Catholic Education Champion Robert T. Healey Sr. ’51 to Receive SJU’s Shield of Loyola


PHILADELPHIA (August 28, 2013)
Catholic education advocate Robert T. Healey Sr. ’51 will receive the Shield of Loyola from the Saint Joseph’s University’s Alumni Association at its 33rd annual Alumni Gala Nov. 9 at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Center City Philadelphia.

The SJU Alumni Association’s most prestigious honor, the Shield of Loyola is awarded to a distinguished alumnus who has had remarkable success in their profession, whose life reflects the values of St. Ignatius Loyola and who has demonstrated unparalleled loyalty to the University.

Putting into practice the Ignatian ideals he learned as an undergraduate at Saint Joseph’s, Healey is a recognized leader who has made it his life’s work to help communities preserve and enhance Catholic education.

A graduate of Camden Catholic High School in New Jersey, the 84-year-old Healey began his pursuit of championing Catholic education in 1998 with the launch of the International Education Foundation (IEF), focused on helping children from disadvantaged families attend Catholic schools and public and private universities.

In 2004, Healey and his daughter Christine Healey, MS ’01 created the Catholic School Development Program (CSDP), an off-shoot of the IEF, to address their concern for the sustainability of American Catholic elementary schools.

“Bob Healey and the Healey family, led by Christine’s involvement in the CSDP, are sowers of the fields of Catholic education at all levels – grade school, high school and college,” University President C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J. ’72 said. “Bob wants to empower our children – tomorrow’s men and women – with ambition so they can serve themselves. Out of serving themselves, they serve their brothers and sisters, particularly the less fortunate.”

Healey believes that if Catholic schools were run more like a business, they wouldn’t be closing at the alarming rate of one a day.

Healey’s approach includes a strong and working lay board, a principal CEO type with good leadership skills and an institutional advancement person in each school for fundraising and student recruiting, a model that’s already in place in colleges and private schools.

“If children go through Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school and then attend a place like Saint Joseph’s, they will understand their religion, they will work at it and that will save the Catholic church,” said Healey.

The Diocese of Allentown (Pa.) has employed Healey’s methodology in 70 percent of its schools and it’s paid dividends in the form of an overall five percent enrollment increase.

“Bob takes the Jesuit motto ‘men and women with and for others’ and brings it into the level of the great image of scripture,” Gillespie continued. “Not just giving a person fish, but teaching them how to fish. Bob has developed a vision whereby he is teaching others how to fish, how to pursue their education, how to pursue their passions.”

Healey has been “teaching people to fish” for nearly three decades. In 1985, Healey co-founded and funded Living Bridges International, which facilitated the adoption of economically disadvantaged Mexican children by American families.

Aimed at helping the “poorest of the poor in the poorest part of Mexico,” Healey also supported programs that provided over 2,300 hot meals a day to disadvantaged children and the erection of two schools which educate over 1,100 Mexican children daily.

In 2001, Healey founded the Healey International Relief Foundation (HIRF), a nonprofit organization focused on helping residents of the West African third world country of Sierra Leone.

HIRF provides medical assistance, stocks food banks, provides health care education and clean water, and offers basic essentials for orphaned children.

Healey’s deep-seeded dedication to Catholicism stems from a childhood accident. After darting from between two cars onto a busy Trenton, N.J., street, he was hit by a car and broke his ankle.

Upon his release from the hospital, Healey received a Miraculous Medal from his mother, who said “Wear this all your life and Our Lady will take care of you.”

To this day, Healey continues to wear the token of his devotion around his neck, and for Confirmation he delivers to each of his 11 grandchildren a gold Miraculous Medal with the admonishment of his mother, passing along the tradition to his entire family and others who share his passion for Catholicism.

“God has been very good to me and given me the talents to do these things for others,” Healey said. “And now I have to use these talents for His work. At 70 or 75 years old, people make a decision. They’re going to play golf or sit on a boat for the rest of their life or they’re going to dig in. Well, I decided to dig in. I’m asking God to give me the time to achieve these missions. I’ve got to keep going.”

A practicing attorney for 25 years, Healey co-founded the Viking Yacht Company in 1964 with his older brother, Bill Healey ’51. Bill served as the company’s president, focusing on design, engineering and production, while Bob led the company as its chief executive officer, running the financial side of the company. 

They were able to elevate Viking Yachts to become the world’s top production builder of luxury tournament fishing yachts.

Keeping Viking in the family, Bill Healey’s son Patrick Healey, the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, will succeed his father as president; Robert T. Healey Jr. ’05 will follow in his father’s footsteps, managing the financial side of the business.

Quality workmanship and a long-term vision have led to Viking’s 50-year track record of success that has spawned other business interests related to real estate development, natural resources and financial services.

The 1998 recipient of the SJU Law Alumni Chapter’s Gem Award for exemplary servant leadership, Healey is a member of the SJU Magis and Barbelin Societies. As an undergraduate, Healey was involved in international relations, debate and intramural clubs, as well as the Interracial Justice Commission.

Healey joins an impressive list of Hawks to be honored with the Shield of Loyola, including the five most recent recipients: Michael J. Hagan ’85, Brian Duperreault ’69, The Honorable Michael A. O’Pake ’61, Esq. (deceased), James J. Maguire ’58 and Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D. ’63.

More information about the Shield of Loyola and 33rd Alumni Gala can be found online.

Learn how Healey is working to save struggling Catholic schools in the region.