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Investing in Students – The Howley Foundation Provides Access for Saint Ignatius Students & Welsh Academy Students Alike

Originally published in the Saint Ignatius Magazine (Fall 2022)

Nick and Lorie Howley know the value—and impact—of a quality, character-shaping education. A successful businessman and alumnus of St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia, Nick discerned that his family could change the arc of young people’s lives through intentional giving.

Howley is the oldest of eight children, all of whom grew up in Philadelphia in Catholic schools. “I like to say [the Jesuits] put the hook in deep,” says Howley. “I started to think about what I should do with the money I made, and the principles they taught me.”

Nick is Founder and Executive Chairman of Transdigm Group, Inc., a conglomerate of companies that produce or supply aerospace equipment that has a $50 billion New York Stock Exchange market value. He and Lorie started the Howley Foundation in 2001 with a focus on providing scholarships to students who have demonstrated financial need but also show academic potential and drive. In those 21 years, they have given tens of millions of dollars to meet this goal, as well as expand and support select school networks, and related opportunities.

That support has grown at Saint Ignatius, where for years students have been recipients of Howley scholarships. Now, the foundation is also supporting boys through The Welsh Academy. “We recognize that for any high school it can often be challenging to make sure you have the right pipeline of students coming in,” says PJ Reindel ’97, who serves as Executive Director of the Howley Foundation.

“It’s a really good sign to us that the school has set up this middle school to try and increase the number of students from the local area into the high school.”

Although their foundation’s work is not exclusive to Catholic schools, Howley says they believe strongly in the education and preparation for life that parochial schools so often deliver. “A faith-based organization has character formation, and we just feel very good that we’ve been able to help somebody, and we hope to continue to expand it,” he says.

Reindel says, “What we look for in schools in terms of opportunities to invest, not just in the schools but in the students, we’re looking for places that are going to instill some good values, and Catholic education by and large has been the biggest delivery method for that in the U.S. for the last century.”

As part of their work, the Howleys and Reindel like to make visits to the many schools they support, to meet the students who benefit from their support and hear about their school experience. Reindel is a former high school teacher and says that those encounters are some of the best parts of his job.

“I love that interaction,” he says. “The young men at Ignatius have always been incredibly respectful. They kind of remind me of a really high-quality networking professional interaction. They always look you in the eye, shake your hand, introduce themselves, ask good questions. That means something. It shows the school is preparing them for life beyond high school and outside of high school. Each and every one of them is very sincere about how much the scholarship means to them.”

“At Saint Ignatius, the students we have met we have been impressed with,” says Howley. “The retention and college placement have been impressive. We feel pretty good about it; they’re very similar to the groups of students we meet at St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia.”

More than 700 students across the country at any given time are beneficiaries of Howley Foundation scholarships, and 85 to 90 percent of those are in Catholic schools. Nick believes so much in the power of Catholic education as a means to change a student’s life that he served as Chairman of the Cristo Rey Network, which includes 39 Catholic, college preparatory schools that serve more than 14,000 economically disadvantaged students across 25 states.

“We think we’re doing good work for a lot of young people for whom, particularly, the best ticket out of poverty, the best way to upgrade your situation is education, and we feel very strongly about that,” Howley says.