Fritz B. Burns Foundation Blesses College with $3 Million Grant for Financial Aid
December 4, 2023
One morning last week, Thomas Aquinas College President Paul J. O’Reilly received an unexpected but welcome phone call. Two longtime friends of the College, Maureen Rawlinson and Cheryl Robinson, trustees of the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, would be in the area. Would he be free for a visit?
Within a few hours and after lunch with several students, Mrs. Rawlinson and Mrs. Robinson presented Dr. O’Reilly with a $3 million check for the Fritz B. Burns Endowed Scholarship, which supports student financial aid at Thomas Aquinas College.
“We were delighted to welcome Maureen and Cheryl to campus and thrilled by their happy news,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “The Fritz B. Burns Foundation has been steadfast in its support of the College for more than 50 years. This latest grant is but the most recent example in a long history of tremendous generosity.”
Honoring the Legacy of Fritz B. Burns
Since the late Fritz B. Burns signed his first check to the College in 1971, its founding year, the foundation that carries on his legacy has consistently made ever-greater grants in support of TAC and its students. “Fritz Burns was involved in the founding of Thomas Aquinas College, so it is very special to us,” says Mrs. Rawlinson. “He admired the College and the kind of education it stands for: classical, traditional, concerned for the whole person, mind, body, and spirit.”
Indeed, adds Mrs. Rawlinson’s husband, Rex — president of the Fritz B. Burns Foundation — the College offers precisely the sort of education that Mr. Burns would have sought for himself, had it been available in his student days.
“He only spent one year in college at the University of Minnesota, before joining the Army in World War I,” says Mr. Rawlinson. “He then spent a year at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance, where he learned everything that college could teach him at the time. But if he had TAC to go to, he might have discovered there’s more that the College could teach him, things he had to learn on his own.”
The housing magnate and philanthropist was “a true renaissance man,” adds Mr. Rawlinson — a voracious reader, a lover of classical music, and a gifted poet who sprinkled verses into his speeches. He would be delighted to see how the college he helped establish has flourished over the last half century, “how it has developed and its acquisition of bicoastal campuses.”
The Fritz B. Burns Endowed Scholarship
Over the years, the Fritz B. Burns Foundation has provided funding for St. Junipero Serra residence hall, Albertus Magnus Science Hall, St. Thomas Hall (faculty and administration), and Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, as well as, more recently, full funding for St. Gladys Hall (classrooms), St. Cecilia Lecture and Concert Hall, and the Pope St. John Paul II Athletic Center on the California campus.
“We’re always confident that when we make a gift to TAC, they’re going to complete the project, going to do it at the best possible cost, and get it done in a reasonable time,” says Mr. Rawlinson. “It’s going to be beautiful, and it’s going to contribute to the mission of the College. When you set foot on one of the campuses, you just feel like you’re at a place where you should be studying and contemplating eternal things.”
Two years ago, the Foundation established the Fritz B. Burns Endowed Scholarship, which provides funding for the College’s nationally recognized financial aid program. With the $3 million grant that Mrs. Rawlinson and Mrs. Robinson hand delivered last Tuesday, the Endowed Scholarship now exceeds $6.5 million. It is the College’s single largest named endowment, generating sufficient interest to meet the financial aid needs of 10 to 20 students each year.
“Having contributed so extensively toward the building of the College, the Fritz B. Burns Foundation is now also going above and beyond to make attendance at the College possible for our students,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “We are profoundly grateful for the friendship that Mr. Burns established all those years ago, and for the faithful, generous support of his foundation and its officers ever since.”