By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
EDDYSTONE – Cardinal Justin Rigali was in the Doghouse on Wednesday, Nov, 19 – but just visiting. The Doghouse happens to be the Eddystone home of the St. James High School Alumni Association, the group that keeps alive the spirit of St. James High School for Boys, Chester (1940-1993) with tenacity worthy of the old school’s mascot, the bulldog.
On that particular day the Bridge Foundation, based in Harrisburg, presented a $40,000 check to the Alumni Association. It will fund scholarships for Delaware County students to attend Cardinal O’Hara, Msgr. Bonner, Archbishop Prendergast, West Catholic, or Roman Catholic High Schools.
The donation was funded by CSX Corp. as part of the Pennsylvania state-sponsored Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.
“In society today we have so many challenges, so much violence, this is really a wonderful ray of sunshine,” the Cardinal told the group. “This is something so positive with real effects in the lives of our young people.”
This was the third year for the CSX donation, according to Michael Ritz, class of 1971 and president of the Alumni Association. Over the past 15 years since the school’s closing, Ritz estimated the Alumni Association has provided almost $400,000 in scholarship aid to high school students.
At this time the annual inspanidual grant is $2,000, which the students receive for four years, with a requirement that they maintain at least a C average and perform 40 hours of community service each year. The alumni provide five or six four-year scholarships each year, he said, and now a total of 23 students are receiving the grants.
“It’s our perpetual memorial to support the Church,” Ritz said.
In addition to the EITC funds, the scholarships benefit from direct donations by the 1,500 members and friends of the Alumni Association, which is slowly building up an endowment fund that should continue to supply funding to Catholic schools long after the last graduate of St. James passes on.
St. James High School itself was founded through a $100,000 bequest for that purpose left by a Chester priest, Father James Timmons, who died in 1929. For a school that graduated fewer than 10,000 students over half a century ago, it has kept a loyal following.
Ritz recalls he wanted to go to public high school, but his parents insisted he try St. James first. Within the first week of his freshman year he fell in love with the school.
“The education received, the traditions and the values carried over,” he said.
In addition to the St. James grant, EITC grants funneled through the Bridge Foundation were awarded to other schools at the Doghouse ceremony. Donor companies included Enterprise Rent-A-Car and RBC Capital Markets, with grants benefiting students at Drexel-Neumann Academy, Chester; St. Cyril of Alexandria School, East Lansdowne; Notre Dame de Lourdes School, Wallingford; St. John Chrysostom School, Swarthmore; and St. Philomena School, Lansdowne.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.