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O’Dowd Receives Largest Individual Gift in School History: Alumnus Jim Bill ‘55 Provides $5 Million

<img class="wp-image-34436 size-medium lazyload" src="" alt="Class of '55" width="300" height="200" srcset=" 300w, 768w, 1024w, 1500w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> Class of ’55

The new decade kicked off with a spirit of camaraderie and celebration as members of the Class of 1955, O’Dowd’s inaugural class and friends of James “Jim” Bill, gathered in O’Dowd’s theater, newly dedicated in his name. Jim, who passed last year, left $5 million to O’Dowd in his estate plan, endowed funds designated to support tuition assistance for future students. Jim’s gift is the largest single gift received in O’Dowd’s history. The dedication christening the theater the James T. Bill ‘55 Theater honored Jim’s love of the arts and his generosity and brought his friends from the Class of ‘55 to campus. The school was particularly honored to have Jim’s former O’Dowd teacher Bishop John Cummins participate in the event.

President J.D. Childs welcomed guests, and Rev. Monsignor Valdivia, who attended seminary with Jim, opened the dedication with a prayer. J.D. Childs shared the significance of Jim’s generous gift, including what inspired his generosity. Jim’s father modelled for his son the habit of giving, and Jim in turn provided endowed support for tuition assistance at O’Dowd for many years prior to his estate gift.

<img class="wp-image-34623 size-medium lazyload" src="" alt="" width="219" height="300" srcset=" 219w, 541w" sizes="(max-width: 219px) 100vw, 219px" /> Jim Bill

Jim was among the first alumni to set up an endowment for tuition assistance. Endowment funds are established by donors who wish to provide substantive, sustained support to O’Dowd. These special gifts are invested in perpetuity, with annual distributions spent on the intent defined by the donor. This new gift from Bill establishes a permanent, solid fund to support accessible education at O’Dowd.

Speaking to those at the event, J.D. Childs shared, “This landmark endowment will produce approximately $200,000 in tuition assistance annually, supporting 22 students on average. Over the course of 50 years, that’s 275 students who through their four years will be afforded the opportunity of an O’Dowd education as a result of his foresight and generosity.”

Remarking on the virtuous cycle of generosity this gift enables, President Childs shared, “That’s a lot of Dragons making a difference in the world because of this man’s generosity. O’Dowd grads leave this place knowing that they make their learning an offering to the world. They make a difference because of who they’ve become and the friends they have made along the way. They understand, more than most perhaps, that what is beautiful is meant to be shared.”

<img class="alignright size-medium wp-image-34425 lazyload" src="" alt="" width="300" height="200" srcset=" 300w, 768w, 1024w, 1500w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Bishop Cummins blessed the plaque and newly dedicated theater. He spoke to the theology of beauty in creation, calling for O’Dowd and Catholic education as a whole to share this beauty–of poems, music, literature, and other arts– to enhance our understanding of God. Bill Wiegmann ‘55, Jim’s friend and executor of his estate, shared colorful stories of the Class of ‘55 and their friendship. He likewise spoke to Jim’s philanthropic commitment, love of adventure, and deep care for friends. Students Monet Thompson ’20, Tommy Cheung ’20, and Enya Tellez ’20 shared with guests highlights of their four years at O’Dowd including theater and other club and leadership roles they have enjoyed. Father Don Osuna, who attended both elementary school and seminary with Jim, shared details of Jim’s path and character, and explained Jim’s generosity to O’Dowd quoting Matthew 6:21: “Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart. So now his treasure and his heart, which he always left here at O’Dowd, are joined together. May they remain forever.”

O’Dowd is extremely grateful to Jim Bill for creating a lasting legacy that will serve future Dragons, keeping a transformative Catholic education at O’Dowd within the reach of more families for generations to come.


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