A "Saxon History Chair," a seat from the former Rose Auditorium collaged with yearbook photos, will be among the items for sale at the Saxon Success Fund gala April 2 (Courtesy/Saxon Success Fund)

When South Salem High School was built in 1954, nobody expected it would someday need outlets in the center of the room to plug in computers.

Though the school recently underwent a major expansion and renovation as part of a school district construction push, the library remains firmly stuck in a pre-computer era, something evident to alumni who visit the school.

“Regardless of when they graduated … they all walk into the library and say, ‘This looks exactly like it looked when I walked out of here,’” said Nancy MacMorris-Adix, the parent of two South alumni.

It’s something a new parent-led nonprofit hopes to fix. MacMorris-Adix is the president of the Saxon Success Fund, which seeks to help South students achieve academic and professional success by funding longer-term projects and scholarships.

The group formed in 2019, but due to the pandemic, has been limited in its activities and fundraising.

Now, they’re trying to raise money to relocate the school’s college and career center into the more centrally located school library at a gala and auction April 2.

Eventually, MacMorris-Adix said they hope to fundraise to redesign the rest of the library, making spaces that are better equipped with technology and suited to students collaborating on projects, not simply sitting in silence working on homework.

The event will feature pieces of history from South and the former Leslie Middle School, which was demolished in the spring of 2020 to make room for the expansion at South.

Local artists have repurposed pieces of the school’s gym floor into a cornhole set, charcuterie board and other items to be sold. Seats from the old Rose Auditorium at South are also available, covered in collages of old yearbook photos.

A charcuterie board made from the old Leslie Middle School gym floor by South Salem High School alumnus Ken Hise, Class of 1982, will be among the items auctioned at an April 2 gala (Courtesy/Saxon Success Fund)

“As a Saxon alum I am actually really excited about all of the items that are made out of salvaged materials,” said Lara Tiffin, South’s principal.

MacMorris-Adix said the Saxon Success Fund grew out of conversations between Tiffin and parents involved in the school. Like many high schools, South has active booster clubs, but they typically fund operational expenses for music and sports programs, rather than more significant projects.

“There isn’t one overarching effort that looks at bigger, broader needs of (the) school,” she said.

Years ago, MacMorris-Adix said, “more things were paid for by the district, and so as that’s gone away there’s been some gaps, and the population at South has changed also, which has been positive in many regards and has created more needs as well.”

The group has given scholarships to 21 South students to date, and eight more will receive funds this school year.

MacMorris-Adix said the group and Tiffin identified a relocated and expanded college and career center as a priority. 

“They haven’t been able to fund having it be a prominent place in the middle of the school so it’s visible to students and getting the kind of attention that it needs,” MacMorris-Adix said.

Celia Hyman Baculi, center, is honored by friends, supporters and former students at a South Salem High School event in December 2021. Her name will be on the school's expanded college and career center (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Once completed, they plan to name it after Celia Hyman Baculi, a longtime parent tutor and volunteer honored at South late last year.

“My hope is a vibrant, welcoming area that helps our students connect with college representatives and with our business community,” Tiffin said.

They’ve received an anonymous matching donation of $75,000 toward the project and hope to raise at least that amount at the gala. MacMorris-Adix said that won’t fully cover the cost of the renovation, but will go a long way toward it. The project is expected to begin this summer.

The Saxon Success Fund Gala begins at 6 p.m. in the school’s redesigned Rose Auditorium, with tours of the new space starting at 5 p.m. The entrance is off of Howard Street South.

Tickets to the gala are $25, and can be purchased on the Saxon Success Fund website in advance or at the door. In addition to the silent auction, live auction and dessert, the event will include live music and theater performances from South alumni.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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