Catholic School Receives $1 Million Anonymous Donation

The donor identified himself only as ‘one of the boys from Brookyln’ and a classmate of the scholarship fund’s honoree, Thomas Sheehan.

St. Francis Preparatory School in New York
St. Francis Preparatory School in New York (photo: Jim Henderson / Wikimedia Commons / CC0)

A Catholic school in Queens, New York, received an anonymous donation of $1 million from an alumnus contributing to a scholarship fund for students in financial need.

Brother Leonard Conway, president of St. Francis Preparatory School, told the Register that he expects the large sum will allow the school to double the number of recipients of the fund. It has assisted more than 50 students overall and currently aids four seniors. 

“In my entire life I’ve never seen a check with so many zeroes. I was happy that it had a one in front of it,” Brother Leonard said, chuckling. “I was doing cartwheels when it first happened!”

During his time at St. Francis Preparatory School, the donor was a classmate of the scholarship fund’s honoree, Thomas Sheehan. Sheehan ran track at the school in the 1950s and the fund, started by his classmates, provides partial to full scholarships for “deserving two-sport student athletes” each year.

The donor spoke directly with his former classmate and manager of the scholarship fund, Jack Ward, in regards to the donation and provided him with the check. When Brother Leonard called the donor to express his thanks, the alumnus requested that he be known only as “one of the boys from Brooklyn, from the class of 1955.”

“The people who donated to the Sheehan scholarship were mostly classmates from the class of ’55. They see the value of the Catholic education they went through, and they realized that tuition was much lower in those days,” Brother Leonard said. “This is their way of paying back for the great education that they got at St. Francis prep.”

In a press release provided by the school, Ward remarked on the profound impact students experience at St. Francis Prep through their education and experiences. 

“When Tom passed, his friends knew it was important to honor his memory and how the Prep not only brought us together but prepared us to live fulfilling lives,” he said. “We’re incredibly grateful to our anonymous donor and his generous spirit that will help ensure more students have access to the Prep and its wonderful community.” 

In the statement, alumni board president and alumnus Wally Bishop called the donation “humbling and inspiring.”

“The students who walk through the Prep’s doors can attest to the school’s unwavering commitment helping families facing financial hardships to have the ability to enjoy a world-class Catholic education that prepares young people for college and beyond,” he said.

During the pandemic, St. Francis Prep launched a student tuition assistance and relief program called TerrierSTAR. Donors contributed more than $1.8 million, providing financial aid to more than 400 students. Many families suffered financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brother Leonard explained. 

“The parents were concerned about, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to pay this tuition?’” Brother Leonard said. “I just kept saying that our Franciscan philosophy here has been that we would never deprive a student of completing their Franciscan education because of financial situations, and in this case, because of ramifications from COVID.”

Without the relief program, he said, those students may not have been able to complete their time at the school.

“We instill in all of these recipients that we sure hope when they’re out in the business world, that they will remember that there were people that helped them, because there will be people down the road that also need help,” Brother Leonard said. “I just see it as we’re true to our Franciscan mission, that we help anybody that’s in need.”