Marist Receives Major Gift from Bill O’Reilly ’71

$1 million gift will provide scholarships for exceptional students with financial need

New Peter P. O’Keefe, PhD. Endowed Scholarship honors distinguished history professor 

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (Dec. 17, 2015)Marist College is pleased to announce the establishment of the Peter P. O’Keefe, PhD. Endowed Scholarship, which is made possible through a generous $1 million gift from William J. O’Reilly ’71, the noted Fox News host and bestselling author, who is one of the College’s most accomplished alumni.

The Peter P. O’Keefe, PhD. Endowed Scholarship will provide full financial support to one student annually, beginning with an incoming member of the class of 2020. O’Keefe Scholars will be students who have demonstrated special promise in academic and leadership roles, who would not otherwise be financially able to attend Marist. Examples of potential recipients include class valedictorians, salutatorians, National Merit finalists, student body presidents, school newspaper editors, Eagle Scouts, Gold Award recipients, athletic team captains, and other young leaders. 

"Dr. O’Keefe was an exceptional teacher, scholar, and mentor," said O’Reilly, who studied under O’Keefe during his distinguished 34-year teaching career. "I am pleased to be able to establish a scholarship in his honor so that others can benefit as I did from a great Marist education." 

In addition to the fund’s financial support, O’Reilly will personally meet with the O’Keefe Scholars to provide advice and guidance as they navigate their college years and prepare for successful careers and lives.

"We are very grateful to Bill, a longtime supporter of the College, for this most generous gift," said Marist President Dennis J. Murray. "With all of his professional accomplishments, it’s great for Bill to remember students who have Marist as their top college choice, but are unable to attend without financial support."

"I am truly touched by this wonderful tribute from one of the most talented, entrepreneurial, and engaged students I had the privilege of teaching at Marist," said Professor Emeritus and Heritage Professor Dr. Peter O’Keefe. "It is a wonderful example of giving back that Bill is setting with this new scholarship, which will allow more talented students to discover and nurture their interests and passions at Marist, as he did."

Bill O'Reilly with Marist visitors

Bill O'Reilly '71, former Senior Development Officer Shaileen Kopec,
Professor Emeritus and Heritage Professor Dr. Peter O'Keefe, and
Vice President for College Advancement Christopher DelGiorno '88
on the set of The O'Reilly Factor

A member of the Marist College Class of 1971, O’Reilly majored in history, studying under O’Keefe. He was a columnist for the student newspaper, The Circle, and played on the College’s first championship football team. Of his time on the Marist football team, which he made as a freshman, O’Reilly has written that "the ordeal turned out to be a defining moment of my life because it taught me that the most challenging and worthwhile things can only be accomplished with great sacrifice and discipline."

At Marist, O’Reilly developed a passion for history, which drove his interest in journalism. Today, he hosts The Factor, which has been the most-watched cable news program for the past 15 years. He is the author of the bestselling 'Killing' series of historical nonfiction books, with subjects ranging from Lincoln to Jesus to, most recently, Ronald Reagan. O’Reilly has accomplished the rare feat of having his books in the No. 1 and 2 spots simultaneously on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover nonfiction. The Times has called him "arguably the most popular history author in America." Many of his books have been made into equally successful TV movies.

After graduating from Marist, O’Reilly taught high school history before going into broadcasting. He went on to earn a Master's in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University and a second Master’s – in Public Administration – from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. His career has included stints at CBS News, ABC News, and Inside Edition, which he hosted, before he moved to his current home at Fox News.

Throughout his career, O’Reilly has maintained strong ties to Marist. In 2001, the College awarded him an honorary degree, and he regularly returns to campus to attend football games and give locker room pep talks to the players. Previously, he established the Winifred & William O'Reilly Scholarship at Marist, which honors his parents and provides support to students with financial need and a demonstrated commitment to community service.

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