A recent conversation with the granddaughter of a member of the class of 1926 gave me a deepened appreciation for the impact a Regis education has: not just on the student or graduate, but also on the people around him and those who come after him. Her grandfather’s mother cleaned houses on New York’s west side and the family was one of a countless number for whom a Catholic high school education was financially out of reach. Her grandfather was accepted to Regis, graduated, went on to college and a successful career, and helped change the family’s trajectory. His children and their children in turn received quality educations and entered their professions in their own right—the woman I spoke with is a partner in a midtown law firm. In her family Regis enjoys "mythic status," as the family's fortunes changed because her grandfather received an academically rigorous, tuition-free, Jesuit and Catholic high school education.
The story related here ever so briefly is one strand of a much larger narrative of the transformative power of a Regis education—told innumerable times over many generations—and is a narrative which has its roots in the vision of Fr. David Hearn, S.J. and the singular generosity of the Foundress and her family which gave flesh to that vision. It is a narrative uninterrupted for more than a hundred years and one which continues to be told right to the present day.
I wish everyone could spend some time as president of Regis High School. It may be the surest way to come to a very deep appreciation of the sheer magnitude of Fr. Hearn's bold vision and the Foundress's unparalleled generosity. Over the last several months I have often found myself imagining that Christmas Eve more than a hundred and three years ago when Mrs. Grant gave the first installment of the gift that would build Regis. In Teach Me to be Generous, a history of Regis's first hundred years, Fr. Anthony Andreassi, C.O. writes, "Hearn recorded the following entry for December 24, 1912, in which he speaks of himself in the third person: 'Mrs. Hugh J. Grant came to Midnight Mass in Loyola Chapel. Just before the Mass she placed in Rev. Fr. Superior's hand a sealed envelope containing a certificate on the Central Trust Co. for five hundred thousand dollars.' This was the amount left to her absolute disposal by the will of her husband. It was the first installment towards the $1,500,000 for the foundation of Regis High School." Handing over an envelope is such a simple act, but when it provides the means to make a vision become real, and that vision is turned into what Regis has meant to so many families for so long, then that simple act acquires its own "mythic status."
Rev. Fr. Superior and the Foundress partnered to launch an audacious venture. Today, we all—alumni, current and alumni parents, and friends—continue that partnership. We recommit to the vision and mission of Regis and marshal the resources needed to make it a practical reality for successive generations of families for whom a Regis education will continue to be a transformative experience. When we do that successively, we open the possibility for students and graduates to follow a new trajectory benefitting not just themselves but all whose lives are made better because of the gift they received, and we earn anew our "mythic status."
James P. Croghan, S.J.