Prominent Boston College donor and Lynch School namesake Carolyn Lynch passed away Thursday at the age of 69, two weeks after receiving a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. In 1999, Peter and Carolyn Lynch donated $10 million to what was then known as the BC School of Education. Mary Brabeck, the dean at the time, used a common biblical analogy to explain the effect the Lynches’ donation would have: if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he’ll eat for life, and can teach others as well. At the time, the gift was the largest BC had ever received.
The next year, the School of Education was renamed the Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch School of Education to honor the Lynches. In 2009, Carolyn Lynch received an honorary degree from the University.
“I am deeply grateful to Carolyn for her vision and generosity in supporting education and her dedication to improving educational and life outcomes for children,” said Maureen Kenny, dean of LSOE.
In 1988, the Lynch Foundation was started by Carolyn, who served as president, and Peter, who serves as treasurer. The Foundation sees giving as an investment, and it primarily supports educational programs, like the Parents Alliance for Catholic Education and St. Joseph Preparatory High School.
The Lynch Leadership Academy was established in 2010 following a gift from the Lynches. Its goal is to strengthen leadership for those in middle- and early-education, offering about 30 fellowships each year to aspiring or current principals.
“I am deeply grateful to Carolyn for her vision and generosity in supporting education and her dedication to improving educational and life outcomes for children.”
-Maureen Kenny, dean of the Lynch School of Education
In addition, Lynch served as a board member for the Campus School. One of Lynch’s greatest contributions to the school of education was her ability to connect BC with the local community, said Rev. Joseph O’Keefe, S.J., who served as dean of LSOE from 2005 until 2011. During this time, he was instrumental in setting up the Lynch Leadership Academy.
“In that sense, I think her funding provided a lot of bridge building,” he said.
When not working to further education, Carolyn quietly gained five national titles on the bridge circuit. She was a “grand life master,” the highest ranking in the American Bridge League. She played about an hour or two online each day, and spent nine weeks out of the year traveling to tournaments. Earlier this spring, she told The Boston Globe that she found her success surprising.
“I’m really pretty happy with my life, but I’ve never done anything I’m really great at,” Carolyn said. “I’ve always been kind of average, so it’s odd to be 60-something-years-old and find out you’re good at something.”
In the educational sector, O’Keefe said Carolyn was passionate about bringing together people from disparate sectors of education—charter schools, or private schools—and encouraging a common agenda for children and education. BC acted as a broker and built bridges between these communities, with the help of Carolyn, he said.
Both of Carolyn’s parents were teachers, and her father was also a principal, so she grew up immersed in education. Her husband, Peter, had a father who taught at BC, but then died young. After BC gave him the tuition he needed to continue, he also developed a commitment to education. Together, the two Lynches had the necessary background and commitment, O’Keefe said.
“They were both very dedicated to the archdiocese and the church, and the works of the church, especially the church that serves poor people,” he said. “That was a passion for both of them. What better way to do that than an education?”
The couple was also among the first supporters of Teach For America, Partners in Health, and City Year. In addition to the University, they donated to the New England Conservatory of Music, the Catholic Schools Foundation, and the Museum of Fine Arts, among others.
“When all is said and done, she was a person of great faith,” O’Keefe said. “Both her and Peter were blessed with a great marriage, three wonderful daughters. As sad as it is—69 is not old—but a life well-lived in that sense. So, yes, it’s very sad, and sad for the people she leaves behind, but you know, you mourned her death but you can celebrate her life.”
The Lynch School will continue her legacy through its dedication to prepare teachers, leaders, and researchers in education, Kenny said.
At the dedication of the Lynch School in 2000, University President William P. Leahy, S.J., presented the couple with a plaque that names the Lynches as advocates of education and dedicated friends to Catholic schools.
“We are a community involved in this work of education,” Leahy said at the dedication. “We are all striving to do our part to make our society an even better place.”
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