BK Foundation History

In the mid-1970’s, many Catholic school throughout Idaho were struggling, including Bishop Kelly High School.  In 1975, Father Wilson, then principal of BK, began to look at other successful Catholic high schools, particularly those that were thriving in the East. He tried to pinpoint the reason why they were doing so well when Bishop Kelly, was struggling with keeping up enrollment.  The difference was a viable endowment administered by a foundation. He also had compiled statistics to show that Bishop Kelly’s tuition was much lower than that of other Catholic schools in the Northwest, yet the school was unable to bring up enrollment figures.  Father reasoned that if they could establish a foundation and perhaps come up with a successful fundraiser, the school could keep tuition low and still not have to worry about closing its doors.

Thirteen prominent Boiseans, seven Catholics and six non-Catholics, were invited to dinner at Hillcrest Country Club, hosted by W. Larry Mills, to discuss the state of affairs at Bishop Kelly. After listening to Father Wilson’s vision, Sam Kaufman, a respected local attorney, summarized the situation when he said, “It seems to me that we have two needs here – one immediate and one long range.  We must address the immediate needs of the school to make sure it does not close and we have to find a way to ensure its long term security”.  This was exactly what Father had in mind, and the other thirteen people assembled there enthusiastically agreed.  Thus, the Bishop Kelly Foundation was born.  The founders and charter members were:

  • James E. Bruce, Jr. (St. Teresa’s ‘37)
  • William R. Chandler
  • Lyle R. Cobbs
  • Anton E. Dropping
  • Samuel Kaufman, Jr.
  • Jack Kennevick
  • Richard L. Larson
  • John W. Leonard
  • Glenn A. Lungren
  • W. Larry Mills
  • Joseph A. Moore
  • J. Kirk Sullivan
  • George P. Wolter, Jr.
  • Reverend James R. Wilson

Once the Bishop Kelly Foundation had been incorporated in 1976, attention turned to (1) developing a fundraiser that could generate funds for the short term and (2) to establish an endowment for the school’s future security.  In 1977, the first dinner/auction was held at the Downtowner Motel in Boise.  It raised an astounding $56,000.  After two successful auctions, Foundation Board member, Glenn Lungren, returned from a trip to California with an idea to distinguish the Bishop Kelly Foundation’s auction from all others.  He introduced the “reverse car drawing” concept in which all auction attendees’ names are placed in a hopper and systematically drawn out one by one until the last person remaining wins a new car.  It was an instant hit and has remained the unique trademark of the Bishop Kelly auction to this day. The 2018 “Winners Choice” auction netted over $477,000 and one lucky person went home with a new car of their choice, now provided by The Auto Ranch Group.

Sam Kaufman set up the Foundation in such a way that its principal would be protected, and the corpus has grown to over $11 million, $2.6 million of which is restricted to endowed scholarships under professional management.  Each year the Foundation provides the school a grant made up from the proceeds of the Winner’s Choice auction plus revenue from the endowments.  In 2018, not only did the Foundation’s assets top $11 million dollars, but  the total amount the Foundation has granted the school since its inception did as well.  Revenue from the endowments and the annual Winner’s Choice auction event, along with other gifts made to the Bishop Kelly Foundation, enable the Foundation to continue to provide an annual grant to the school.