When the Founding Family's annual, financial support concluded in the early 1970's, the alumni, families, and friends of Regis—the school’s second founding family—collectively became the sole, annual, financial supporters of the school. Barry F. Sullivan '49 was one of the pioneers of that organizational and financial support, which took root during what proved to be a financially tenuous time in Regis High School’s history. He continued to play an important role as a supporter of Regis in the decades that followed, until his passing this summer on August 11 at the age of 85, following an eleven-year struggle with Parkinson's disease. His passing presents an opportunity for the Regis community to reflect on the impact he had on Regis and reminds us of the incredible life he led in the true spirit of a Man for Others.
Barry Sullivan was born in New York City on December 21, 1930 and grew up in The Bronx. While a student at Regis, he excelled in both academics and athletics, earning a spot in the Virgil Academy of Regis and simultaneously serving as one of the core members of the two New York City Catholic basketball championship teams in his Junior and Senior years.
"Participating in The Virgil Academy alone was an astonishing feat," said Dr. Alex Burke '49, a classmate and lifelong friend of Sullivan. "Barry's ability to both participate in the Academy and play Varsity basketball at the same time during his senior year was an elite undertaking." As a member of the Virgil Academy, Sullivan translated all twelve books of Virgil's Aeneid. The group's efforts concluded with a performance in front of a panel of Classics scholars, where Sullivan would be at the ready to translate any passage from any of the twelve books.
(Pictured: Barry Sullivan's 1949 yearbook photo.)
As the shooting guard and a core member of Regis's 1948 basketball team, Sullivan was part of the team that earned arguably the most impressive sports accomplishment in Regis history: the title of National Schoolboy Champions. The team also won back-to-back titles at the Eastern States Catholic Invitation Tournament in 1948 and 1949. His senior yearbook photo includes a caption that succinctly describes his student days: "led the Raiders to victory"; "holder of new scoring record" (which was 371 points in 1949); and—as a nod to his academic prowess—"collects honor cards on the side."
After Regis, Sullivan attended Georgetown University on an academic scholarship and played basketball for the Hoyas during his three years. He still holds the tenth highest career scoring average for Georgetown. Standing tall at six-foot, three inches, his stellar play at Regis and Georgetown earned him an invitation from the New York Knicks.
"I signed a contract with the Knicks, but then I said I’ve got to be out of my mind," Sullivan later recalled in a 1980 interview with The Chicago Tribune. "I played guard, and in those days I was a very big guard. But today I’d be a shrimp."
Sullivan’s basketball days at Regis and Georgetown instilled in him a habit of preparation, said Gerald Sullivan, his son, to The Wall Street Journal. "If you practice enough," he recalls his father saying, "you've made every shot. If you're open, there’s nothing to worry about, because you've made that shot before."
After his junior year at Georgetown, Sullivan enlisted in the Army and served in Korea. In 1954, he returned to New York where he attended Columbia University. He moved to Chicago in 1955 to work at Inland Steel while attending the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business at night. After earning an MBA in 1957, Sullivan joined Chase Manhattan Bank. Later described by The Wall Street Journal as a college basketball star-turned-banker, Sullivan was appointed senior vice president of the bank in 1972, the youngest person ever to hold the position. He eventually became an executive vice president and a member of the bank's management committee. By the 1980's, Sullivan had moved to Chicago and became chief executive of First Chicago Corporation, one of the biggest banks in the Midwest. His accomplishments there included growing the bank's credit card business into one of the world's largest portfolios.
Sullivan committed to many charitable and civic causes. He served as one of the key financial advisors for the Archdiocese of Chicago and in 1988 led an effort to organize a citizens' coalition to decentralize the Chicago public school system. When he returned to New York in 1992, Sullivan became a deputy mayor for finance and economic development under Mayor David Dinkins.
When it came to priorities, helping Regis always remained at the top of Barry's list. He developed a close relationship with Fr. Jim Carney, SJ '43 who in 1969 was named the school's first Director of Development. Sullivan served on an initial Finance Committee which provided Fr. Taylor, Regis President at that time, with funding and operational recommendations to assure the long-run financial viability of Regis.
(Pictured: Barry Sullivan drives for a layup in this photo from the 1949 yearbook. Inset: Sullivan's profile photo with the Georgetown Hoyas.)
"Barry was the alumnus instrumental in moving Regis from an institution totally dependent on the Founding Family to one that would generate alumni support," recalls Dick Boyle '61, former Regis Board Chair.
"Until the 1970's, the Alumni Association was a purely social organization. It was Barry who tutored Father Jim Carney in how to be a fundraiser. He taught Father Carney and Regis to always think big when it came to development activity.
"But if Barry was the guiding light in transforming how Regis was funded, as a Catholic he was never a man who wanted recognition. That was true in both his business and philanthropic life," added Boyle.
John Werwaiss '60, who also served as Regis Board Chair, recalled working closely with Sullivan in launching Ensure the Legacy, Regis's first comprehensive capital campaign, for which Sullivan served as co-chair. According to Werwaiss, "Regis was part of the foundation of Barry’s life, and he always remembered it."
Beyond his terms on the Regis Board of Trustees and his substantial involvement with Fr. Carney’s fundraising efforts, supporting other educational institutions always played an important role in Sullivan’s life. While his children attended the Bronxville School, Barry served a term as President of the Bronxville Board of Education. While in Chicago, he served as an active member of the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees. He also served as a member of the Georgetown University Board of Directors. After his return to New York, he worked closely with the Archdiocese of New York, specifically helping as a financial advisor to Saint Joseph’s Seminary, the major seminary of the Archdiocese.
"Barry was the epitome of what a Regis student should be," said Gerry Murray '49, a classmate and lifelong friend. "He loved the school very much, and was proud of the school at all times. He was always eager to help the school in any way he could."
At his funeral Mass on August 16, Fr. Gerard Murray '76 (son of Gerry Murray '49) delivered a homily in which he described Sullivan as a model Regian.
"Barry liked to quote a saying he had heard, I think, from a Jesuit: Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on Earth. Barry was a man of service. He appreciated the benefits that a good education offered to young men and women, and devoted much effort to promoting educational opportunities," said Fr. Murray.
Barry Sullivan is survived by his five children and a total of 17 grandchildren. Audrey, his wife of 53 years, passed away in June, 2009.
The efforts of men and women like Barry Sullivan are what have allowed this great experiment in Catholic education that is Regis High School to continue. As we prepare for the graduation of our 100th class this spring, we remember Barry Sullivan and all our generous benefactors who have helped put Regis on a sound financial path to ensure the Regis mission for generations to come.
From The Chicago Tribune: Barry Sullivan, former banking and civic leader in Chicago, dies at 85 | August 19, 2016
From The Wall Street Journal: CEO Barry Sullivan Helped Stabilize First Chicago, Then Hit Snags | August 26, 2016
From The New York Times: Barry Sullivan (1930 - 2016) | August 14, 2016
Above: Audrey and Barry Sullivan '49 with Fr. Jim Carney, SJ '43 in a photograph taken in the early 2000's.