Chapter VIII: Seed Money
Where would we get the money to buy the site? We would need $30,000 cash for the entire Salmon tract, $10,000 cash as down payment on the Parks tract. Knowing our need of an office, a secretary, and some furniture, I tacked on another $5,000 as an immediate need. This was in August 1947.
Where, then, could I turn for $45,000? Through the Christian Culture Lectures, the Stadium Campaign, and the Aquinas Men's Club I had come to know one of Rochester's most genial bankers. He was John W. Jardine, president of the Genesee Valley Trust Company. I first met John and his wife Alma through Harry B. Crowley, Sr. and Margaret Crowley. The Crowleys had two sons at Aquinas. Jack Jardine and Harry Crowley could be depended upon for anything Catholic, civic or cultural in Rochester! Both had helped organize the Aquinas Stadium Drive. I counted them among my dearest friends.
It was to John Jardine's office at Exchange Street and Broad Street that I went for our needed dollars. He was graciousness personified as he listened to my wants and their urgency. We would need a short term loan of $45,000. We had nothing to offer as collateral. We intended to have a campaign. The first moneys we received in it would go to pay off the loan, likely by January of 1948. It was Jack's turn to talk. "We will give it to you, the moment you want it." There was no further discussion except pleasantries about the people we knew in the city.
No more than a half an hour was spent that day with John Jardine. I left him, greeted my good friend Joe Weber at his bank desk, then sauntered out on the street fortified in spirit by such a quick and generous response. Jack Jardine's treatment of us was a confirmation of my feeling that the Protestant leaders of the Rochester community would be with us. We were to meet the same kind of generous cooperation many times in the next few months.
At this point, lest I forget, I should record a sequel to the Jardine story. When we started to get the money in, I opened an account at the Security Trust Company and deposited our first few thousand dollars. Emmet Finucane was president of Security. He was an important counsel for me. Emmet had been in on every Rochester campaign to better the city: YMCA, Community Chest, and numerous hospital campaigns. I had designs on him to act as Chairman of our Special Gifts sections. He declined but promised every assistance. "Whom would you suggest then?" I asked. With no hesitation he gave me the name of Otto Shults. Otto accepted. More of him later.
The banks of Rochester gave to campaigns on a scale or formula based on assets and their business. Emmet Finucane agreed to handle the Rochester Clearing House donation. So it was that one cold winter day Emmet and I went from bank to bank to explain the cause. Cold as it was, he was bareheaded as we walked the financial district of the city. Only one, a minor bank, put up any kind of resistance. As we walked in, Emmet whispered, "Say nothing. Let me do the talking, this man can be tough," He was. On the street outside I remarked that that prospect was not likely to come through. Emmet replied that we need not worry. He would see to that. He did, Soon the checks came through for either $25,000 or $30,000 from the Rochester banks. Whichever figure, it was almost exactly what we had hoped for.
It was my closeness to Emmet Finucane that prompted me to make our first deposits in the Security Trust. We had deposited some $300,000 when I heard via the grapevine that John Jardine was wondering why his bank was not used. We started then (Emmet being agreeable) to deposit some funds in the Genesee Valley Trust Company. I can't recall how much but I do know the amount was substantial. In the hurry and hustle of the campaign, I had overlooked the very bank which got us started. It pained me. Jack Jardine, great and gracious as always, accepted my apology.
We purchased both parcels of land in August 1947. The local Gannett newspapers and Catholic Courier-journal carried diagrams of the plot with detailed descriptions of the property.
Up to the end of August 1947 I had no downtown office. I practically lived in the green Pontiac, ranging all over the city from our Aquinas residence. At least two trips to Syracuse to talk to-the Jesuits at newly founded LeMoyne College provided much information on their beginning. The Franciscans had founded Siena College near Albany, New York. They were most gracious hosts for at least two visits. One impression I gleaned from Siena College was the futility of spending, in the beginning at least, large sums of money on a gymnasium. It seemed that their new gym was pretty much a practice spot for the varsity five. Few of the general student body, at least when I was there, used the structure. I envisioned some athletic facility for St. John Fisher, but at this point it was quite remote. Certainly we needed the essentials first, classrooms, labs, offices, library.
I visited several other colleges. Of all of them, the one that engaged my fancy most was Cornell. "Far above Cayuga's waters" was for me more than the opening of their alma mater song. It evoked visions of our new college high above East Avenue and Fairport Road.
On a visit to LeMoyne in Syracuse, I learned that Father James P. Sweeney, S.J., a former provincial of the Jesuits who got that college started, was then stationed at Canisius College in Buffalo. He and another Jesuit, a librarian, Father Andrew L. Bouwhuis, S.J., did much of the spade work at Syracuse, including architects and campaign. Others then moved in to take over and those two spade men went to Buffalo where I had some rewarding talks with them. One admonition Father Sweeny gave me: "Be sure to have your superior general release you to work full time on the project. It is a tremendous undertaking." I told Father McCorkell, our superior general, about it. He laughed it off, but he did send over a young priest to relieve me of my chemistry teaching at Aquinas Institute.
Bishop Kearney always opened the school year in early September at Aquinas. In 1947, I drove him back to his office at 50 Chestnut Street. We had previously agreed that getting Father John S. Randall to be campaign manager was a simple "must." I pulled up alongside the Columbus Civic Center to let the Bishop out when both of us saw Father Randall crossing the street behind the Sagamore Hotel. The Bishop signaled him to come to the car. "Pete" Randall, as we affectionately called him, had already established himself as an unusually competent helper of the Bishop. He listened to the Bishop's request. "Think about it and let us know soon" was the gist of the talk. In a day or so Pete said "Yes." I felt then that we were in business.