Donor Stories and Legacies

Florence Dailey:
Her “Simple” Gift Will Benefit Notre Dame Students Forever

Florence Dailey
Picture provided by the Notre Dame Archives

In the early part of the twentieth century, a secretary named Florence Dailey made a decision that would change the lives of generations of Notre Dame students—she decided to include the University of Notre Dame in her estate plans. The impact of this single decision may benefit Notre Dame students forever.

Upon her death in the 1960s, the University received Dailey’s bequest, which at the time was the single largest gift in the University’s history. Many years earlier, when she made that transformative decision to provide for Notre Dame, she had no idea of the monumental effect that her gift of financial aid would make on Catholic higher education. A secretary who had never married, she left half of her estate to Our Lady’s University, even though she had no known association with Notre Dame.

Florence Dailey started working as a secretary at a bank in upstate New York in the early part of the century. Her boss was encouraging employees to buy stock in a new company that was being launched by a friend of his. He had such confidence in his friend that he even offered to lend the bank’s employees money to invest in the new company. Dailey acted on his advice. The name of the banker’s friend was George Eastman, and the name of the company was Eastman Kodak. Dailey held on to the stock for the remainder of her lifetime. Interestingly, Dailey had apparently forgotten all about her stock portfolio. At the time of her death in 1966, she owned approximately 154,000 shares of Kodak. In her will she split her estate evenly between two Catholic universities: Georgetown University and the University of Notre Dame.

The University of Notre Dame used Dailey’s bequest to endow the John & Mary Boyle Dailey Memorial Scholarship. Named for Florence Dailey’s parents, the fund has provided financial aid for thousands of students. According to available records, since 1984 her gift has provided $65,338,332 in scholarship assistance to 6,601 students! During the 2010-2011 school year, 274 students were provided $4.7 million in scholarship assistance. For the 2011-2012 school year, 223 students were assisted for $4.5 million. For the 2012-2013 school year, 208 students were awarded $5 million.

It is likely no one will ever know exactly why Dailey gave the money to Notre Dame and to Georgetown. To this day, no one has ever found a direct link or a known association between her and either one of the schools. Father Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., once speculated that her gift was because she was a devout Catholic, and it was well-known that the bishop of Rochester in upstate New York in the early part of the twentieth century vigorously promoted Catholic higher education. The two institutions the bishop mentioned most often: Notre Dame and Georgetown. Thus far, it’s the best explanation anyone has come up with.

Florence Dailey’s decision many years ago to make a simple gift to Notre Dame turned out to be something much more. The impact of Dailey’s gift of a lifetime may truly last forever and provide many students a different kind of a gift of a lifetime:  a Notre Dame education.