Building Minds Scholarship Fund raises $21 million for Catholic schools

BOSTON -- The Catholic Schools Foundation honored their president emeritus and longtime promoter Peter Lynch at the 33rd annual Building Minds Scholarship Fund Celebration, which this year raised $21 million for scholarships for students in Catholic schools.

The gala dinner took place on April 27 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, with over 1,100 people in attendance. WCVB Channel 5 anchor Ben Simmoneau emceed the event, which was chaired this year by Lynch's daughters, Annie Lukowski, Elizabeth de Montrichard, and Mary Witkowski.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley gave the invocation and announced that May 11 is being established as Peter Lynch Day in the archdiocese's schools. That date was chosen because it was the date of Peter and Carolyn Lynch's wedding.

The dinner program included speeches from several current students and alumni of various Catholic schools. There was also a video presentation by Putnam Investments featuring students and teachers from Lawrence Catholic Academy.

One of the alumni speakers was Fortune Kamala, a healthcare consultant who graduated from Central Catholic High School in 2012 and went on to attend Stonehill College. The other was Sophia Occena-Desmornes, a graduate of St. Catherine of Genoa School in Somerville and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Brighton, who went on to earn her degrees at Emmanuel College and Regis College. She is now a regional nurse supervisor.

"When I look back on my love for healthcare and the different roads I've taken, it always leads me back to the opportunities provided to me through the Catholic Schools Foundation," Occena-Desmornes said.

The evening's student speaker was Nelvin De La Rosa, a senior at Central Catholic High School. He related how his parents and sisters came from the Dominican Republic to Lawrence, where he was born. His parents died when he was in the fourth grade, and his four older sisters took care of him. The Catholic Schools Foundation's scholarship support enabled him to attend Bellesini Academy and, later, Central Catholic. He has now been accepted to several colleges and plans to attend Umass Lowell.

"I would not be where I am today, about to graduate, and have these college choices without the CSF scholarship and everyone in this room," he said.

Many friends and colleagues of the Lynch family shared remarks, praising Peter Lynch's commitment to supporting education.

One of those was Ronald P. O'Hanley, chairman and CEO of State Street Corporation. He talked about the different phases of his relationship with Lynch, including the first time Lynch asked O'Hanley to support the Catholic schools. Lynch ended that meeting by reminding him that children need continuous support, not just enough for one year of school. So, he asked O'Hanley to either give for 10 or 20 years, or not at all.

"He has always insisted on persistent, continual giving," O'Hanley said.

Former anchor Natalie Jacobson, who was one of the original emcees of the event, noted that the children attending Catholic schools come from the same areas as the children in public schools that are not doing well. She likened the Catholic Schools Foundation to the North Star.

"This group proves that it can be done, it can be done right, and it can be done for anybody, no matter where you come from," Jacobson said.

John Fish, chairman and CEO of Suffolk Construction, called Lynch "an iconic Bostonian" and thanked him for what he has done for "every corner of our civic community."

"Peter has always understood the infinite value of a quality education, and how it truly opens doors for future leaders," Fish said.

Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and owner of the Patriots, shared some of his memories of Lynch, including a trip to Israel in 1992. Lynch's daughters also gave a heartwarming speech about their father and his work.

At the end of the program, Lynch himself took the mic, and then invited his children and grandchildren to join him on the stage.

In addition to honoring Lynch, the Catholic Schools Foundation also gave the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award to Rick Spillane, a trustee of the Lynch Foundation.

The Building Minds Scholarship Fund, formerly named the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, is the signature program of the Catholic Schools Foundation, providing scholarships to over 3,500 students each year.

More information about the Catholic Schools Foundation, including how to donate, is available at