A 1956 graduate of Worcester's College of the Holy Cross has made a $25-million donation to the school, designating the gift to build a new performance arts facility on campus.
The donation, from Cornelius B. Prior Jr., who is chairman of the board of Beverly-based telecommunications services company Atlantic Tel-Network Inc., is the largest in the school's 170-year history and was announced at an event at Holy Cross Wednesday.
Prior, a long-time supporter of the arts who lives in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, said he and the college are in talks to determine specifically how to use the funds.
Prior said his father, who graduated from Holy Cross in 1923, inspired him to study music, theater and fine arts at the college in the 1950s.
"My hope is that this gift creates a visible and integrated way for my grandson Benjamin Ritter, a freshman at Holy Cross today, and for all Holy Cross students, to experience the arts during their four years here," he said.
Holy Cross president, the Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, said, "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. His generosity will have a transformative effect on our work and is a tremendous statement of support in our mission and leadership."
The campus already has performances spaces that include Brooks Concert Hall, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, and Fenwick Theatre.
Prior's latest gift is not his first. In 1998, he made a $5-million donation to the school to establish one professorship each in fine arts, history and humanities. At the time, that gift was the largest donation Holy Cross had received. Prior made a second $5-million donation in 2006, celebrating his 50th class reunion. That expanded the professorship endowments. He's sponsored other gifts to the school as well and was a member of the board of trustees from 1997-2005. Prior now serves on the college's advisory board.
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