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Remicks have long history of philanthropy

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Jack Remick, a 1959 graduate of Notre Dame University, is one of the nation's most generous supporters of Catholic education. He recently donated the Cascade Meadow Environmental Learning Center to Saint Mary's University.

Jack Remick arrived at the interview a few hundred feet from Lourdes High School to confirm a pending multi-million dollar donation to Saint Mary's University. There was a Notre Dame lanyard around his neck.

How appropriate.

Remick, a 78-year-old former IBM employee and co-founder of Fastenal , a Fortune 500 company based in Winona, is one of the nation's most generous supporters of Catholic education. Remick is a 1959 graduate of Notre Dame, his wife graduated from a Winona college that's since merged with Saint Mary's, and their five children all attended Lourdes (three earned degrees from Notre Dame).

"You have an affinity to support what you know," Remick said, downplaying decades of generous donations.

Last year, Jack and Mary Ann Remick received the Heritage Award for Transformational Philanthropy from Saint Mary's University in Winona after donating $8 million for educational scholarships. This week, they added to the largest donation in school history by announcing that Cascade Meadow Environmental Science Center in Rochester — valued at nearly $3 million — would be gifted to the university this summer.

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The Remicks also donated 24 acres in Northwest Rochester, worth more than $1 million, for the construction of the new Lourdes High School, which opened in 2013. And they've routinely opened their checkbook at the Hearts of Gold, Purple Tie Affair — the popular fundraiser that annually raises six figures for Rochester Catholic Schools.

Michael Brennan, director of Rochester Catholic Schools, said the new $34 million facility would still be in the fundraising stage if it weren't for the Remicks' donations to the "Building Our Future" campaign.

"It took a village in many ways to make the new Lourdes High School facility a living reality, however, if it weren't for the generous gifts from the Remick family in addition to their prayers, passion and zeal to see the project come to fruition on several fronts, we might still be in the midst of our campaign," Brennan said.

Remick is also involved with the Hiawatha Educational Foundation, which has given millions to Cotter High School, a Catholic institution in Winona.

The Remicks were recognized last year by Notre Dame for donating $10 million to the Catholic school in South Bend, Ind. That gift is considered the cherry on top of the " largest and most significant set of gifts to support the University of Notre Dame's efforts to strengthen and transform Catholic K-12 education," according to a press release issued by the university at the time of the gift. The school's engineering building is named in Jack Remick's honor.

"It has been a distinct privilege for Jack and me … to assist in the formation of leaders for Catholic schools throughout the country," Mary Ann said in the Notre Dame release. "In our view, there is nothing more essential to the survival and success of a Catholic school."

Brennan and Brother William Mann, president of Saint Mary's University, were both effusive in their praise of the philanthropic couple.

"In today's world, Jack especially sees the value of a faith-based education, one that is rich in meaning, as well as both relevant and rigorous," Brother William said. "His own deep personal faith has inspired him to focus on those who are less fortunate. His leadership and vision have helped countless students not only pursue, but especially achieve, their dreams."

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Added Brennan: "The Remicks believe in our mission — the mission of Catholic education — and bear witness by their remarkable stewardship of their desire for Catholic schools to not merely be sustained, but to thrive and serve as beacons for all to follow."

However, it appears that even the Remicks have limits. Jack acquired 24 acres of land adjacent to the new Lourdes school last fall for $1.85 million, prompting some to speculate it would be turned into a new athletic complex for the Eagles' athletic programs. The football team currently plays at the Rochester Community and Technical College stadium.

Remick — who built the Rochester Athletic Club in 1993 and bought the Clements car dealership in 2009 — quickly shot that notion down on Monday, saying property was purchased simply to protect his other interests in the area. He plans to plant crops there this summer.

"People have all kinds of conjecture, and I just sort of say, 'Dream on,'" he said. "If they want that stadium, they're going to have to pay full price for it."

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