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April 21. 2013 11:35PM

$1.5 million gift to Bethlehem school raises spirits

BETHLEHEM - Amid the brutal tragedy that struck their campus in January, administrators of a small private school in Bethlehem say they've managed to find at least a ray of hope and some positive news for their 110 students.

That came in the form of a $1.5 million donation to The White Mountain School. The gift from a female graduate who said she preferred to remain anonymous will go largely toward what administrators say are important renovation projects.

But $300,000 of the money will be used to help build an arts center on campus to be named for Catherine "Kitty" Houghton, a 1960 graduate of the school who was stabbed to death on the night of Jan. 28 in the lobby of a Littleton hotel.

More than 50 years after her graduation, the Novato, Calif., woman was serving as a trustee of the school and was in the North Country this winter to attend a board meeting when, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, Rodney Hill, 37, of West Danville, Vt., stabbed and slashed her at the Hampton Inn off Route 302.

The multilingual 70-year-old veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service was pronounced dead later that evening at Littleton Regional Hospital of a stab wound to the neck.

Hill, who is charged with second-degree murder, has been held without bail at the Grafton County jail in North Haverhill since his arrest outside the hotel on the on the night of the killing.

Prosecutors have not made the motive for the attack public.

Back in December, administrators at what is largely a boarding school in Bethlehem started immediately to search for something positive following the death of Houghton, who attended the school when it was called St.-Mary's-in-the-Mountains.

Fellow trustees decided to name a planned arts center for her, and donations began pouring in. The fund is quickly nearing the needed total of about $1.5 million, according to Rob Constantine, the school's director of advancement.

"With all of the troubling news we've seen the last couple of days, I'm glad to be able to share some nice news from WMS," he said in an e-mail message.

Tim Breen, head of school, said in a written statement, "It is so rewarding on all ends when a donor finds an opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact on something they care deeply about. This is one of those times."


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