Pat Cadigan, a Cambridge native and the son of Irish immigrants, went from helping his father run an Inman Square bar to leading several high-tech companies in California, and he credits his Jesuit education at Boston College and Boston College High School for helping him succeed.
Now Cadigan, 77, of Corona del Mar, Calif., is thanking both institutions in a big way - by donating $15 million to BC for a new alumni center and $12 million to BC High for an arts and recreation building, both of which will bear his name.
The gift to BC High is the largest donation in its history and is believed the largest ever to a Catholic secondary school in New England, BC and BC High officials said Monday in a joint statement.
Speaking from his home Monday, Cadigan praised his instructors at both institutions.
“They talked about nobility in all your dealings,’’ Cadigan said. “And that hard work itself is noble . . . They taught us self-reliance and to make something of ourselves in high school, and you were kind of a boob if you didn’t do what you were supposed to.’’
The new Cadigan Hall at BC High will add space for the school’s fine arts program and a gymnasium for the middle school, officials said.
Bill Kemeza, president of BC High, said Cadigan Hall is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.
Kemeza said the Jesuit education offered to the roughly 1,600 boys at BC High - in grades 7 to 12 - instills curiosity and trains students to seek God’s presence in all areas of life, including politics, the arts, and scientific advances.
“Pat is really a good example’’ of that training, Kemeza said. “He has that sort of energy and joy and engagement in life.’’
That education served him well during a career that took him in the 1960s to California, where he initially oversaw sales and marketing for the Electronic Engineering Company of California. He later rose to become the company’s president, a post he held for nearly 20 years.
Cadigan later served as chairman and chief executive of several public companies, including Gateway Communications Inc. and Linear Instruments Corp. He is the largest private real estate holder in Orange County, Monday’s statement said.
But Cadigan has never forgotten his Boston-area roots and on Monday recalled his father’s bar, which was officially known as the Celtic Cafe. Many patrons simply called it Cadigan’s.
“Someone said it was an Irish bar, but [my father] was pretty ecumenical,’’ Cadigan said. “Anybody could come in there.’’
He also recalled competing as a shotputter on the BC High track-and-field team and as a tackle on the football team.
His gift to Boston College has funded most of the construction costs for the Cadigan Alumni Center, which is slated to open formally on June 29. It will host graduates who return to campus for volunteer meetings, seminars, alumni events, and parent receptions, school officials said.
Rev. William P. Leahy, president of BC, said the center will provide a central location for alumni activities, making outreach efforts more efficient.
“But more important is the message it sends to our alumni, that they have a special place to gather on our campus,’’ Leahy said.
Cadigan, a 1957 graduate of BC, said Monday that while the Boston area holds a special place in his heart, there is one thing he does not miss.
“I love Boston, but the overcast [skies] and the snow just killed me,’’ he said. “It’s a shame, because if the weather was different, I bet half the people in the country would go there.’’