Foundation Winter Letter 2021



28th January 2021.

Dear Supporters of Clongowes Foundation


It is one year now since the launch of the Alberto Hurtado Endowment Fund.  From a parochial perspective, none of the assembled group who had come to celebrate the success of our bursary programme: the Alberto Hurtado Programme (AHP), as well as the launch of the Fund itself could have envisaged what was about to unfold over the coming twelve months.  


Thankfully those same twelve months have been kind to the Endowment Fund.  Our initial capital was not committed to the market until the late Spring and the capital was committed in two tranches; this meant that the Fund avoided the significant downturn in European equity prices that took place through March and into April.  The upshot is that the Fund has enjoyed a healthy positive return rather than a potential small decline.  With some € 1.6m in near term pledges the assets in the Fund, under the management of Goldman Sachs, should soon be close on € 6.5m.  While this is a welcome outturn, the fact remains that our goal is to accumulate assets of € 20m, in today’s money.  The ultimate objective of the Fund is to be in a position to fully fund some forty bursary places each year, while maintaining its the real value.  It is an ambitious goal; but it is one that will be aided by a five-year holiday, during which no income or gains will be taken from the fund, and from some existing legacies.  So clearly the Clongowes Foundation has much work to do going forward.  


It was a pleasure to read that the Irish Times (Monday 11th January 2021), had identified one of the bursary’s early graduates, Bidemi Afolabi (OC ’13), as one of their 50 people to watch in 2021.  Bidemi, who is studying pharmacy in Trinity College, Dublin, along with his fellow pharmacy student, Lauren O’Reilly, formed the company ProMotion that offers bike owners and brands a platform to connect.  ProMotion was the winner of Trinity College’s LaunchBox programme.  Bidemi initially pursued a career as a professional soccer player in England but an injury led him to switch his focus back to academia.  He is a recipient of TCD’s Laidlaw scholarship, which aims to help students to develop strong research and leadership skills.  


Three recent graduates (OC ’20), are starting out on their second semester at Georgetown University.  Events in Washington D.C., these past five months, have afforded the boys another dimension to their education.  This wonderful life experience could not have taken place without the initiative of an OC and his wife, who set out to fund a scholarship for an AHP student.  However, such was the calibre of the three candidates that applied for that scholarship, that Georgetown University offered a further two scholarships.  


It is important to stress here that the AHP is not a scholarship programme; it is a bursary programme based on the boys’ needs and the circumstances of their families.  Students are not selected on the basis of their academic, sporting or musical abilities.  In any one year, the AHP aims to provide a Clongowes education to some forty students, whose family circumstances would historically have precluded them from attending the College.  


Often people define their lives, or the lives of others, in terms of talent or ambition[1].  However, for many, and I would include myself here, it is opportunity that has given the most definition to their lives.  Without doubt the four OCs above have some mixture of talent and ambition but, in the fullness of time, it is hoped that opportunity will be shown to have played a role.  


The refurbished infirmary was opened in time for the return of the students from their Hallowe’en holiday.  The upgrade and renovation of a building that was purpose built as an infirmary in 1872 was a significant investment and the majority of its funding will have come from the Foundation.  The infirmary has served the School well for the past near one hundred and fifty years and with the benefit of this investment it should continue to do so for many decades to come.



On behalf of Emma and I, we wish you a happy and healthy 2021 and we hope that you and your families are managing well through these difficult times.


Joe Rooney (OC ’79)

Chair of Fundraising

Publication of the 15 year anniversary Brochure 


20th September 2020


Dear Supporters of Clongowes Foundation


I trust that this letter finds you well and that you had an enjoyable summer.  I write as Clongowes has opened for its two hundred and seventh academic year in circumstances that would have been unimaginable at the start of 2020.  

The end of 2019 marked the 15 Year anniversary of the creation of the Clongowes Wood College Foundation.  Those fifteen years have been an extraordinarily active period for the Foundation as it has worked together with the management and the board of the College to renew and expand the campus and, through the creation of the Alberto Hurtado Bursary Programme (AHP), to extend access to the unique educational experience that a seven-day boarding school can offer.

Of course, none of this could have happened without the support of you, our donors.  So, as a way of showing our gratitude we have produced the accompanying brochure that sets out what you have helped accomplish, through the Foundation, over the past fifteen years.

Going forward the Foundation will continue to work to support Clongowes as it strives to school its pupils according to the best traditions and highest standards of Jesuit education with its focus on personal character and the contribution that each individual can make to society: the creation of what Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., the Society’s twenty-ninth Superior General, called ‘men of competence, conscience and compassionate commitment.’

Review of Investment Plans


21st July 2020


Dear Supporters of the Clongowes Foundation


I hope that this brief letter finds you well and enjoying your summer as we emerge out of an extraordinary first half of the calendar year.


We enter the new academic year with a degree of uncertainty unknown in recent times, and we would include the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis here.  Reflecting this, the School’s Board of Management, earlier this summer, took the decision to revise the programme of capital works for the immediate future.  The refurbishment of the Infirmary had been part of a broader, more ambitious capital investment plan for the coming years, but the Covid-19 crisis has emphasised the importance of a modern facility in our boarding context.  The refurbishment of the Infirmary now will be our capital works priority for the 2020 – 21 year and the Foundation will work with the School to help realise this project.


Along with the Infirmary the Foundation remains committed to the current and long-term funding of the Alberto Hurtado Bursary Programme (AHP).   Launched in 2007, the AHP, in its relatively short history, has become a rich and integral part of Clongowes life.


The Infirmary was built in 1872 and was one of a number of buildings overseen by the then Rector, Fr. Carbery S.J.  According to A Short History of Clongowes Wood College published in 2011 by local historian and long-time teacher of history in Clongowes, Mr Brendan Cullen, the Infirmary was a tall freestanding building with large windows to ensure adequate ventilation and a top storey that could be turned into an isolation ward to contain infectious diseases!  The Infirmary is an example of how the foresight of some came to benefit the generations of pupils who followed.  It has served the College well for over the past century and a half, but it is in need of a major overhaul if it is to meet today’s requirements.


Late 2019 marked the fifteen-year anniversary of the creation of the Clongowes Wood College Foundation as a separate charity to the College.  A brochure to mark the achievements of those fifteen years will be published to coincide with the start of our two hundred and sixth academic year.  The brochure will serve to thank our near 800 donors whose generosity allows Clongowes to remain at the forefront of education in Ireland, and beyond.  While the donor base may be considered narrow by the standards of similar schools here and abroad their generosity has been anything but narrow.   

Cancellation of Fr. Peter Kenney Day


22 April 2020


Dear Supporters of the Clongowes Foundation


I hope that this email finds you and your loved ones well and coping with these unprecedented times. Our thoughts and prayers are with those caught at the front line of the crisis, both patients and carers.  


It is some five weeks since the College closed; and the Foundation’s year has all but closed.  The final Trustees meeting will be a virtual one.  In normal circumstances Father Peter Kenney S.J. Day would mark the end of our year.  Under the guidance of Father Rector, Michael Sheil S.J.; with the enthusiasm of Margaret Doyle and the historical oversight of Harman Murtagh, this day has become a landmark of the calendar.  It is a day to recognise our founder; a day to mark the anniversary of a past pupil, or event, that have left a positive mark on society; and it is a day to celebrate the company of each other.   This year’s event was planned to celebrate the centenary of the death of the Rt. Hon. Christopher Palles, who left Clongowes in 1847.  In a long life of great achievement – he retired from the bench at the age of eighty-five – he was the last chief baron of the Irish exchequer court.  He was the first President of The Clongowes Union and was a benefactor of the College, donating the High Altar for then newly opened Boy’s Chapel, or The New Chapel as it was called. 



While this academic year will always be remembered for the extraordinary events that we are currently living through it was also a year of other landmarks and more happy events.  The end of 2019 marked the fifteen-year anniversary of the creation of the Clongowes Wood College Foundation.  These past fifteen years have been an extraordinarily active period for the Foundation and the School; and the Foundation will publish a document to mark these accomplishments in the coming academic year.  The Foundation and College are deeply grateful to the many donors, volunteers and staff who have supported us throughout this period.  


Recently we heard the great news that Georgetown University have offered scholarships to three current AHP students in Rhetoric, two of whom have accepted.  The genesis of this wonderful development was an offer by an OC to fund a scholarship for an AHP student through Georgetown University.  That started an application process some eighteen months ago that, amongst other things, involved a person from GU admissions coming to the College to meet with the boys.  Subsequently three of the boys visited the University with our new deputy Headmaster, Paul McCormack.  Recently the University came back and offered all three boys’ scholarships.  Aside from our benefactor we would like to recognise the support given to the boys by Maria Shaw, the career guidance counsellor, Paul and his predecessor, Martin Wallace.  It is a wonderful development which among other things will strengthen Clongowes’s position within the worldwide network of Jesuit educational establishments.  An initial link between these two educational establishments was Father Peter Kenney SJ himself.  In between his two terms as rector of Clongowes, Father Peter Kenney S.J, had been sent by the General of the Society as a Visitor to the College of Georgetown and to the Mission of North America, that had in the words of the General “ been brought to such a pass that it could be called a wretched parish”.


In late January we formally launched the Alberto Hurtado Endowment Fund (AHEF), a permanent investment fund.  At the launch the Province generously matched the initial capital raised for the Fund.  However, the actual commitment of this capital to the markets did not start until early April, thereby avoiding the significant downturn in European equity prices that took place through March.   The long-term objective for the AHEF is generate sufficient income to fully fund the AHP.  Clearly it will take time to achieve this objective, but the fund, which launched with € 4m in cash, has had a fortuitous start.  


A month or so ahead of the College shuttering down, the Foundation received news of a generous legacy left by an elderly past pupil.  We did not know about this legacy, so receiving the news on a dark, cold February afternoon, was one of the most uplifting moments of my time in the Foundation.  


On behalf of Emma and I, we truly hope that you and your families are staying well and managing these difficult times.  We will be working from home so feel free to contact us at your leisure.  


Yours Sincerely 


Joe Rooney 

Chair of Fundraising OC’79

Closure of Clongowes Wood College


23 March 2020

Dear Supporters of the Clongowes Foundation


On behalf of Emma and I, we truly hope that you are all keeping well and that you are coping in these most unprecedented times.

Emma and I will be working from home but both of us are accessible by email (please see our contact details below).

Every year we look forward to welcoming you to the Father Peter Kenney Day which is scheduled this year for the 17th June 2020.  While it is clearly too early to make any formal judgement as to whether this event goes ahead or not, we will comply with official guidelines at the time with the object of giving everyone sufficient notice as to whether it will be cancelled.

The event was planned to celebrate the centenary of the death of the Rt. Hon. Christopher Palles OC1847.  Palles was a barrister, Solicitor General and the last Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, a position he held for forty years. 

To Old Clongownians he left an enduring legacy.  In 1897 he held the first meeting of the Clongowes Union in the front room of his house in Fitzwilliam Place.  He retained the title of Union President until his death in 1920.  He was also a benefactor of the College.

 We wish you all the very best in these most unusual times and trying times.



Joe Rooney 

Chair of Fundraising


Joe Rooney

Emma Robinson