Foundation Summer Letter 2021

Dear Supporters of Clongowes Foundation

In what remained a challenging environment for the Clongowes Foundation, we are happy to say that the more memorable developments were positive ones.  In particular, the Foundation and our School benefitted from an act of great generosity from a past pupil who died towards the end of 2019, in his hundredth year.  There were further gains to the Alberto Hurtado Endowment Fund, though as they say in the fund management business, past performance is no guide to the future; and a few past pupils undertook to fund bursary students through their six years of a Clongowes education.

A key feature of the Foundation, in its seventeen years of existence, has been the strength of support from our past pupil base. This trend was strengthened when we received a substantial gift from the late Richard (Dick) Robinson.  An obituary to Dick can be found in the link below.

https://www.clongowes.net/richard-robinson-1920-2019/

Dick of Newberry Hall, Carbury, County Kildare, attended Clongowes between 1932 and 1938 where he was a contemporary, in First Rhetoric, of Fr. Ray Lawler S.J., who many will fondly remember from their own days in Clongowes.  In becoming a key member of the Fr. Peter Kenney S.J. Legacy Society, Richard follows in the steps of Mrs. Olivia Taaffe of Smarmore Castle, County Louth who was the first person noted, in the Editorial of the 1919 Clongownian, to have left a legacy in favour of Clongowes in her will. Richard’s legacy helped fund the refurbishment of the Infirmary and support the Alberto Hurtado Endowment Fund thereby ensuring that his benevolence will positively impact on the lives of future generations of Clongowes’ students. The Clongowes Foundation and the College are deeply indebted to Richard’s great generosity.

Richard’s contribution and the benefit of a supportive equity market helped push the value of the Alberto Hurtado Endowment Fund (the Fund), to just short of € 7m by the end of our financial year (June 2021). This is indeed a welcome development, particularly given that the Fund was only launched in January 2020, but as we have noted before the Fund will need assets of €20m to allow the bursary programme to become self-financing. The Fund will enjoy a further four year ‘holiday’ period in which it will not make any contribution to the funding of the Alberto Hurtado Bursary Programme (AHP). The Foundation will seek to use this period to build up the asset base of the Fund.  The funding of the AHP through this transitional period is supported by the willingness of past pupils, the Jesuit Province and more recently some parents to directly fund bursary places and in the past year alone pledges have been made to fund three additional students through their time in Clongowes with indications of support for a further three students.

 

The Alberto Hurtado Programme is hugely ambitious in its scale and the Foundation is deeply committed to its success.  To do the AHP the justice it deserves we have asked Martin Wallace, the recently retired assistant headmaster, to give us a retrospective of the programme.  Martin came to Clongowes in 1979, the year after I left, and he played a central role in the conception and implementation of the AHP.  While Martin has retired he remains committed to Clongowes and the AHP where he maintains a strong and invaluable link with past graduates.

 

AHP Retrospective

At the end of August 2021, when nine new AHP boys arrive into Elements, a very diverse group themselves, the most remarkable aspect of the occasion is that it will be entirely unremarkable. Neither staff nor students will wonder which boys are on bursary, wonder how they will fare, or how they will adapt to a very different environment to their home life. The AHP is now robust, embedded in the fabric of Clongowes, just as we hoped it might become back in 2005 when a small group was tasked with planning and implementing the programme.  At the time, the decision of the Society of Jesus to proceed with the programme was brave and visionary, some thought it ill-advised and foolhardy.  How would boys from such a different background cope with the Clongowes culture? How would they cope with the standards demanded of them?  The answers did not take long to emerge.

There are always good reasons to do nothing rather than be innovative. Bursary programmes in the U.K. and U.S. have had very mixed outcomes. So many bursary programmes are self-serving, cherry-picking the brightest students from the thickets and boosting the school’s academic profile in the process. This is a particular feature of many exclusive schools in the U.K. where success is measured in Oxbridge entries. Concerns have been expressed in the U.S. about uprooting children from their communities and replanting them in rarefied environments where they struggle to breathe. The success of the AHP, I suggest, is due to its moral integrity and the clarity of its creators about the aims of the programme. This was not an exercise in self-congratulating charity, nor was it a token gesture towards a faith that does justice; this was a bold attempt to transform Clongowes Wood College. There was a conviction that access to the college should be broadened and could be broadened, that the whole Clongowes community would be enriched by the resulting diversity, and that the education on offer to all of its students would be a better one when the metaphorical gates were flung open. While there have been challenges and slips along the way, the success of the AHP is manifest. It was built on proper planning, cautious implementation, the collective support of the greater Clongowes community and, most importantly, the courage and determination of the bursary students and their families in embracing the unfamiliar culture of an exclusive boarding school.

Think for a moment what it must be like to live in a disadvantaged community, attend a DEIS primary school, be part of a family that has no experience of third level education, possibly dependent on social welfare.  You know your son has great qualities. They may be academic, they may be sporting, they may be interpersonal. The local school and community, in spite of their best efforts, offer limited horizons. There is no tradition of third-level education, resources for other career paths are absent, there may be a prevailing ‘can’t do’ culture. The reality is that, if you live in a disadvantaged community, you need to be very fortunate to negotiate the many obstacles of which finances are only one, and not necessarily the most significant one.

We hoped that the vast majority of our bursary students would proceed to third-level institutions according to their career inclinations.  Selection was not based solely on academic ability, but on the potential for the successful applicants to prosper and benefit from a Clongowes education.  We expected that many of them would achieve high points and choose to study high points courses.  Sure enough, as our early graduates emerged, they went to courses as diverse as Social Science, Business and Law, Medicine, Psychology, International Relations and the transition to third level ran close to 100%. One outlier went off to the U.K. to be a professional footballer.  After a number of injuries, he returned to Dublin, got into Pharmacy and is now completing his Masters and gaining a national profile as a young entrepreneur.  Bidemi was one of the first group in 2007 and his story is an inspiration to us all.

Sean McMahon’s story is as equally striking as that of Bidemi not only because of his many accomplishments but also because his parents, Deborah and Philip, became such active members of the Parents Association and contributed so much to the Clongowes community during their time as parents.  Had Sean gone on to study carpentry in Letterfrack, he and his parents would have been no less impressive as representatives of what the AHP was attempting to achieve. His path, however, was more eye-catching. A House Leader in Rhetoric, member of the Clongowes and Dublin Youth Orchestras, member of the Senior Cup rugby team, Sean was accepted to study Physics in Cambridge where he won his Blue for rugby.  He even had the temerity to upstage Joe Schmidt at a promotional lunch for the AHP.

The Georgetown episode is the most recent and the most dreamy event since the inception of the programme.  An OC and graduate of Georgetown living in the U.S. with his wife and family wanted to give something back in recognition of his good fortune. He and his wife proposed to pay for one AHP graduate to attend Georgetown for the full term of his degree. When presented with this generous offer, we wondered how we might decide on the AHP student?  We briefed the cohort from Rhetoric 2020 and invited them to compete for the solitary place.    Three AHP students put their names forward.  We prepared some competitive processes with the intention of establishing an order of merit for the Admissions Office in Georgetown. The three boys had to write substantial essays on a number of topics; their academic performances in house exams were considered too, but all three were on course to achieve maximum points in the Leaving Certificate, so that criterion was of little value.  When they completed their SATs, their interviews and their personal statements, Georgetown University decided it wanted all three and offered them scholarships.

The OC sponsor and his wife were delighted. In addition to donating for tuition for one of the boys for the four years, they also donated to help fund the expenses of three scholarship students. Another OC also generously contributed to help fund these expenses.  As a consequence of this generosity, the boys do not need to take on part-time jobs during term time or to worry about spending on books the money that might be needed for subsistence.  All three are spending the summer in Georgetown pursuing summer courses that allow them their first experience of face-to-face teaching after a Covid- disrupted first year.  These three young men are already outstanding ambassadors for Clongowes and the AHP, but their journey has only just begun.  Their story will inspire others, especially children living in straitened circumstances who dream of having the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

 

The launch of the Endowment Fund in Jan 2020 was one of the most significant and recent moments in the AHP story for two reasons.  First of all, the prospect of guaranteeing the programme into the future is very attractive. Secondly, the night of the Fund’s launch offered an opportunity to showcase the impressive stories of four of our bursary students, two OCs and two in their final year in Clongowes. Eoghan McLoughlin, Sean McMahon , Julian Ospina (one of the Georgetown three) and Michael Quinn Keogh (a name to remember for the future). These young men charmed the audience with their maturity, intelligence and confidence.  Importantly they spoke on behalf of the AHP and the Foundation.

Has the AHP changed Clongowes in ways that can be considered transformative?  As someone with the overview that comes from forty-two years experience of the college, I have no doubt that the tolerance and appreciation of diversity that operates now in the school has been shaped significantly by the AHP.  The boys share their lives and education together; they have the same hopes and dreams.  There is an admiration of the intelligence and diligence of the AHP students. It is worth mentioning that four AHP students have won the Saint Aloysius Award since we reached the 10% target in 2013 and the vice-captain of the school for the coming year is an AHP student.

There has been another more fundamental change, what I would call an epigenetic change. Highly successful organisations can be prone to a kind of sclerosis whereby the fear of losing their success takes hold and change becomes a dreaded thing. This, of course, is the greatest danger to every venture.  Clongowes, a thriving institution in 2007,chose to make a dramatic change to its culture out of its conviction that the institution would be stronger for it and prosper.

The AHP would not have prospered were it not for the huge commitment from the Society of Jesus and its Provincial, Leonard Moloney s.j. who was, of course, Headmaster at Clongowes when the programme began. Fr. Moloney made it clear from the outset – and has repeated it several times since – that the AHP is an integral feature of the College into the future.  The document Jesuit Schools: A Living Tradition in the 21st sets out the global identifiers of Jesuit schools across the world.  The AHP resonates explicitly with three of these ten identifiers: a commitment to justice; interculturality and accessibility.

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 The pandemic continued to have a significant impact on the Foundation’s activities through the second half of the past academic year.  Father Peter Kenney S.J. Day was cancelled for the second year and our planned engagement with the parent body was severely restricted.  In response, Emma moved to working on a part time basis thereby helping to reduce further our extremely low cost base down.

You may have noted adverts in the national press for the role of director of development for The Clongowes Foundation.  We are currently looking for somebody to take over the responsibility of the day to day running of the Foundation.  I will continue to Chair the Fundraising and to work with our donor base with the express desire to maintain the historic success of the Clongowes Foundation so that Clongowes can thrive.  When I initially volunteered to take over this role it was for a three-year period.  I am now going into my fifth year and feel that the Foundation would benefit from some more youthful energy.

As we move into the new academic year, the focus of our activities will be on funding accommodation for the prefecting staff and making some necessary refurbishments to the 1999 Rhetoric Block.  The need to attract and retain prefecting staff, some of whom may have young families, is constrained by our lack of viable accommodation. This is an illustration of how Clongowes needs to constantly adapt to a changing world so that it can remain true to its educational goal of educating boys to the best traditions and highest standards of Jesuit schooling within a seven-day boarding school environment.

Enjoy the remainder of your summer.

 

Yours Sincerely

Joe Rooney (OC ’79)

Chair of Fundraising

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

 

jrooney@clongowes.net

erobinson@clongowes.net

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.

Sincerely

 

Joe Rooney 

Chair of Fundraising

 

Joe Rooney  jrooney@clongowes.net

Emma Robinson  erobinson@clongowes.net