Alumnus Donates $25 Million to Holy Cross to Enhance the Arts

Largest single gift in College history is from telecommunications executive

Cornelius B. Prior, Jr., a 1956 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and chair of the board of the telecommunications services company Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc., headquartered in Beverly, Mass., is donating $25 million to the College. The gift, the largest single donation in the history of Holy Cross, was announced today by the College’s president, Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., at an event on campus that featured student and faculty performances and a celebration of the arts.

Prior—who has long been a champion of the arts in communities ranging from Maine to the Caribbean—has designated his gift to enhance the arts at Holy Cross with a new performance facility on campus. The gift comes as the College launches the leadership phase of a comprehensive fundraising campaign to support a number of strategic initiatives.

Commenting on the gift, Fr. Boroughs said: “Neil’s gift is a reflection of his unwavering belief in the importance of a Holy Cross education—and how the study and experience of the arts are essential to that education. His generosity will have a transformative effect on our work and is a tremendous statement of support in our mission and leadership.”

In his remarks at the announcement, held before a packed house of students, faculty, and staff in Rehm Library, Prior said he and the College are in conversations about how the funds will be specifically used to enhance the experience of the fine and performing arts for all students.

He said: “My father graduated from Holy Cross in 1923 and from Yale Law School in 1926. He was an inspiration for my own experience studying music, theatre and the fine arts at Holy Cross in the 1950s. Holy Cross and its professors offer students an extraordinary education—I believe there is none finer in the United States. My hope is that this gift creates a visible and integrated way for my grandson Benjamin Ritter, a freshman at Holy Cross today, and for all Holy Cross students, to experience the arts during their four years here.”

Integral to a liberal arts education, Holy Cross students are active participants in the fine and performing arts—both in the classroom, and as part of their co-curricular experiences. Current exhibition and performance spaces on campus include the John E. Brooks, S.J. Concert Hall, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, and Fenwick Theatre.

In addition to Fr. Boroughs and Prior, speakers at the announcement included the College’s chairman of the Board of Trustees, P. Kevin Condron ’67; and Tracy Barlok, vice president for development and alumni relations.

In 1998, Prior made a $5 million gift that established three professorships in the Humanities: the Rev. Gerard Mears, S.J., Professorship in Fine Arts, the Rev. Maurice F. Reidy, S.J., Professorship in History, and the Stephen J. Prior Professorship in Humanities. At that time, the gift was the College's largest single commitment and helped launch the College's record-setting “Lift High the Cross” campaign. In June 2006, at the end of the campaign and in celebration of the Class of 1956 50th reunion, he made a second $5 million gift that further expanded these professorship endowments. He has provided lead gifts in support of exhibitions at the Cantor Art Gallery, major sponsorship of the Terri Priest painting, titled “Paths to Divine Light Through Vermeer's Lens” (a commissioned work depicting five major religious traditions that hangs in the College's McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture in Smith Hall), and lead sponsorship of the “Hope and Healing” exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum that was co-sponsored by the College in 2005. A long-time Holy Cross volunteer, Prior was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1997-2005 and now serves on the College's Advisory Board.

Prior started his career as an attorney with Sullivan & Cromwell in New York after graduation from Harvard Law School. A former U.S. Navy officer and Fulbright Scholar, he resides in St. Thomas, where he is chairman of the Forum, a not-for-profit arts organization, and honorary trustee of the Antilles School. He is also a director of the Kneisel Music School in Blue Hill, Maine. He has served as the Chairman of CANTO (the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organizations) and currently is the chairman of CCAA (Caribbean and Central American Action).

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