‘Generous’ $1 million donation marks largest gift St. Francis Prep’s history

The country’s largest private Catholic high school, St. Francis Prep has offered New Yorkers a holistic Catholic education in the Franciscan tradition for more than 160 years. (Photo courtesy of St. Francis Prep)

St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows is celebrating its largest-ever single donation, a $1 million gift from an anonymous alumnus in honor of a track star classmate from 1955. 

St. Francis Prep, located at 6100 Francis Lewis Blvd., received the donation following an ongoing fundraising effort prompted by a commitment from school leaders that no student would be denied a St. Francis Prep education due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“St. Francis Prep has provided generations of students a place where they can grow, learn and develop in a religious, joyful school environment,” said Brother Leonard Conway, president of St. Francis Prep. “This $1 million donation for the Sheehan Fund from a very generous alumnus will support students for years to come and is representative of the generosity and service enshrined in the St. Francis Prep education.” 

The Thomas J. Sheehan Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in honor of Thomas Sheehan, a member of the class of 1955. A scholarship recipient himself, Sheehan continues to hold some of the school’s all-time track records and is still celebrated by his contemporaries as an exemplary student leader and model.

His friends created the Sheehan Fund to honor Thomas’ legacy, and it has already helped more than 50 students since its inception in 1986. This new historic gift more than doubles the Sheehan Fund’s principal sum and ensures it can benefit many future students at St. Francis Prep. 

“My brother Tom continues to leave an indelible mark in the world, even decades after his passing. It is an honor to have his memory celebrated by the St. Francis Prep alumni community,” said Jerry Sheehan, brother of Thomas Sheehan and St. Francis Prep Class of 1962 alumnus. “As an alumnus myself, I know how valuable a St. Francis Prep education can be, and our family is thrilled to continue to be a part of the journey that future generations of St. Francis Prep students embark on.” 

The generous donation follows successful fundraising efforts with St. Francis Prep’s TerrierSTAR (Student Tuition Assistance and Relief) Program launched during the pandemic. The program was initiated by alumni invested in supporting the school’s mission to help students and families experiencing hardship. Donors including Julie Chen Moonves, class of 1987 alumna, helped bring in over $1.8 million that helped more than 400 students.

The country’s largest private Catholic high school, St. Francis Prep has offered New Yorkers a holistic Catholic education in the Franciscan tradition for more than 160 years. The 2021 graduating class alone secured over $170 million in college scholarships, and 99% of graduating seniors attend the college of their choice.

“This donation from an anonymous fellow Prep graduate is humbling and inspiring for the entire alumni community,” said Wally Bishop, St. Francis Prep alumni board president and class of 1980 alumnus. “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.” 

Jack Ward, manager of the Thomas Sheehan Memorial Scholarship Fund and class of 1955 alumnus, said the education and experiences one gets at St. Francis Prep have an undeniably profound impact on a person, including himself.

“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. 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,” Ward said.