April 12, 2002 When Mark C. Marin, headmaster for 22 years at Antilles School, died in July, he left a legacy few people can: his dream come true, a multi-million dollar athletic center that was later named for him and that was dedicated Friday night. And the primary benefactor of that center, Randolph Knight, appropriately dubbed "the million dollar man," saw one of his needs realized.
Knight, who donated $1 million to the building and spent considerable time overseeing the project, got to honor and memorialize Marin and at the same time blast the Virgin Islands government for its failures in and apathy toward education.
He also took a powerful swing at those "who have derived their wealth from the Virgin Islands and left our community without investing in its future." He included for harsh criticism the "prominent local families, who would rather bank their rent and dividend checks than write significant checks to community causes."
Knight's candid remarks did not come as a surprise to everyone. He has been a vocal critic of the territorial government's inability to effectively manage itself. And as a philanthropist who seeks little attention for the many gifts he has given to the Virgin Islands, he has also often called on other wealthy people to step up to the plate.
Knight told the story of Perry Ross, a philanthropist and syndicated columnist, who gave away $30 million in his lifetime. Ross lived by the motto, "He who gives while he lives, also knows where it goes." This exemplified Knight's commitment to the Marin Center, which originally was to have been called the Knight Center.
He said from the start that he would give the $1 million on two conditions. One was that it be available for use by the entire community. The second was that Cornelius B. Prior Jr., who chairs the school's capital campaign committee, raise the $300,000 that Knight thought was needed to complete the project before he gave his $1 million. Prior did it, though the cost of the center is now pegged at $2.5 million.
Knight, an avid sports enthusiast, had no previous connection with Antilles School before he was approached by Marin and Prior to help fund the project.
He said Friday night, "Knowing full well that over the last 28 years I've personally and corporately paid millions of dollars into the treasury of the Virgin Islands, and that there are no comparable buildings costing less than $2.5 million like this one on any campus in the Virgin Islands, it was an easy decision for me to become actively involved with the MCM Center and be guaranteed that the community would get this building."
He knew, he said, that Antilles officials would manage the money responsibly and effectively.
"Being a socially conscious, responsible individual who just happens to love the Virgin Islands," Knight said, "it was an easy decisions for me to become actively involved with the MCM Center."
Regarding the state of education in the territory, Knight said, "You would have thought that there would have been unified public outrage when the truth got out about all of our public high schools lacking accreditation. You would have thought that there would have been unified public outrage when the truth got out about the deplorable test scores of our children."
But nothing occurred, he said. "Our priorities are simply out of line."
On top of his $1 million donation, Knight announced Friday night he was setting up a fund at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands in honor of his 80-year-old mother, Susannah A. Knight, to give qualified local student-athletes who need financial aid the "opportunity to attend Antilles School." The fund, which will initially be endowed with $100,000, will also help pay coaches who, Knight said, "are overlooked and paid a pittance for their services."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Prior, Antilles headmistress Kathleen Knoepfel and Sen. Lorraine Berry also spoke at the dedication ceremony held at the center on the Antilles School campus.
Berry presented Marin's widow, Jackie, with a plaque commemorating establishment of the Mark C. Marin Organ Donor Identification Card, approved by the 24th Legislature to honor Marin whose organs were donated upon his death.
His wife read a note from one donor who said the donation of Marin's kidneys "has improved my life dramatically." The mother of two teen-agers, identified only as "Beatrice, kidney recipient," wrote, "On July 28, 2001, I received the gift of life."
Marin died from a head injury on July 25.
The center, which had its groundbreaking a little over 10 months ago on May 31, will officially open Saturday with sports demonstrations, tours, steelband music, a $20,000 "shootout" and what's being billed as a KQS All-Star Basketball Game. ( See "Opening of Marin Center to be Community Event."