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Boston College’s Center for Catholic Education, one of the nation’s preeminent think tanks on Catholic education, will be named the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education in honor of the long-time benefactors. The Roches are pictured here with University President William P. Leahy.

BC Catholic Education Center Named for Roches

$20 million gift from long-time benefactors Barbara and Patrick Roche
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By Jack Dunn | Director of News & Public Affairs
Published: March 16, 2010
Boston College’s Center for Catholic Education, one of the nation’s preeminent think tanks on Catholic education, will be named the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education, thanks to a $20 million gift from the longtime Boston College benefactors.

Patrick Roche, a 1951 graduate of Boston College and co-founder of Massachusetts-based Roche Bros. supermarkets, and his wife, Barbara, made the donation in support of Catholic education, which they said has had a profound effect on their lives.

"I grew up in Sacred Heart Parish in Roslindale and went to Sacred Heart School, and I appreciate what it did for me," said Patrick Roche, co-founder of Roche Bros. supermarkets.  "Boston College also had a tremendous effect on my life, and when BC gave Barbara and me an opportunity to help support Catholic education and entities such as the St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton, we knew we wanted to help."   

The Roche Center for Catholic Education, part of the Lynch School of Education, trains graduate and undergraduate students to administer and teach in Catholic schools and universities nationwide. It also conducts ongoing national research on staffing, student demographics and the structure of Catholic elementary schools, produces the influential journal Catholic Education: A Journal of Theory and Practice, and directs the Urban Catholic Teachers Corps, which trains teachers to serve in Boston's inner-city Catholic Schools. In addition, the center directs St. Columbkille Partnership School, a model Catholic elementary school that pairs the once-struggling school with the educational resources of Boston College.

In announcing the gift, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, praised the Roches for their generosity, which he said will help the center to prepare leaders for all levels of Catholic education, while researching and developing solutions to the critical challenges facing Catholic schools, colleges and universities.

"Barbara and Pat Roche have done so much for Boston, Boston College and Catholic education," said Fr. Leahy.  "It is tremendous to have this center bear their name and to carry on their lifelong commitment to Catholic education." 

Patrick Roche and his brother Bud founded Roche Bros. supermarkets in Roslindale in 1952. His family-run business has grown into one of the most innovative and distinguished supermarket chains in the industry, and is noted for its high-quality products and outstanding customer service.  Headquartered in Wellesley, it has 18 Massachusetts locations from Burlington to Cape Cod.

"Our mother died when my brothers and I were young kids, ages six to 12, and our faith and Catholic education helped with our upbringing," said Roche. "Catholic education was a great gift in my life. When Barbara and I saw the number of Catholic schools that were closing, we wanted to do something, and BC gave us an opportunity to do so through this center."

The Roches had previously established the Patrick E. and Barbara A. Roche Scholarship Fund at BC to benefit talented students with financial need, and the Barbara A. and Patrick E. Roche Chair in Economics, an endowed professorship currently held by Professor Arthur Lewbel. 

In addition, Boston College has announced that Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington and the former vice president for academic affairs at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC, has been named executive director of the center, beginning July 1.

Lynch School of Education Dean Joseph O'Keefe, SJ, praised Weitzel-O'Neill as an energetic and creative leader in Catholic elementary and secondary education. 

"Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill is a forward-thinking leader with a proven track record as superintendent of a major archdiocese, who also brings a wealth of leadership experience in higher education," said Fr. O'Keefe.  "We are pleased to have her lead the Roche Center for Catholic Education, and given her vision and educational background, I know that she is delighted to return to the Jesuit educational apostolate."     

As superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, Weitzel-O'Neill was responsible for 29,000 students in 96 early learning, elementary and secondary schools.  During her eight-year tenure, she was credited with strengthening the schools' academic programs, introducing a standards-based curriculum and enhancing professional development standards. In addition, she was instrumental in efforts to secure the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federal initiative that enabled thousands of low-income children to attend parochial schools.  

Prior to serving as superintendent, Weitzel-O'Neill worked at Trinity Washington University as vice president of academic affairs, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of sociology.  She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University, and holds an MA and PhD in sociology from St. Louis University.

Weitzel-O'Neill said she is enthusiastic about beginning her new role at Boston College and directing the center in its service to Catholic education.  "It has been a privilege to serve the Archdiocese of Washington under the leadership of both Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick," said Weitzel-O'Neill.

"I look forward to this new opportunity to serve Catholic education at the national level and to working closely with an accomplished team of professionals at Boston College's Lynch School of Education. I will take with me all that I have learned from truly dedicated principals, pastors and colleagues with whom I have had the good fortune to work."