Campus History: Brophy’s founding donation nearly given to U of A

By Garrison Murphy ’15

Many members of the Brophy community are familiar with the story of the school’s founding, but most are not likely to know a Jesuit institution was not the original plan for Mrs. William Henry Brophy’s $250,000 donation.

Only two years before Brophy’s 1928 founding did Mrs. Brophy decide to fund a Jesuit institution. The original destination for the money she inherited from her late husband was the University of Arizona, according to school records.

The change of heart was caused when Mrs. Brophy’s friend and spiritual advisor, the Rev. Father Henry Welch, S.J, spoke to her about creating a Jesuit school in Arizona.

Fr. Welch was told by the Rev. Father Felix Rossetti, S.J. to suggest funding a Jesuit school instead of the U of A.

Records indicate that the source of the idea for Brophy’s founding wasn’t either of these Jesuits though, but Mr. George T. Babbitt, Jr. At Brophy’s 50th anniversary Babbitt said he had suggested to his friend, Fr. Rossetti, in passing that the money should go to a Jesuit school. Rossetti then forwarded the idea to Fr. Welch.

Even after the building plans were made Mrs. Brophy encountered problems as the Diocese of Phoenix barred Jesuits from operating a parish within city limits. This forced Brophy to be built at its current location, which at the time was outside of Phoenix city limits, according to Director of Alumni Relations the Rev.  Father Phil Postell, S.J, and the Rev Father Harry Olivier, S.J.

Two years later, an article in The Arizona Republican read, “They (the Jesuits) are coming back to Arizona,” as it had not been since 1769 when King Carlos III of Spain expelled them, that the Jesuits had stepped foot in the North American Southwest.

Adjusted for inflation, Mrs. Brophy’s original donation would equate to about $3.3 million today.