With immense gratitude, we announce an extraordinary gift that not only advances the Elevate vision, but also honors the tremendous impact coaches and teachers have on the lives of their players and students.
Jay and Amy Jackson have made a $1.5 million gift – a remarkable second leadership gift to the Elevate Campaign from their family – for the new Multisport Athletic Facility & Field Renovation. The Jacksons’ gift will name the Honor Gymnasium, a state-of-the-art competition gym and tournament venue with seating for 1,200+ spectators, in honor of Head Basketball Coach Al Honor, his wife and beloved Kindergarten teacher, Carlene, and their family.
The Jacksons wanted their gift to recognize the extraordinary dedication and service the Honor family has shown our school, community, and country. Al and Carlene Honor were high school sweethearts who grew up in Orlando and met at West Orange High. Married for 33 years, they raised their own three children – Brittany, Brandie, and Nick ‘18 – while taking care of countless others. Coach Honor is a retired Air Force Officer who began coaching basketball during his service. After retiring from the Air Force in 2011, he joined the Lake Highland athletic team to lead our girls basketball program. Carlene joined our teaching faculty a few years later, and their youngest, Nick, was a 5A Basketball Player of the Year for the Highlanders, now playing for Mizzou.
The Jacksons’ own children are still in Lower School, their girls too young to play for Coach Honor. Jay and Amy don’t know if they ever will. But for the Jacksons, that is beside the point. “This is about more than basketball,” Jay shared, “This is about community.”
For Jay, the community that is built on and around basketball courts is deeply personal. Growing up in the remote mountains near Yosemite, the landscape was beautiful, but life was difficult. Jay was one of five siblings raised by a single father, and the family struggled. Their small cabin didn’t have heat, and Jay remembers chopping firewood all summer to prepare for the freezing winter. Basic resources were spread thin among him and his siblings.
But what Jay did have was Tuesday and Thursday nights. That’s when he played in a youth basketball league. It was a place where Jay found coaches and teammates who offered comfort, community, and belonging – a welcome escape from life’s other challenges. “The anticipation I felt each week about those two nights helped carry me through the week. While we didn’t always have the proper shoes or uniforms, we had each other, and that feeling is something I will never forget.”
Jay immediately recognized that same community – the same power to transform lives – when he heard Coach Honor speak. Jay and Amy both serve on our Elevate Campaign Cabinet, and Coach Honor joined a meeting to talk about his girls basketball program and the need for the new athletic facility.
One might expect Coach Honor, winner of the prestigious Naismith Coach of the Year award, to laud the championships he and his team have won (six State titles and counting), or the national prominence of his program (two consecutive GEICO National Championship invites). But Coach Honor’s focus is always on his players. In his 12 years at Lake Highland, Coach Honor has built a program that has produced numerous D1 recruits, an All American, and a WNBA draftee – but also theologians, engineers, doctors, veterinarians, and business managers. His pride at what “his girls” accomplish off the court is paramount.
“Basketball is just the vehicle we use to help young people,” Coach Honor shared. “We use basketball to teach them to work hard and never quit, so they can be successful in life.”
As Jay heard Coach Honor tell stories about his players, Jay recognized the same love, dedication, and care that he had received from his own coaches and teachers growing up. Jay knew first-hand what a powerful difference-maker that can be.
Coach Honor also shared the dire need for the new athletic facility. He explained the challenges that our court athletes face because of limited gym space. Coach talked about having to cut practices short or run them late into the night, and how hard that is on his players, student-athletes who are competing on the national level while also juggling rigorous academics at LHP. Importantly, Coach Honor shared that this new athletic facility would open space for developmental programs, allowing more kids to be part of Highlander Athletics.
It was a catalyst moment for the Jacksons. They recognized how the new athletic facility would impact not only Lake Highland students, but the entire community by offering state-of-the-art facilities to host competitions, camps, and youth programs. “Coach Honor has molded hundreds of players into successful young women,” Jay shared. “He has given hope and direction to students who needed it. Just imagine how many more he can lead and impact with the completion of this athletic facility.”
President Jim McIntyre added, “We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the Jackson family in naming the gymnasium to recognize the dedication and service of the Honor family to our community. Their focus solidifies and celebrates for future generations of Highlanders one of the most formative relationships in a young person’s life: mentor and student.”
The Jacksons’ gift to name the Honor Gymnasium helps propel the campaign’s total fundraising to $28.9 million to date. Lake Highland completed Phase I of the Elevate capital projects in August 2023 with the opening of the Porter Center. Fundraising efforts have now shifted to Phase II and the new Multisport Athletic Facility & Field Renovation.
Jay shared, “My hope is that our ‘why’ will inspire another person’s ‘why.’ We need others to join us in the Elevate Campaign to continue this journey. This campaign is about elevating all our students and our community to a higher standard and greater opportunities.”
The new, 48,000 square foot athletic facility will provide exceptional competition and training spaces to serve 690+ Highlander Athletes on 54 teams across 17 sports. In addition to the Honor Gymnasium, the facility will feature the Lawrence E. White Family Wrestling Center, Davis Archery Range, Ochipinti Fitness Center, lobby with Pierce Concession Stand, sports medicine center, multisport locker rooms, film room, golf simulator room, coaches’ offices, and hospitality suite. The project also includes a new turf field with lights.
We invite you to learn more about the Elevate Campaign and how you can make an impact. If you have questions or would like to discuss making a pledge or gift, please contact a member of our Advancement Team and we will gratefully assist.