Moody Foundation awards $5 million to O’Connell College Preparatory

February 26, 2013

GALVESTON — O’Connell College Preparatory School has been awarded a $5 million grant by Galveston’s Moody Foundation.
“There is no higher investment than in the education of our community’s young people,” said O’Connell Principal Patti Abbott. “The Moody Foundation has made a significant difference for Galveston County with this grant, which will yield lasting benefits for our students, their parents and our community.”

The oldest Catholic school in Texas, O’Connell offers four years of college preparatory education for a student body that currently numbers 108 students. Over the past three years, 100 percent of its graduates have been accepted into colleges or universities, and they have earned a total of $3 million in grants, scholarships and awards to finish their education.

Students and their parents will see the results of the grant almost immediately. Renovation of the building at 1320 Tremont St. will begin soon and is scheduled for completion by fall.

Initial projects include roof repairs, kitchen and restroom upgrades, interior and exterior facelifts, technology upgrades and improvements to sports facilities — including equipment, locker rooms and the practice field. 

“Our kitchen never fully re-opened after the 2008 hurricane,” Abbott said, “and the ability to prepare and serve wholesome meals once again will be a major improvement. Our main building dates back to 1847, and accommodating state-of-the-art science and technology advances will enhance capabilities for our students and faculty.”

In addition to the immediate physical improvements, part of the Moody Foundation grant will be used to keep tuition competitive with other private schools as well as provide scholarships for deserving students.

“Our class sizes are small, some as low as eight students per faculty member, with none higher than 15 students,” she said, “so operational expenses like salaries, science and technology upgrades and continued facility improvements may be higher than traditional high schools. Operational support from the endowment fund will also help us continue to recruit gifted faculty members.”

Long term, the grant will create the O’Connell’s Moody Endowment Fund to meet future needs, which will help recruit faculty and students who will want to know that the college preparatory curriculum will survive economic challenges in the future.

O’Connell traces its history to the 1800s and early 1900s, when Galveston had three Catholic high schools: Ursuline Academy for Girls, Kirwin High School (boys) and Dominican High School (girls). The three were merged into a single co-educational school in 1968, and currently O’Connell is the only Roman Catholic secondary school in Galveston County, drawing students from Mainland Galveston County as well as from Galveston Island. 

Student recruitment is currently underway for the 2013-2014 academic year, with a target of increasing enrollment by 17 percent.

“The Moody Foundation grant is essential to our future,” Abbott said, “but so is the recruitment of well-motivated and bright students whose parents understand the lasting value of our college preparatory curriculum. We have had solid turnout for our informational sessions and entrance exams so far, and prospects for a talented and successful Class of 2017 are very, very good.”

The Moody Foundation was founded in 1942 by prominent Galvestonians W.L. Moody, Jr. and his wife, Libbie Rice Shearn Moody, “to benefit in perpetuity present and future generations of Texans,” a mission that has been upheld by subsequent generations of the Moody family. The foundation’s assets are now approximately $1 billion.

The Moody Foundation has a long history of funding local educational opportunities. In addition to numerous grants to educational institutions, the foundation’s Moody Scholars program has provided partial college financial assistance to qualified Galveston County high school graduates since 1969. To date the program has awarded more than $10 million in scholarship support to more than 4,000 Moody Scholars.