Salesianum School Announces $12 Million Gift from Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos (’63)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Mayor Purzycki Shares Announcement from Salesianum School About $12 Million Gift from Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos (’63)
The historic gift will create 24 scholarships, with preference given to qualified applicants living in the City of Wilmington

Mayor Purzycki is pleased to share the following announcement from Salesianum School regarding a $12 M gift from Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos (Class of ’63), which will be used to fully endow 24 full scholarships to the Roman Catholic high school for boys in Wilmington. Preference will be given to qualified applicants living in the City and children of immigrants to the United States. “The establishment of this scholarship program creates extraordinary and ongoing opportunities for young men to attend Salesianum who might not otherwise have been able to do so due to financial constraints,” said the Mayor. “I am very excited for students from Wilmington who will be eligible and I am most grateful to Jackie and Mike Bezos for their thoughtful and generous decision that will change many young lives forever.” Salesianum’s news release is presented below.

Salesianum Receives Historic $12 Million Gift from Jacklyn & Miguel Bezos ’63
Gift Establishes the Rev. James P. Byrne, OSFS Scholarship
Will Fully Endow 24 Full Scholarships

Salesianum School announces an historic $12 million commitment from Jacklyn and Miguel (“Mike”) Bezos ’63 to the Salesianum School endowment.

Ten million dollars of the gift is being given to immediately establish the Rev. James P. Byrne, OSFS Scholarship, which will fund 24 full-need students. In addition to receiving a full-tuition scholarship, Fr. Byrne Scholars will also receive funding for the incidental expenses that so often form barriers for students on the margins, including books, retreats, service trips, AP test fees, prom tickets, etc.

In recognition of Salesianum’s roots in the city of Wilmington, and the school’s legacy of educating generations of immigrants, including Mike Bezos, preference will be given to qualified applicants living in Wilmington and children of immigrants to the United States.

“Mike and Jackie understand the complex obstacles faced by underserved students and wanted to give these students the best path to success,” explained Salesianum President, Brendan Kennealey ’94. “Because of them, students from every neighborhood in Wilmington, and across the region, will have even greater access to a Salesianum education.”

Father Byrne, who died in 2020, was placed in charge of what was then known as Casa de Sales, a residence at 1300 Broom Street where 21 boys – all emigres fleeing the Cuban revolution as part of the State Department’s Operation Pedro Pan – lived and attended Salesianum.

Father Byrne was the embodiment of gentle strength, and his ministry as surrogate parent, teacher and friend is credited with helping dozens of Casa residents become successful students and – eventually – citizens through his guidance, discipline and love.

From 1960-64, Salesianum harbored, educated, and formed 21 students into Salesian Gentlemen, including Mike Bezos. They came from an island nation 1,300 miles away and spoke no English. It was an audacious undertaking, but one that aligned closely with Salesianum’s mission and ethos to help those in need. The students of the Casa were embraced by their fellow Salesians and their stories became part of the Salesianum legacy.

Mike summarizes his experience best when he describes Father Byrne’s impact:

We have been blessed in significant ways. One of them, very early on in my refugee life, was to have arrived at Salesianum School and to be part of Casa de Sales where I was surrounded by other young refugees going through the same scary experience. The impact that Father Byrne had on me, as well as on the rest of us at Casa, has lasted a lifetime. To be able to recognize his commitment as a priest, teacher, mentor, and missionary, is a great joy for us. We hope that those who knew Father Byrne and those who identify with Salesianum’s mission will join us in creating opportunities for more students with a variety of backgrounds to attend Salesianum and further enrich the student experience.

In addition to the Fr. Byrne Scholarship, Mike and Jackie will match commitments of $100,000 or more to the endowment over the next three years – up to $2 million – with a goal of inspiring others to provide access to a Salesianum education by establishing scholarships of their own.

Wilmington Mayor, Michael Purzycki, lauded the gift as an achievement for both the city and Salesianum. “The establishment of this scholarship program creates extraordinary and ongoing opportunities for young men to attend Salesianum who might not otherwise have been able to do so due to financial constraints. I am very excited for students from Wilmington who will be eligible and I am most grateful to Jackie and Mike Bezos for their thoughtful and generous decision that will change many young lives forever.”

This extraordinary gift is the second largest in Salesianum’s history, the school’s third eight figure gift in the last eight years, and stands as one of the largest gifts ever made to a Catholic secondary school.

We invite you to learn more about the Rev. James P. Byrne, OSFS Scholarship including the application process by visiting salesianum.org/byrnescholars.

 

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