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BC High lands $49 million donation to build wellness center

The donation is largest in Dorchester school’s history, and BC High says the largest ever to a Catholic secondary school.

Patrick Cadigan's foundation has donated $49 million to Boston College High School.Rendering courtesy of BC High

Patrick Cadigan’s career took off after he left Massachusetts for California, just a few years out of college, to oversee sales and marketing at an electronics company known as EECO. He became its chief executive, and later amassed a fortune as a real estate investor in Orange County. But Cadigan never forgot his roots in the Boston area.

The latest example: Cadigan’s family foundation has agreed to give $49 million to Boston College High School on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester to build a 50,000-square-foot fitness center to be dubbed the Cadigan Wellness Complex. Cadigan died in 2020 at the age of 85, but he ensured that BC High, where he graduated in 1952, was among the schools eligible for donations from his foundation. He has also been a major donor to Boston College, where he received his bachelor’s degree.


This donation is the single largest gift in BC High’s 159-year-history, and BC High says it’s the biggest donation given to any Catholic secondary school in New England. Cadigan gave BC High $12 million in 2012 for an arts and recreation center, which was the school’s largest donation at the time.

The gift also follows two other sizable donations from BC High alums: $2.5 million in March from John Murphy for a new stadium, and $5 million in 2020 from Jack Shields to establish an innovation center.

The new wing’s full name will be the Patrick F. Cadigan ‘52 Family Foundation Wellness Complex, and it will go up on the school’s east side, adjacent to the McNeice Pavilion and the Murphy Family Stadium. The $49 million donation should cover the full cost of the expansion as well as the establishment of an endowment to pay for its upkeep, BC High president Grace Cotter Regan said.

Construction would start in early 2023 and take about two years. The new facility will replace the school’s weight-training area and adjacent lockers, but will also include new amenities, most notably an eight-lane, 25-meter pool. The two-story complex, which will bring the school’s total size to 535,000 square feet when complete, will also include a “wellness kitchen” to help students learn more about nutrition.


Regan said Cadigan, who grew up in Cambridge, believed in the importance of the well-rounded student, “mind-body-soul,” who emphasizes physical fitness as well as academic rigor.

“As we met with the Cadigan foundation, they asked us what the dream was, and we shared the dream,” Regan said. “It will be really transformative. It finishes the campus from an aesthetic and space perspective.”

Maria Cadigan said her father had a modest upbringing as the child of Irish immigrants. But he also had a moral commitment to philanthropy and a desire to show young people that they too can be successful regardless of where they grew up or their parents’ income. She said of the new complex: “This is to be an inspiration for those who come from modest means, that you can be anything.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.