Trustee McNeice Gives $5 Million to Fund Retreat and Volunteer Programs

(8-11-99) -- Boston College Trustee John A. McNeice Jr., the retired chairman and CEO of the Colonial Group Inc, has donated $5 million to help endow student retreat and volunteer programs at Boston College.

McNeice, a 1954 graduate of Boston College, said he made the donation "to help ensure BC's leading role among Catholic colleges and universities in the area of student formation." His gift, which will establish the John and Margarete McNeice Student Formation Fund, will provide support for the University's extensive volunteer service and student retreat programs.

"Boston College's mission is to form `men and women for others,'" said McNeice. "That includes teaching students the importance of sharing their time and talents with those less fortunate. While being trained academically is important, students' cultural, social and spiritual development is also important in educating the whole person. I hope that this fund will help more students to think about their spirituality by getting them involved in these formative experiences."

The McNeice gift, said to be the largest single endowment for student volunteerism and retreat programs in the US, was praised by officials at Boston College who have witnessed growing interest among students in community service programs ranging from the Appalachia Volunteers Program, in which 450 students forego spring break to work in poor Appalachian communities, to the internationally-focused Ignacio Volunteers Program, in which students assist the poor in rural villages in Central America and the Caribbean. Locally, more than 300 BC students participate in 4Boston, a program that requires four hours of weekly volunteer service in shelters and community centers in Boston. In total, 1,200 Boston College students provide more than 80,000 hours of volunteer service each year in programs from Boston to Belize. In addition, nearly 1,700 students take part in retreat and spiritual formation activities sponsored by the Boston College Chaplain's Office.

In recent years, due to the growing popularity of student volunteer programs and retreats, the number of BC students willing to volunteer for community services has exceeded the number of volunteer activities available to them. Last year alone, 150 students were wait-listed for BC's PULSE Program, which combines academic course work with 12 hours of weekly volunteer service in Boston-area shelters, hospitals and prisons, and Kairos, a student weekend retreat program, had a waiting list of 400.

"Boston College does a good job of educating students academically," said Vice President for Mission and Ministry Joseph A. Appleyard, SJ. "But what was needed was increased resources to accommodate the demands for personal, moral and spiritual formation. The McNeice gift will address this need directly. We are grateful to the McNeices for their support."

McNeice, 66, of Canton, built the Colonial Group into one of the nation's leading investment management companies before selling it in 1994 to Liberty Financial. He is considered one of Massachusetts' most generous individuals, and has been one of the largest benefactors of a number of institutions from the Archdiocese of Boston to the United Way. His primary philanthropic focus has been Jesuit education and Catholic charitable endeavors, including Catholic Charities, Por Cristo and the Catholic Schools Foundation.

"John McNeice has done so much for Jesuit education and Catholic causes," said BC President William P. Leahy, SJ. "Boston College is indebted to him for this wonderful gift which will enable future generations of leaders to develop their God-given talents and use them in the service of others."

Undergraduate Government of Boston College President Chris Goff welcomed the McNeice gift which, he said, will address a major need on campus. "BC students are exceptionally committed to volunteerism and to spiritual formation," said Goff. "This gift will help provide the resources so that more students can take advantage of these important growth opportunities."

"The retreat movement at Boston College is growing in popularity," said Sister Joan Mahoney of the BC Chaplain's Office. "There is a real hunger among students for this type of experience. This gift will help our students tremendously."

McNeice made his decision to create the Student Formation Fund after reading about BC's student retreat and volunteer offerings. "I was thoroughly impressed by the breadth of volunteer activities at BC," said McNeice. "I think it is essential that a Jesuit university stresses the importance of service because it is a training ground for the next generation of leaders. I often quote St. Augustine who said, `Our hearts are made for God, and we aren't truly happy until we are serving God.' I hope this gift will help to facilitate this university-wide commitment to service."

Born and raised in Quincy in a family "too poor to purchase a car," McNeice credits his parents' faith and his Jesuit education with instilling in him a moral foundation and a commitment to volunteerism and community service.

"My father was a daily communicant; he set an example of the importance of a spiritual foundation in my life," said McNeice. "That foundation, and my own training at the hands of the Jesuits, have served me well throughout my life. I have always believed in the adage, `To whom much is given much is expected.' I have been given much in my life and I am happy to share it with Boston College through the creation of this fund."

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