Megaffin said, making a real difference at the campus, whose students post some of Ventura County's top academic marks. The money is likely to help pay for new air-conditioning systems and computers.
Parents who work raising money for La Reina were as excited as giggly high school students upon hearing the news.
"For somebody to do that, that comes from the heart," said Dona Williams, treasurer of the Parent Council and co-chairwoman of the annual auction, the school's major fund-raiser.
In drumming up support for the auction, Williams said she gets excited over $1,000 donations.
Last year's auction--in which parents and patrons bid on such items as vacation packages, tutoring services and jewelry--raised $62,000, Megaffin said. Jordan's bequest is more than seven times that sum.
The 635-student school, which draws girls from as far afield as Ventura and Malibu, receives no subsidies from local parishes or the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. And although Megaffin said donors' contributions count for a relatively small part of the more than $3-million annual operating budget, they help pay for capital improvements and scholarships.
The school hopes to receive 8% interest on the gift money, meaning that administrators would have an additional $38,000 to work with each year.
At the top of the school's capital projects wish list: air-conditioning for some classrooms on the four-building campus. The entire air-conditioning project will cost about $200,000, Megaffin said.
La Reina parent Marisela Quiros, whose daughter, Elise, will be a senior in the fall, said Elise's first reaction was, "Great, now we can have air-conditioning."
La Reina administrators also want to expand the use of computers in classrooms and the library.
"Jeannette really wanted to make a world of difference in education for young women and for Catholic education for young women," Megaffin said.