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Holy Cross alumnus inspired to give college $32.5M

Posted By June 19, 2015 | 12:42 pm | Local

An alumnus of the College of the Holy Cross and his wife have given $32.5 million to the college, the largest single gift in its history, Jesuit Father Philip L. Boroughs, Holy Cross president, announced this week.
The gift was made by John E.  Luth, Class of 1974, and his wife, Dr. Joanne Chouinard-Luth. They designed the gift to help expand and renovate the Hart Center athletic facility and convert the field house into a state-on-the-art student recreation center, according to a press release from the college.
Most of the money will be used in conjunction with other funds for the Hart Center project. In addition, $7.5 million of the gift will be used for the field house project.
According to the college, Mr. Luth was inspired to make the gift after an anonymous donor gave $15 million for the $87 million cost of the Hart Center project. The Luth gift means that the college has gifts and pledges totaling $52 million for the Hart Center. If gifts and pledges for that project reach $60 million by September, the college said, the anonymous donor will give another $5 million. That will allow the school to break ground for the expansion in the spring.
According to the college, plans for the Hart Center include “a year-round indoor practice field that will benefit all field sports; and an auxiliary gymnasium to provide more space for basketball and volleyball practice and competition. “The college will also expand sports medicine and strength and conditioning areas and equipment to service 750 student-athletes. The plans call for locker rooms, team meeting rooms, and office space for all teams, consistent with a Division I program,” the release said.
In addition, the college said, it “will completely revamp the aging field house, and create a top-flight recreation complex for the entire student body, featuring basketball courts, exercise studios, weight training rooms, new shower and locker space, and centers for a wide assortment of health, wellness and fitness programming.”
These projects are part of the college’s comprehensive campaign, “Become More: Campaign for the Future of Holy Cross.” That campaign is gaining momentum, raising more than $200 million toward its goal of $400 million, the college stated.
Mr. Luth is founding partner, chief executive officer and chairman of Seabury Group, a global advisory and investment company specializing in aviation, aerospace, financial services, and data service and software related to those industries.
Previously, he was a chief financial officer and senior vice president of Continental Airlines. Before that he held several executive positions with Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company. He began his career with Exxon Corporation’s Treasurer’s Department.
A native of Missouri and one of 10 children, he majored in economics at Holy Cross and graduated magna cum laude in 1974. He received a master’s degree in business administration in 1976 from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He played varsity soccer at Holy Cross which, as a walk-on, he said, was “a dream come true.”
He served on the Holy Cross Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2013 and joined the Advisory Board in 2013.  He was a member of the regional campaign committee of the previous comprehensive campaign, “Lift High the Cross.” Last year, he co-chaired the reunion gift effort for the Class of 1974.
His wife Joanne graduated magna cum laude in biology in 1975 from Newton College of the Sacred Heart, which merged with Boston College. She received a D.M.D. in dental medicine in 1979 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and a master’s degree in public health in 1987 from the University of Illinois School of Public Health.
The Luths have established a charitable foundation “to promote global awareness of nutrition’s fundamental importance to every individual’s quality of life,” according to the college press release.
Regarding the gift, Father Boroughs said: “I continue to be incredibly moved by the passion and loyalty of the Holy Cross community. Since the start of  (the “Become More: Campaign for the Future of Holy Cross”)  we have received three gifts at or above $25 million.
“John and Joanne’s example of leadership and support—to help expand, renovate and update our athletics facilities—enhances an essential element of the Jesuit educational mission to educate the whole person. It is important that our athletics facilities and program reflect the same standard of excellence we expect in everything we do at Holy Cross. I am grateful for the Luths’ generosity and that of our anonymous donor whose timing inspired them.”
Commenting on his gift to the college, Luth said: “My years at Holy Cross were truly transformational for me, and I am grateful to be in a position to pay forward to the Holy Cross community for the many kindnesses given to me, particularly by the Jesuit order.
“My Holy Cross education provided me with significant advantages that allowed me to achieve success in so many ways beyond just the business world.  As a former Holy Cross trustee, I know that the college’s mission remains riveted on developing ‘the whole person,’ not just academically, which the college has excelled at since its founding 172 years ago.
“Jo’s and my gift is a strong endorsement that now is the time for the college to make a significant investment in building state-of-the-art athletic facilities to further that mission.”