In this time of declining enrollments and financial difficulties for Catholic schools across the country, here’s some good news: Catholic education is getting a boost from unlikely quarters. It turns out that it isn’t just the faithful who see the value of Catholic schools; people of other faiths — and no faith — have caught on to their importance.
Atheist Robert W. Wilson, a retired hedge fund manager, has given $5.6 million to the Archdiocese of New York for a new program to help track down its Catholic elementary school alumni and recruit them as donors. This is in addition to other gifts he has given to Catholic education in the Big Apple.
Why would Wilson, who told Bloomberg News in an Aug. 9 story that he lost his belief in God while in college, give so generously to the archdiocese?
“Most of what the Catholic schools teach are the three Rs [reading, writing and arithmetic]. And they do it better than the union-controlled inner-city schools,” said Wilson, who is friends with Cardinal Edward Egan, New York’s retired archbishop.
The Boston Globe recently profiled a group of Jewish donors who support Catholic education in that city, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who gave $100,000 to the Catholic Schools Foundation, which gives low-income families financial assistance to attend Catholic schools. Another Jewish donor, businessman Richard J. Henken, is an officer on the foundation’s board.
“We like to get a good return on our investment,’’ Kraft explained to the Globe in the Aug. 4 story. “The backbone of this country has been made by first-generation [immigrants] coming here, educating their children, and living the American dream.’’