Rub-a-dub-dub

Risky investment leads to one of the largest gifts ever received by a Catholic high school and doubles size of the Bishop Miege campus


by Jill Ragar Esfeld
jill.esfeld@theleaven.org ROELAND PARK – “Five Men in a Tub” may sound like characters from a revamped nursery rhyme. But to Bishop Miege high school here, it’s more like a fairy tale.

The happy ending to this tale has more than doubled the size of the Bishop Miege campus, thanks to the generous patronage of “tub captain” Don Kincaid and his wife, Patty, who is a member of St. Agnes Parish and an alumna of the high school.

It all began not once upon a time, but in June 2000 when, very suddenly, the Shawnee Mission School District put up for sale the 18 acres north of Bishop Miege, where the former Old Mission Junior High stands. The asking price was $1.5 million.

Bishop Miege desperately wanted the property for expansions it dreamed of in the future. But timing is everything and, at that moment, no matter how much the school coveted the land, it simply didn’t have enough funds to consider putting in a bid.

“At the time, we were in the process of making a decision about whether or not to go ahead with building our media center,” explained Bishop Miege president Joe Passantino. “We were short of money even for that.”

But Kincaid, a successful businessman who was on the Bishop Miege board of trustees, viewed the lack of funds as a challenge rather than an obstacle. He went over to tour the property and saw that Shawnee Mission had just renovated the gymnasium in Old Mission Junior High. Meanwhile, the Bishop Miege gym was overbooked from dawn until late at night.

“That’s when I decided we were going to buy that darn thing, because we were going to get all this ground and the gymnasium,” recalled Don Kincaid. “And that’s how it all started.”

The plan, which Passantino called both “ingenious and generous,” was, in effect, a faith alliance between five Bishop Miege trustees. Kincaid, along with Paul Bastasch, Bob Bibb, Larry Gates and Bob Mogren, agreed to borrow enough money to purchase the property until funds could be raised by the school to purchase it from them. The five have come to be known as “Five Men in a Tub.”

“We went to the bank and we all borrowed the money, and we all signed the note,” said Kincaid. “And we said, ‘Man, oh man, I hope we’re not making a mistake here,’ and so we just called ourselves ‘Five Men in a Tub’ in case we sank.”

The five formed an LLC (a limited liability company) called The Friends of Miege in order to bid for the property on behalf of the school. At the time there were eight full-price offers, so the “Five Men in a Tub” overbid, securing the property with a $2 million offer.

“They really were like the men in the nursery rhyme,” said Passantino, “floating helplessly down the river, hoping to land safely — in their case, to land without owning a school.”

The plan was for the LLC to hold ownership, leasing the property to the high school until funds were raised to pay off the loan. Unless, said Passantino, “a guardian angel came along.”

The Kincaids planned from the beginning to be that guardian angel.

“It was a goal Patty and I had,” explained Kincaid. “Two years ago, I took the other guys off the note at the bank, paid the bank off, and waited for the right time to just donate the land to Miege.”

Passantino said he was excited and pleased, but not surprised, when he heard what the Kincaids had done.

“It’s such a major, major gift — but their generosity has always exceeded what you would expect,” he said.

At a ceremony during the athletic department’s fall sports extravaganza Bishop Miege recognized the donation, which Passantino noted as one of the largest gifts ever received by a Catholic high school anywhere in the nation.

“In the 49-year-history of the school,” he said, “the only thing that compares to it is when the Roe sisters donated the property to build the school.”

In addition to recognizing the Kincaids, the ceremony honored the four other men who originally formed the LLC and Archbishop James P. Keleher as a major donor and spiritual leader of the school.

The ceremony concluded with 181 freshmen forming a large M in front of the Kincaids and singing the school’s fight song.

“Welcoming our new class here tonight demonstrates their link to the amazing efforts of the ‘Men in a Tub’ and the remarkable generosity of Don and Patty Kincaid,” said Passantino.

Bishop Miege will continue to use the property for outdoor activities, practice rooms and gym space. In May of this year, work began on the initial phase of a master plan to renovate and develop the north campus and the school’s outdoor facilities.

“Now that we’re owners of the land, it opens that many more doors for us to really develop it as we need to and want to,” said Passantino. “Our education facility is as good as any around. Now, with the acquisition of the north campus, and then the improvements that will be done, we will have one of the finest campuses in the whole area.”

When Kincaid accepted the recognition plaque, he spoke with feeling not only about the high school itself, but also about the love and respect that exists within the larger community for the school and its students.

“People in the community really, really care,” he said, “and have gone to great efforts to try to make the school a better place for the thousands of students that will continue to go through there.”

The Kincaids are grateful to be able to benefit the school that has educated their six children.

“I believe Jesus Christ touches our lives in many ways, and he has given me a wonderful family and helped me enjoy some financial success,” said Kincaid. “And I just felt like it was my privilege to do this.”

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