Alums give $5M gift to Bucks Catholic school

Tom Lynch, a Bucks County native and former CEO of Berwyn-based TE Connectivity, and his wife Patty have created a foundation that is making a $5 million gift to Conwell-Egan Catholic High School. 2013 file photo MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

To give back to Catholic schools they attended, Thomas J. and Patty Lynch created a scholarship program for students in lower Bucks County, where they were raised.

On Wednesday, the Newtown couple did more.

They announced that their Danaher Lynch Family Foundation was giving $5 million to Conwell-Egan Catholic High School in Fairless Hills.

“We feel strongly about the school and its importance in the network of schools in lower Bucks County,” said Lynch, the former CEO of TE Connectivity, a Berwyn-based multinational manufacturer of electrical connectors.

Lynch, who is now executive chairman of the company’s board of directors, also heads the Conwell-Egan board.

Lynch graduated in 1972 from Bishop Egan High School when it was a boys’ school. His wife earned her high school diploma the same year from Bishop Conwell, a girls’ school in Levittown. The schools merged in 1993.

The foundation funds will be used to provide additional scholarships, make capital improvements to the 50-year-old building, and create a Center for Student Leadership at the school, which has 495 students this fall.

“From a historical standpoint, it matches the biggest gift ever given to a Catholic high school” in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said Daniel Lodise, Conwell-Egan’s president. “It’s going to have a pretty profound effect on the school.”

It’s a remarkable development for a school that a little more than five years ago had been targeted for closure.

“This is a transformative moment for Conwell-Egan,” said Christopher Mominey, chief operating officer and secretary for secondary education in the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education. “It’s indicative of the success the school has had and intends to have over the next several years.”

The size of the Lynch foundation gift equals what had been the largest alumni donation to one of the 17 Catholic high schools in the five-county archdiocese. Last year, Leonard Mazur, a 1963 alumnus of what is now West Catholic Preparatory High School, donated $5 million to support that school’s leadership and mission in the community.

Five years ago, a study commission urged Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to close both West Catholic and Conwell-Egan as part of a broad restructuring of Catholic education to reduce costs amid forecasts of enrollment declines.

Lynch was among the Conwell-Egan alumni who mobilized to help save that school. Among other things, he offered advice from the business world to school leaders.

Ultimately, all the endangered high schools were saved, and a new philanthropy — the Faith in the Future Foundation — was created to manage the Catholic high schools.

The Lynches established their family foundation in 2013 to provide scholarships to help students who wanted to attend Conwell-Egan but could not afford the tuition, which is $7,350 this academic year. The $2,000 annual scholarships can be renewed for four years.

Lodise said Conwell-Egan has 53 scholarship recipients this fall.

But the Lynch family decided a $5 million gift would help even more.

“We could see the opportunity there to make the school even better than it was,” Lynch said. “It became a labor of love.”

H. Edward Hanway, board chair of the Faith in the Future Foundation and its interim CEO, said the gift to Conwell-Egan was important to all the Catholic high schools and their 12,382 students.

“It’s a tremendous vote of confidence of Mr. Lynch and his family to make such a commitment to Conwell-Egan,” Hanway said. “I also think it is indicative of the level of support that is occurring more broadly throughout the 17-school system.”