Robert W. Wilson, an avowed atheist, showed that he continues to believe in the mission of Catholic schools by giving a $5.6 million gift this summer to the Archdiocese of New York to fund the Catholic Alumni Partnership (CAP), which he founded to help Catholic elementary schools track down their alumni and recruit them as donors.
In 2007, the retired hedge fund investor made a $22.5 million gift to the archdiocese's Cardinal's Scholarship Program.
Wilson started CAP in 2008 with a gift of $2.7 million and then made this summer's $5.6 million gift to set up fund-raising programs in individual schools.
"I realized that Catholic schools were closing all over the country, and Bill Gates probably didn't have enough money to save them," Wilson, 83, told Bloomberg News in a phone interview. "Every school I hear of relies on alumni support, whether it's the Groton School or the universities."
Wilson made his personal fortune as a growth stock investor at his firm, Wilson Associates, earning $225 million by the time he retired in 1986. He told Bloomberg that Catholic schools offer a top-notch education at a good value. "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."
Archbishop Dolan, in an e-mail statement to Bloomberg News, said that he was "grateful" to Wilson "for his vision." He said that the archdiocese must "enlist broad and sustained support from our alumni to secure the future" of its schools.
For more on this story, check CNY's Web site, www.cny.org, and the Aug. 26 issue.