A Brothers’ Boy
Rice High School—1938-2011
The recent closing of Rice Catholic High School in Harlem bludgeoned the community that had survived the assassination of Malcolm X in 1963 and the race riots of 1964. When the Christian Brothers began Rice in the name of the order’s founder Edmund Rice, the school first taught the children of immigrants, most of them Irish and poor. In later years Rice served poor Hispanic and African-American minorities.
Despite vigorous efforts at fundraising, the school ran out of money. The diocese offered help by supplying names of donors, and Rice alumni helped stave off bankruptcy for as long as they could.
But Rice’s closing shouldn’t obscure the heroic work of lay teachers, brothers, and staff. In particular, Steve Fitzgerald, a Rice alumnus from 1963, volunteered at the school for twelve years, the last three as President of the Board of Trustees, primarily responsible for fundraising. As a boy, Steve fell in love with the school, the lay teachers and brothers, many of them Old Country Irish like his own parents driven from Ireland to find jobs and a life in America. From his home in Somers, New York, Steve often made the drive to Rice, some ninety miles away. No one could have been more dedicated.
Steve’s work history is that of an intelligent striver. From starting in the mailroom of IBM, Steve rose to executive positions in the company for 34 years, retiring as Vice-President of Operations for the Storage Systems Division in San Jose, California.
In 2011 the New York Archdiocese honored Steve with its Knight of St. Patrick for his work at Rice. He remains a Brothers’ Boy.