Picture it – November, 2009

My wife and I are attending a benefit for the Guld Coast Foundation and a woman introduces herself, “Hi, I’m Wendy Surkis and I hear you’re from New York. I moved to Sarasota from there in 2000.” If you haven’t met Wendy, you should. Her energy is infectious and she has been a dear friend ever since.

Anyway, I subsequently learned that she is spearheading a project to raise $22 Million to turn my old high school building into The Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA) focusing its attention on modern art. I thought this was a great idea – expecially considering there will be continued education. I imagined the tagline, “The Old SHS Building Keeps on Teaching!” Wendy had raised about $11 million at the time so I asked, “How much has come from the Alumni?” She thought for a moment and said, “about $5,000.”

I was astonished! How could it be that there wasn’t a major push by alumni to have their mark on the future of this building? Why isn’t there an army of graduates leading the way? The answer, I discovered, was an army of former students had fought against the destruction of the building and felt that since Ringling College of Art and Design had taken it over the battle was won. NOT SO! We can still lose the building. If SMOA does not raise the full $22 Million the project will go the way of the Dodo (Pun intended).

So – What to do? What to do?

The answer became obvious when I reviewed the naming opportunities within the building. The Auditorium will be a venue that will host myriad events and will get a lot of attention. It delights me that those of us who were priviledged to study and learn in this great building will see announcements in the press:


How cool is that? It only adds to the fun knowing that it will be located where Mrs. Repulski taught Advanced Humanities and Mama Deal set us straight on Political Science – thoughts that will certainly rasie a smile or, in my case, shivers remembering their classes.

Ladies and gentlemen we have to do this, and here is how:

The total amount we need to raise is $2.5 million for this naming opportunity. To get the ball rolling I donated $250,000 and along with Dick Theilen ’58 and Cope Garrett ’51 we are now over $600,000. It is now time for the classes to work together and raise the rest. We have levels of recognition available. So form a group, or gather your class. 

Let’s get this done!

Tom Koski,
Committee Chair and SMOA Board Member


Hello Sailors!

Do you remember the “Old Building?” Have you recently been to the run-down shell that housed the classrooms we sat in years ago? There was a real risk of losing this structure to the dust heap of history (like the first two Sarasota High School buildings). Fortunately Ringling College of Art and Design stepped in to save it by creating the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA), focusing on modern & contemporary art. The building will house a Visual Arts Education Center (VAEC) so the tradition of learning will continue in our historic building. SMOA has raised over $16.5 of the $22 Million needed for renovation & endowment. They recently set a target of May, 2014 to complete the fund raising & begin construction.

We Can Help Save Our Building 

The Alumni of SHS should have our name somewhere on the building. When the renovation is complete we will share enormous satisfaction knowing that we were a part of historic makeover. To that end, there is an effort to raise money from Sarasota High School Alumni to name The SHS Alumni Auditorium. This auditorium will be where Mama Deal & Mrs. Repulski had their classrooms.

The Challenge

I am calling on all classes to get together and raise $25,000 each. Through leadership gifts and reunion donations we have already raised over $600,000 of the $2.5 million needed to name the auditorium. The class of 1973 had their 40th reunion and raised $10,000. The classes of 1977 & 1975 each have someone who stepped forward with a challenge. If they raise $10,000 – their donation will be doubled.  

How to Donate

Go to www.SHSAlumniAuditorium.org and click on the button. Make sure you mention the auditorium and your class. Sign the guest book or send me an email & you can stay current on our progress. Please join me in creating The SHS Alumni Auditorium... It will leave a lasting legacy!

Tom Koski, 
SHS Class of 1978
SMOA Board Member & Alumni Auditorium Chair

Here is the link to the Sarasota High School Grand Reunion web page:

Here is the link to the Sarasota High School Alumni Auditorium web page:


To help support SMOA, click here to get started.