Foundations and Donors Interested in Activities (FADICA), the leading network of Catholic philanthropists in the U.S., has chosen B.J. Cassin, of Los Altos, as the 2019 recipient of its Saint Katharine Drexel Award for exemplary contributions to Catholic philanthropy.
Cassin’s philanthropy has been instrumental in making Catholic education across the U.S. more accessible, especially through the innovative Cristo Rey Network model. The announcement comes as Catholic schools throughout the nation celebrate National Catholic Schools Week, January 27 through February 2.
The Saint Katharine Drexel Award is named after foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and patron saint of philanthropy. Saint Katharine inherited her wealth, which she spent her lifetime giving away, particularly to build schools and support access to quality education for African Americans and Native Americans.
B.J. Cassin founded and chaired the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation (CEIF), launched in 2000 to establish private, college preparatory middle and high schools in economically-challenged communities throughout the U.S. CEIF provided start-up funds for 18 Cristo Rey High Schools and 37 Nativity Miguel Middle Schools.
Most recently, B.J. co-founded The Drexel Fund (named after Saint Katharine Drexel), a national fund providing start-up capital and advisory support for new, high-quality, financially sustainable faith-based and private schools like Cristo Rey Network schools.
The Cristo Rey model is an innovative and proven Catholic middle and high school model for low-income students. The model provides rigorous academics and a corporate work study program that equips students with corporate employment skills and the means to fund their education. Cristo Rey graduates are three times more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree by age 24 than their peers in the same socio-economic situation.
“B.J. carries Saint Katharine Drexel’s philanthropic spirit and legacy forward in our time,” says Alexia Kelley, President and CEO of FADICA. “B.J. invited multiple partners, including corporate employers, to participate in Cristo Rey’s innovative model – all to help students reach their potential. He invested in the network early and brought the model to scale across the country, spreading its effectiveness and impact.”
Cassin’s investment in the Cristo Rey Network that helped establish 35 schools was a pivotal milestone for the Cristo Rey Network, says Father John Foley, S.J., Chair Emeritus and Chief Mission Officer of the Cristo Rey Network in Chicago, Ill. “The investments of the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation altered the history and projection of the Cristo Rey Network,” he says.
“B.J. along with his wife Bebe have always been in favor of ‘leveling the playing field’ in education. They have a passion for providing educational opportunities to young people who often get denied the chance to use and maximize their gifts in the world. B.J. does not hesitate when there is an opportunity to provide young people a chance.”
Cassin is the second honoree of the Saint Katharine Drexel Award, established in 2017 when it was awarded to Sister Sally Duffy, SC. Cassin will receive the award at FADICA’s annual meeting February 8 in Santa Monica.