On September 7, 2006, the Parents Association hosted its annual picnic in the form of a party, kicking off the school year celebrating O’Neal’s 35th birthday and the celebration would last the whole school year. That day was coincidentally the day that O’Neal presently celebrates as Founders Day. There was a significant lapse of time in O’Neal’s 50 years where Founders Day was not celebrated. It was not until O’Neal turned 40 that the research was done to determine the official Founders Day for the School. At the picnic, the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new lower school building. It was the beginning of a new phase of the School’s master campus plan and a large component of the second consecutive capital campaign – Complete the Vision.
The 23,000 square foot building with 16 classrooms replaced the Elaine McAlphin Tate Lower School Building that stood where the parking lot between Taws Hall Middle School and Bradshaw Hall is now located. The construction project officially began December 7, 2006 and students, PreK4 through Grade 4, took possession when they returned from winter break in January 2008.
The walls were painted a sky blue to promote comfort and tranquility. The Parents Association started a tile project fundraiser to serve as a colorful chair railing along the hallways with self-portraits of students and others painted on single white porcelain tiles. There was a dedicated science laboratory in the classroom just behind the office of the Division Head. Jim Miles, division head at that time, loved science and students had weekly classes with Mr. Miles in the science room. There was much excitement for teachers to have roomy classrooms with their own sinks, counters, refrigerators, and storage. The playground was a hit! It was an enormous improvement from the playground of the past with many colorful, daring contraptions to try out.
The first day of school in the new lower school building was a day of celebration. It was important, so much so, that a traditional pancake breakfast was in order – in the dining commons of course.
On February 21, 2008 McMurray Hall Lower School was dedicated at a special ribbon-cutting ceremony in the new school building. The McMurray family was on hand to cut the ribbon and those attending honored Brian and Konni McMurray and their generous gift to the Complete the Vision Capital Campaign.
In 2002, the McMurray’s were major donors for the Share the Vision II capital campaign resulting in the School’s library being named McMurray Library.
Brian and Konni McMurray became acquainted with the O’Neal School in the summer of 2000 when they enrolled their oldest of four children, Katherine, in the School’s Falcon Day Camp. The family became acquainted with Lower School Director Jim Miles, who also directed the summer day camp. Knowing that Katherine enjoyed the campus and had a great experience at the camp, the McMurrays enrolled her at O’Neal for the next school year. In a 2008 press release, Konni stated, “We enjoy the atmosphere at O’Neal. The small environment, class size, and being a part of the O’Neal family has provided a great educational opportunity for our children.”
The McMurray family has worked side by side with O’Neal’s trustees and administration, as well as the whole school community, in planning and giving. The results are a beautiful campus and the provision of an outstanding education. The McMurrays have supported many community organizations such as the Sandhills Children’s Center, The Boys & Girls Club, the Coalition for Human Care as well as countless others. Though their four children have since graduated, O’Neal is very grateful to have the McMurray family as a lasting part of its school community.
McMurray Hall is still a wonderful place for children to grow and learn as students are anxious to come to school every day.
Falcons Fly to 50
O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.
Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388