Leaving a Legacy of Love

July 30, 2020 Update: In honor of Jack’s birthday, which is today, we are proud to announce the creation of the John J. “Jack” Donnelly Memorial Scholarship to honor this day, his name, his legacy and his devotion to making a difference in a better way. 

We share the sadness of so many in the passing of Jack Donnelly, a founding Board Member of Independence Mission Schools, on June 9th, 2020. Jack’s leadership was a labor of love that began over 20 years ago with Saint Martin de Porres Catholic School.

As the former owner and CEO of LF Driscoll, one of the largest and most respected construction firms in Philadelphia, Jack was an amazing and respected preconstruction leader and under his leadership some of the most significant projects in the Philadelphia region’s history were built. While the list of Jack’s accomplishments goes on, what meant the most to him was his commitment to leave the world a better place than before he arrived – and that he did.

A faithful Catholic and philanthropist who gave generously of himself, one of his greatest labors of love was developing Independence Mission Schools. Driven by a deep desire to help and mentor others, Jack was so proud of the success achieved by every one of his students. With Jack’s help, we have been able to provide a quality education for thousands of young scholars. Jack worked hard to ensure the success of our students, committing generous gifts of time, talent and treasure, and encouraged others to do the same.

Joe Stapleton, fellow IMS Board Member and long-time friend of Jack, describes the legacy of Jack Donnelly perfectly:

The legacy of Jack Donnelly should not be for the way he changed the skyline of Philadelphia. It should be for the way he changed the neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Jack was a builder of towering young men and young women as much as he was a builder of tall buildings. He should be remembered more for his work at St. Malachy School, St. Rose of Lima School and St. Martin de Porres School than for his work on the Comcast Center, the Barnes Museum or Citizens Bank Park. He shaped buildings that will shape the future of the children leaving those buildings to be, as Jack would say to them, anything they want to be. He turned philanthropy into opportunity for children of all faiths. He was a builder of character and an architect of hope. He saw Catholic elementary schools as the strong foundation required to support the future of thousands of children in need. He was not prepared to allow their zip codes to determine their ability to succeed. Philadelphia is a better city because of Jack Donnelly but not just because of the buildings he built. Jack should and will be remembered more for his transformational impact on so many children who have come through our IMS schools. That will be the real enduring legacy of our beloved Jack Donnelly.

With his passing, we are left with an emptiness in our hearts, as Jack was, and will always be, a champion for our children.

While Jack was a ‘lion’ of a man in terms of skill, drive and accomplishment, it was his faith and heart which really drove him. Jack looked at the young people in our inner city, believed in them passionately and made a concrete path for them to succeed. Jack Donnelly ‘walked the walk’. Jack will be missed greatly. Our world “needs more Jacks”… god bless you, Jack!

Sr. Nancy Fitzgerald, SSJ
Director of Alumni and Special Programs, St. Martin de Porres Catholic School

We thank the Donnelly family for sharing such a wonderful man with us and pray they will take comfort in knowing Jack’s legacy will not be forgotten, as thousands of students were – and will continue to be – given a better opportunity through his selflessness.

Please join us as we hold Jack’s family in our prayers. We love you, Jack, and we are so very grateful for the presence you had in all of our lives!

The Donnelly family has so kindly asked that gifts in Jack’s memory be made in support of our IMS students through the John J. “Jack” Donnelly Memorial Scholarship. If you wish to remember Jack in this way, please click here.

Do you have a special memory of Jack that you’d like to share? Please email us, we’d love to hear it!

You can view Jack’s obituary here.