Holy Cross to Establish Emergency and Opportunity Funds Through Landmark $11 Million Gift

Students in a biology class study marine life at a beach,

A gift from Elizabeth and Robert McKay ‘55 will bolster scholarships, emergency student funding and experiential learning.

Longtime Holy Cross supporters Elizabeth “Liz” and Robert J. “Bob” McKay ’55 are donating $11 million to the College — including one of the largest estate bequest commitments in its history — to support financial aid-endowed scholarships, emergency funding for students in financial distress and access to experiential learning.

The couple is furthering their support for the existing Elizabeth and Robert McKay ’55 Family Scholarship, which provides need-based scholarships for students from Bob’s hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, and the surrounding area. They are also endowing two new, transformational resources: the Wetzel McKay Emergency Fund and the McKay Opportunity Fund.

“These two initiatives are very dear to our hearts,” Bob McKay said. “We don't have grandchildren; the Holy Cross kids are our grandchildren.”

The Wetzel McKay Emergency Fund will support any student at the College facing unforeseen needs not covered by financial aid, from winter clothing and transportation home to graduate school application fees. The McKays named the fund in honor of Bob’s lifelong friend and Holy Cross roommate, the late Rev. Edward A. Wetzel ’55.

“The College is humbled and grateful that Liz and Bob McKay have chosen once again to make a significant investment in Holy Cross,” said President Vincent D. Rougeau. “The new McKay funds, coupled with the family’s existing scholarship, will enable our most vulnerable students to afford Holy Cross and participate fully in the vibrant academic and extracurricular life of the College. The gift respects the dignity of every student who has financial need and eliminates hidden barriers to success.”

In establishing this fund, the McKays also took inspiration from the legacy of the late Joseph “Joe” Reilly ’55, a longtime leader of the Bishop Healy Committee at Holy Cross. Reilly often turned to fellow members of the class of 1955, such as the McKays, to raise emergency funds and provide mentorship for the College’s students of color.

With the new McKay Opportunity Fund, the couple wants to expand access and broaden involvement for students who may be financially unable to participate in career-enriching Holy Cross experiences, such as study abroad, semesters away, summer academic research and internships.

“Holy Cross has evolved into an even better school than it was when I was there — the academic quality for the students is just sensational,” Bob McKay said. “And it's the continuing integration of the Jesuit tradition — the ethics, the morality, the spirituality — that, even for students who are not Catholic, is a virtue and is valuable. This is something that is unusual in today's world.”

“It’s about giving people the opportunity to really make a difference,” Liz McKay said. “It’s so important.”