Diocesan News

CBS Star Makes Pledge to Help Her Alma Mater


FRESH MEADOWS — Julie Chen Moonves, the longtime host of the hit CBS show “Big Brother,” is serving as a Big Sister these days to help students at her old high school overcome financial troubles brought on by COVID-19.

The television host is a 1987 graduate of St. Francis Preparatory School and recently pledged to match every single donation that comes into the school’s TerrierSTAR program. The project was started by Brother Leonard Conway O.S.F., the school’s president, to assist students whose parents have lost their jobs due to the shutdowns brought on by the pandemic.

“We all know that COVID-19 has changed all of our lives. This has been a very difficult time for the entire prep community,” Chen Moonves said in a video posted to the St. Francis Prep website in which she announces her pledge.

Chen Moonves noted that many people have lost friends to COVID-19 and that many others have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

“And now some in our prep family can no longer afford to send their kids to our school this fall,” she said.

Tuition at St. Francis Preparatory School is $10,000 a year and many families are struggling to come up with the money, school officials said.

In the video, Chen Moonves issued a plea to those who can afford to make a donation: “I will match every single donation made to the TerrierSTAR Fund,” she vowed.

Brother Conway told Currents News the school has raised an impressive $200,000 to date before Chen Moonves’ generous match, which will double that number.

The TerrierSTAR program — named after the school’s Terrier nickname and Student Tuition Assistance and Relief (STAR) — started in April out of an idea the school president developed to assist the families of students who were financially impacted by COVID-19.

“I made a commitment that every single student will complete their Franciscan education,” Brother Conway said.

Brother Conway also turned off the school’s automatic payment function and told parents to pay what they could afford and instituted a tuition freeze for next year, in addition to a pay freeze for faculty and staff.

“It’s a great part of our Franciscan Mission,” Brother Conway said, quoting St. Francis of Assisi’s immortal line, “For it is in giving that we receive.”

To get the ball rolling on the new fundraising effort, Brother Conway sent emails and videos to alumni seeking assistance and they “have stepped up to the plate.”

Brother Conway said that during a phone conversation with Chen Moonves about the struggles students’ families are having financially, she told him that “we can’t allow students to not finish at St. Francis Prep.”

Other members of St. Francis Prep’s extended family are also stepping up to the plate to help the school.

Alum John Tuffy, a retired communications specialist who now lives in upstate New York, has pledged his COVID-19 stimulus check to the TerrierSTAR program.

Tuffy, who grew up in Long Island City, told Currents News that he has fond memories of the school.

“I was in the last original class when Prep was in downtown Brooklyn,” he said. “I spent four years at Prep. I enjoyed it tremendously. The brothers in the classroom were particularly influential.”

Tuffy recalled receiving an email from Conway asking for help, saying that it “touched something in me.”

Meanwhile, Chen Moonves has shared some memories of her days at the school back in the 1980s. In the video, she recalled that she enrolled as a sophomore and immediately felt at home.

“I will forever be grateful,” she said.

To read the latest updates regarding coronavirus concerns in the Brooklyn Diocese, go to https://thetablet.org/coronavirus.