Prior, ‘56 Gives Single Largest Donation in Holy Cross History for the Arts
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 12:03
On Wednesday, February 13th, members of the Holy Cross community gathered in Rehm Library to celebrate and commemorate a $25 million donation by Holy Cross graduate Cornelius B. Prior, Jr., ‘56 to enhance the arts department on campus. This donation is the largest single donation ever made to Holy Cross.
Rehm Library was packed with students, teachers, and alumni awaiting what they only knew as a big announcement when they walked in. Many alumni were delightfully surprised that so many current students decided to show their support to Prior, a 1956 graduate of Holy Cross. Tracy Barlok, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations at the College, gave an introduction, but purposely held back the details of why exactly everyone was gathered in Rehm.
Following Barlok’s introduction, a short film that showed pictures and video clips of the art, theatre, and music department was displayed on a projector. When Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J., President of Holy Cross, came up to the podium after the film, the crowd knew the moment had finally come for the exciting announcement to be made. Fr. Boroughs praised Prior for his dedication to showing the importance of art at the College, and said he gave a generous $25 million donation for a new performance center on campus and other ways to improve the arts.
“This exciting news is going to transform the lives of students for years to come,” said Fr. Boroughs. “Neil’s gift is a reflection of his unwavering belief in the importance of a Holy Cross education—and how the study and experience of the arts are essential to that education.”
Prior received a standing ovation when he came up to speak. He stressed how he felt it was his duty to give back to Holy Cross and allow students to have fun in their expression of art on campus. The art department has come a long way since Prior attended the College in the 1950s.
“My donation was something for me to leave behind and to give something for me and you all,” Prior said. “Arts are fun; they give students a joyous feeling and it elevates them in a unique way.”
Prior has made additional donation to Holy Cross in the past. In 1998 he donated $5 million to create three professorships in the Humanities: the Rev. Gerard Mears, S.J., Professorship in Fine Arts, the Rev. Maurice F. Reidy, S.J., Professorship in History, and the Stephen J. Prior Professorship in Humanities. Then in 2006, he contributed another $5 million to expand the professorship endowments. Because of Prior’s support for Holy Cross, he has developed strong relationships with faculty, staff, and former Presidents.
“This was not an impulsive decision for Prior, but the timing came together at just the right moment for Holy Cross and for him,” said Barlok. “He credits his experience at Holy Cross for preparing him to be so successful in his life and now he is making a tangible statement of support to say thank you – and to ensure the Arts at Holy Cross remain vibrant and active.”
An event recognizing a donation to the arts would not have been complete without some display of creativity relating to art. Chilean American cellist Jan Muller-Szeraws, a lecturer at the College, performed Bach’s First Cello Suite in G Major. Also, Aria (Cantilena) from Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras no.5 was performed by Suzanne Crifo, ‘13, soprano, and the Holy Cross Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Eric Culver.
Faculty members expressed their gratitude for Prior’s generosity. Professor Shirish Korde, Distinguished Professor of Humanities and Chair, appreciates how Prior simply had a vision of how he could change and expand the arts at the College that he pursued.
“Soon artists will be able to meet, interact, and show their work to the greater community,” said Professor Korde. “I remember how Father John E. Brooks, a past College president of Holy Cross, had a vision of students practicing music on campus, and later the music library was built. This improvement happened because of a vision, and Neil is now bringing in his vision.”
Many teachers in the arts department recognize how the arts at the College have already accomplished great things despite the lack of proper facilities. Professor Edward Isser, Chair of the Theatre Department, hopes the new funding will draw more attention to Holy Cross’s theatre department.
“Neil Prior’s gift will provide the theatre department with the state-of-the-art resources necessary to move boldly forward, to attract the finest prospective students, and to properly train them to study and practice the theatrical arts as they are developing in the twenty-first century,” said Professor Isser. “The new center will raise the visibility of the arts on the campus and in the wider community.”