After a torrent of criticism from parents and alumni, a Roman Catholic high school announced that plans to name a building in honor of one of Delaware’s most notorious families in exchange for $1 million have been dropped.
Last year, Archmere Academy near Wilmington agreed to accept the donation from wealthy developer Louis Capano Jr. In return, the school planned to name its proposed student life center in honor of Capano’s late father and 82-year-old mother.
But news of the deal outraged many because Louis Capano Jr.’s brother Thomas, once a wealthy and politically connected lawyer, is in prison for murdering the governor’s scheduling secretary, Anne Marie Fahey, in 1996. Louis Capano Jr. and his two younger brothers also have had run-ins with the law.
For months, Archmere argued that it accepted the deal in the Catholic tradition of forgiveness. After convening a special meeting, however, Archmere trustees posted a statement on the school Web site late Monday saying Capano, an Archmere alumnus, had offered to have the student life center named in honor of a religious figure.
“The board will meet again promptly to discuss the naming of the new facility and the appropriate means of recognizing, in some other way, Mr. Capano’s gift in honor of his parents,” the trustees said.
Louis Capano Jr. was caught bribing a politician in a zoning case in the 1990s, and also admitted trying to hinder the investigation in the murder case against his brother. Another Capano brother, Gerard, helped dump the victim’s body at sea. A fourth brother, Joseph, was convicted in an unrelated sex scandal.
Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the murder of Fahey, whose survivors include a nephew who is an incoming freshman at Archmere.
Capano attorney Robert Krapf said Capano had no comment.
Archmere spokesman Thomas Mallon said Capano asked to speak to the board Monday.
“He was very gracious and very professional,” Mallon said. “He offered to step up and remove the name from the building to eliminate the harm that’s been caused to the school community.”
Opponents of the decision to give Capano naming rights posted a statement on their Web site saying they were “extremely gratified” by Archmere’s change of heart.
U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly, an Archmere graduate who prosecuted the Capano brothers in the murder case, also welcomed the decision. “I was surprised, indeed shocked, by the initial decision to name the building after the Capano family,” he said.
Archmere initially planned to name its student life building in honor of Sen. Joseph Biden, a 1961 graduate, but the idea was dropped because of Biden’s support of abortion rights.
Louis Capano Jr. has also offered $1 million to St. Edmond’s, an elementary school for boys that has agreed to name its new gymnasium for Capano’s father. That decision prompted two members of St. Edmund’s board to resign, including former FBI Director Louis Freeh. That decision has not been rescinded.
John Healy III, chairman of Archmere’s capital campaign, said of the furor: “It’s the Capano name. It hasn’t died in Delaware. It hasn’t gone away.”