“…an 80-year-old grocer who credits a parochial school in Roslindale, MA with helping his family when his mother died, said yesterday he is giving $20 million to…revitalize struggling Catholic schools.” (March 16, 2010)
“Catholic education was a great gift in my life. When I saw the number of Catholic schools that were closing, we wanted to help.”
The $20 million gift by the founder of Roche Brothers to address the problem of Catholic schools closing sounds like it would have been perfectly suited to the Campaign for Catholic Schools building a new academy in nearby Dorchester, does it not? And it would have closed that $20 million fund-raising gap we have talked about in the last few posts and made it a no-brainer to pay back the loan from the Archdiocese? Where did this generous gift go instead? Boston College, where Jack Connors is on the Board of Trustees and was former Chair of the Board.
Patrick Roche’s story is an inspiring and uplifting one. He lost his mother at a young age, the local Catholic school provided support and a safety net for him and his brothers, he built a supermarket chain on sound principles of great customer service and treating employees well, made a profit, and has been generously giving back to Catholic schools. Wow! People have nothing but the very best to say about Patrick Roche, his family and their benevolence, so this post is not about the Roche family. Roche was a long-time benefactor to Boston College and to Peter Lynch’s Catholic Schools Foundation, so the final decision of where to give money was his to make and clearly could have gone either way.
But, we just do not understand how so many conflicts of interest can continue, and how those conflicts benefit this struggling archdiocese. And as you can imagine by now, we have a number of questions about how the Archdiocese of Boston and the Campaign for Catholic Schools missed out on this one.
To what extent was Jack Connors involved in this deal? If he was involved, where did he suggest Patrick Roche give his money—to Boston College (specifically the Lynch School of Education), or to the Archdiocese’s Campaign for Catholic Schools?
Patrick Roche said in the BC press release, “Catholic education shaped who we are today, and when Boston College gave us an opportunity to help strengthen Catholic education through this center, we knew we wanted to help.”
In “The Invisible Hand of Jack” we heard “Who is going to say no when Jack comes calling?” Jack was quoted in the Boston Globe article about the Roche donation saying, “We’re going to kind of draw a line in the sand, and we don’t think we should close any more schools.”
Did Jack call Patrick Roche and urge him to use this opportunity to help by giving the $20 million towards the Campaign for Catholic Schools? Did Mr. Roche say “no” to Jack? Did Jack never ask? Or did Jack guide Mr. Roche to give the $20M to his wealthy alma mater, Boston College?
If the goal was to provide continuing education for Catholic school teachers, why not give the money to the Boston Catholic schools and restrict it to grants for continuing ed for Catholic teachers, or maybe salary increases for the ones who complete continuing education programs? Those teachers could take classes at nearby Emmanuel College, where many Catholic teachers already benefit from tuition discounts and the fine work at the Carolyn A. Lynch Institute, which, by coincidence, “provides a range of collaborative programs and services that enhance the professional development of urban teachers and enrich the education of PK-12 students in the city of Boston.” But then the tuition dollars would have been going to Emmanuel instead of BC.
As an aside, we wonder how Peter Lynch, the incredibly generous and tireless advocate and fund-raiser for Catholic education, managed to deal with the minor conflict of soliciting $20M for the newly renamed Roche Center for Catholic Education at BC’s Lynch School of Education, while he also coincidentally serves on the Archdiocese’s Finance Council that would have approved the infamous $26 million loan to Jack Connors’ Campaign for Catholic Schools.
To be fair, Roche may have decided that he wanted advance the goals of providing professional instruction, technical assistance, and research to teachers, which his contribution to the BC center is supposed to support. But still, his quotes in the article and choice of where to give money just do not really add up to us.
Roche yesterday credited his parochial school with providing a critical safety net when his mother died, leaving his father to raise four sons, ages 6 to 12. Roche, who was 9 at the time, remembers his parish and school embracing him and his brothers as family would.
“Everybody at the school was just fantastic,’’ he said. “All our friends and neighbors went to the school, and they just became closer to us.’’ Attending Mass so often, he added, “kept you closer to God, I’d say.’’
Does this sound like the kind of guy who wants to “ develop curriculum for an increasingly diverse student population“? We hope and pray that the profound impact which Catholic education had on Patrick Roche can be duplicated through his contribution to BC. Unfortunately, the record from BC in this area and some of the initial comments by the newly-hired executive director of the Center for Catholic Education make us question whether that will happen, but that is a topic for another time.
For now, can someone let us know how Jack Connors and his fund-raising team are doing with that $20 million fund-raising gap? And can someone also let us know what the consequences will be to the Chancellor and others if that $20 million loan is not repaid? A commenter on our last post, Moving Money, Building Distrust, suggested that heads should roll. What do you think?