$25 million grant says 'thanks' to alma mater


He made millions in the oil industry, traveling the world, and maintaining homes in both Florida and Connecticut.

But Thomas O’Malley never forgot his roots. The start of everything he achieved was at Manhattan College, and with a simple stroke of the pen, wants to ensure even more students get a chance to pursue the life he’s lived.

O’Malley has boosted his claim as the most generous alum Manhattan College has ever graduated by gifting $25 million to the school. That is the largest single gift in Manhattan College history, topping the $10 million donation in 2012 from, well, Thomas O’Malley.

“Our alumni look at the school, and they have a great deal of pride for their school,” said Brennan O’Donnell, Manhattan College’s president. “They recognize that it is a force for good, and they want to support that, and they want to see it thrive.”

The money, according to school officials, will be used to build more student scholarships and grants, support innovative teaching and research, and enhance and diversify learning opportunities within Manhattan College’s School of Business.

“What’s so wonderful about a gift of this size is that it can be invested, and it becomes part of the endowment of the institution,” O’Donnell said. “With this, you’re able to supplement your revenues and do more things than you could before. And a critical component of these funds will be to provide financial aid to students, letting us provide more scholarships that will keep a Manhattan College education affordable.”

The school immediately told O’Malley thank you by officially rechristening its School of Business to The O’Malley School of Business. Yet, it’s not the first piece of Manhattan College real estate to be touched by O’Malley.

In 2014, the school renamed East Hill Hall, a campus residential building, to Lee Hall, in honor of O’Malley’s late mother, Margaret Lee O’Malley. It was the first building on Manhattan’s campus to be named after a woman.

Two years before that, as O’Malley was wrapping up a seven-year tenure as chairman of Manhattan College’s Board of Trustees, he wrote a check for $10 million, and in turn was able to name the student commons center after fellow 1963 alum and longtime New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly.

“We have a terrific alumni base, and they are very loyal,” O’Donnell said. “They support us not just monetarily, but by providing connections to our students, providing internships for our students, and hiring our students. They also come back to campus and share their expertise.”

O’Malley grew up in a working class family on Staten Island, paying for his education through a series of jobs that included school bus driver, taxi driver, cafeteria worker and even a lifeguard, according to a release. After graduating from Manhattan College, he served six months in the U.S. Army Reserves.

After his military service, O’Malley joined the commodity trading company Philipp Brothers in Europe, returning to the United States in 1975, where he was named president of the company’s energy division.

Three years after Salomon Brothers took over Philipp in 1981, O’Malley was named vice chair, leaving in 1986 to pursue an investment in a small California refining company called Tosco.

O’Malley became Tosco’s chair and chief executive in 1990, spending the next 10 years building it up into the largest independent oil refinery and gasoline retailers in the country.


Serial entrepreneur

After the company was sold in 2001, he turned to a second independent oil refinery company, once again building it up until it, too, was sold to the Valero Corp.

“Mary Alice and I are pleased to continue our support for Manhattan College,” O’Malley said, in a release. “It’s an institution that has remained faithful to its core values. It provides top quality education in a dynamic and open environment, while at the same time maintaining its Catholic identity.”

Thomas and Mary Alice O’Malley have been married for more than 50 years, with four grown children and 10 grandchildren. 

They reside in Palm Beach, Florida, with a home in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“Most people give because they recognize that the college was a great benefit to them, and they wouldn’t be where they were if it hadn’t been for Manhattan College,” O’Donnell said. “They want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities.”