The Art and Mary Jane Crooks Hall

Three cornerstone gifts were the catalyst to moving our new Art & Mary Jane Crooks Hall from a boardroom proposal to a completed project.  The first, a million dollar gift from the Patrick and Beryl Campbell Charitable trust in Bermuda, was realized through the initiative of past parent, Diane Zell, mother of Graham (2006) and Allison (2008) and her sister, current parent Mairie Claire, mother of Jacqueline (2013).

Art and Mary Jane Crooks at construction site
Art and Mary Jane Crooks

The second, announced at our Closing Ceremonies in June 2009, was a magnificent $1.5 million gift from Duncan and Verda McNeill, parents of Mark (1979) and John (1982), and grandparents of John (2008) and Kevin (2009).  In their honour, the student centre was named the Duncan and Verda McNeill Centre, known as McNeills in day to day use.

The third, an unparalleled lead gift of $2.4 million toward the dining hall was received from Art and Mary Jane Crooks.  In recognition of this historic gift, the new facility is named after them.

After all their years of hard work, why have Art and Mary Jane Crooks so generously given $2.4 million toward Brentwood’s new dining hall? Mary Jane says their feelings are a little old fashioned and sentimental when it comes to Brentwood. They believe in this school and the opportunities it provides young people. At Brentwood, Hew (1986), Claire (1991) and Morgan (1994) were all busy and engaged in wholesome activities. They were free to explore opportunities in a supportive environment, surrounded by positive influences.

Art and Mary Jane were friends long before they were married. Mary Jane was the fifth of eleven children, and Art, a friend of Mary Jane’s older brother, often spent time at her family’s cottage during the summer months. When they first met, Mary Jane was 9 and Art was 13 (although Mary Jane admits she portrays Art as a little older each time she tells this story!). They complement each other well. Art is methodical and disciplined; Mary Jane is whimsical and funny.

Art attended Amherst College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1961. After earning his MBA in 1963 from the University of Western Ontario, Art took a job in sales, quickly rising through the ranks to regional and then national sales manager.

Although accepted at McGill University, Mary Jane opted to pursue advertising, initially with Eaton’s Department Store in Toronto and then with the agencies Baker & Foster. She won the New York Art Director’s Copy Writer Award for her series on the carousel slide projector before taking maternity leave in 1969 when Hew was born.

Ambitious and aspiring to run his own business, Art, at age 30, interviewed for a Canadian Tire franchise and was approved to purchase his first store in Blenheim in 1971. It was a family decision, with the young couple doing the jobs of three people to save a salary. Even so, profits were modest in the beginning. Art placed orders, worked the parts counter, unloaded trucks and stocked the store, while Mary Jane did the books. In 1972 Art and Mary Jane traded up and purchased the Pembroke store in the Ottawa Valley, then in 1979 jumped at the chance to open the first store in Lethbridge.

In their characteristic way, however, when asked about their successes in life, Art and Mary Jane prefer to talk about their three children, all of whom graduated from Brentwood.

Hew was Assistant House Captain of Rogers House, a medallist at St. Catharines as both a lightweight and a heavyweight rower. Hew was also a member of the first crew coached by Brian Carr (1980), the 135 pound Bantams. He was a three-time member of our musical theatre company and is front and centre in the large photograph of the Hello Dolly cast that has been immortalized in the T. Gil Bunch Centre. After graduating from Amherst, Hew worked in mergers and acquisitions for Lehman Brothers, focusing on the energy and oil sectors. He is now a founding partner of Great Circle Capital, a leading private equity investment firm specializing in opportunities within global transportation. Hew and his wife, Kate, are the proud parents of Charlie, Crawford, and Mary.

In her Brentwood days, Claire rowed for Pat Kelly’s girls varsity eight, played field hockey and soccer, was a potter and school prefect. After graduating from Princeton, Claire received her masters and doctorate from Queen’s University. She is now the Associate Director of the CAMH Centre for Prevention Science in London, Ontario, and is cross-appointed to the University of Western Ontario. A published author specializing in the impact of violence on the lives of children and adolescents, Claire is currently working on the implementation and evaluation of a school-based program to prevent peer and dating violence, substance abuse and high risk behavior amongst youth. In her private life, Claire enjoys family life with her husband, George, and children Findlay, Sydney, Grady, and Matilda.

Head Prefect and House Captain of Rogers, Morgan rowed in one of the crews Tony Carr coached to a Canadian High School Championship and whose names are etched on the coveted Calder Clelland Trophy. Morgan graduated from Princeton in geosciences, rowed for the Princeton Tigers and then Oxford where he competed in the prestigious and historic Oxford Cambridge boat race. A member of the Canadian men’s eight in the Sydney Olympics, Morgan now lives in Manhatten with his wife Aimee and daughter Riley, where he works as a proprietary trader for RBC.

Not only do their children’s Brentwood connections endure, but through their own 25-year association with the school, Art and Mary Jane have also developed lasting friendships with many of the Houseparents, teachers and coaches, including John and Celia Allpress, Jane Jackson, Andrea and Gerry Pennells, John Queen, Pat Kelly, Tony and Yvonne Carr, and John Garvey. Mary Jane observes, "The rowing coaches not only instilled the skills that enabled our children to row at Ivy League Colleges but also, and perhaps more importantly, taught them valuable life lessons – how to win and lose with equal grace. Yvonne Carr often hosted the rowing parents to excellent meals and was always behind the scenes looking out for the team’s well-being; she even did laundry once for members of the crew who had under-packed."

Few things in life are executed in text book style, but Art and Mary Jane Crooks’ faithful dedication to Brentwood can only be described in such terms. In 1988, long before the construction of the Maeda Health Centre, the T. Gil Bunch Centre for Performing Arts, and Allard House, Art and Mary Jane served notice, through their first major gift, of the need for a new Dining Room and Student Services Centre. Since 1994 Art has volunteered his time to serve as a Brentwood Governor, and was Board Chair from 2005-2010. Their historic, unparalleled gift in December 2007 added to their already considerable commitment to our new dining centre.

Art and Mary Jane believe in the fundamental role of education and their legacy is Crooks Hall, the social heart of our campus where Brentonians of all generations can gather and reunite. A fitting tribute, given Art and Mary Jane’s steadfast loyalty to family, community and Brentwood.

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Crooks hall in the morning
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