For the Gonzaga Class of 1968, a milestone reunion became a chance to make a lasting impact.
In December 2017, Joe McCarthy ‘68 sent an email to all of his former classmates. Preparations were already underway for the Class of 1968’s Jubilarian Reunion during Gonzaga’s graduation weekend, and McCarthy and several of his classmates had an idea for a unique and meaningful way that they could pay tribute to both this milestone and their beloved Alma Mater.
“We want to honor Gonzaga, Washington, D.C., and our class with a generous gift that will provide yearly scholarship support for worthy but low-income Washington Jesuit Academy graduates enrolling at Gonzaga,” McCarthy wrote. “Furthermore, we want to aim for the goal of endowing our scholarship in perpetuity. This would require raising $250,000. A quarter of a million dollars is indeed a substantial sum, but it would stand forever as a great monument to the Class of '68, and it would greatly help relieve the considerable financial aid pressure on Gonzaga's modest overall endowment.”
The email was signed from a group of 13 alumni from the Class of 1968 who called themselves the “Irish Inn Ad Hoc Reunion Planning Committee.” The group had been meeting for months at the Glen Echo pub to track down contact information for all of their classmates, make plans for their Reunion Weekend, and discuss ideas for their 50th reunion class gift.
McCarthy, who had served as a board member at WJA, felt strongly that directing this gift to the endowment—and WJA graduates in particular—would resonate with his classmates. “Gonzaga is truly an urban Jesuit school,” he says. “It would be a shame if Gonzaga ever lost that economic diversity. We saw this as a way to see to that.”
“We were at Gonzaga during the riots of 1968, and I think our time there taught us all about our responsibility to the community,” says Paul Warren ’68. “We were able to witness Father Horace McKenna. Every day, we would see him outside with the poor. It was a wonderful example for all of us.”
John Madigan ’68 says it was very important that the planning start early. “We didn’t want to wait until the reunion weekend to start talking about the scholarship fund,” Madigan says. “It was key that we got the momentum rolling as far in advance as possible.”
McCarthy and other members of the “Planning Committee” sent out periodic updates as gifts were made. “We really wanted it to be a team effort,” he says.
All of the planning paid off. More than 70 members of the Class of ’68 returned to Gonzaga for the reunion in June, including one classmate who travelled all the way from Australia. “People were reflecting back on what Gonzaga did for them while they were there, but more importantly thereafter,” says Madigan. “People in our class went on to do a wide variety of really interesting and wonderful things—work in medicine, politics, education, entertainment. And as people were reflecting back, there was also a desire to give back.”
By the time reunion weekend arrived, the class had already surpassed its original $250,000 goal and created a new one of $500,000.
McCarthy says that the gift stands as a “living monument” to the Class of 1968. “We see it as an investment in Gonzaga, in the WJA, and in the city of Washington,” he says. “We’re looking forward to getting a report about each of the Class of 1968 scholars as they go through Gonzaga and go out into the world.”