Tommie East Residence Hall.
Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

New $15 Million Gift Allows More St. Thomas Students to Experience On-Campus Life

A major gift from one of the University of St. Thomas’ most-visionary benefactors aims to break down economic barriers to residential living and help more students experience the benefits of on-campus life.

Speaking at the annual State of the University address, St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan announced the $15 million gift from Gene Frey in honor of his late wife Mary will help cover room and board expenses for approximately 25-30 first- and second-year students annually. The Frey Room and Board Grants program will prioritize students who demonstrate high financial need and help cover their expenses over a two-year period. St. Thomas is in the first year of its new two-year residency requirement for first- and second-year students.

In honor of this gift and the longstanding Frey legacy at St. Thomas, Tommie East Residence Hall will be renamed Mary and Gene Frey Hall, with a public dedication to be held on May 11.

“There is strong evidence that living on campus can open the doors to a richer college life. Unfortunately, many of the families and students who would be the beneficiaries of this initiative cannot afford the cost of living on campus,” Gene Frey said. “We saw this unmet need as an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of deserving students who will greatly benefit from having the same resident experience as their peers enjoy. We are delighted to be able to do this.”

The gift marks a milestone in the university’s efforts to create a robust residency culture, which is one of the key priorities outlined in the St. Thomas 2025 strategic plan. The plan calls for improving disparities among students living in on-campus housing and allowing more students to live on campus. Combined with other recent gifts, this generous gift puts the university over the St. Thomas 2025 fundraising goal for housing grants to ensure equitable living on campus.

“The Frey gift will allow more students to experience the tremendous rewards of a residential experience. It will also give them more opportunities to contribute to on-campus life, adding their ideas, leadership and rich experiences to our community,” Sullivan said. “We are deeply grateful to the Frey family for this transformational gift and for their commitment to our students and to St. Thomas, which goes back over 30 years.”

The Frey name is already well known on the St. Thomas campus, as the family is passionate about expanding educational and experiential opportunities for students. The family is the namesake of the Frey Science and Engineering Center, as well as the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library and School of Law’s Frey Moot Courtroom. The Frey Opportunity Scholarship, one of St. Thomas’ largest endowed scholarship programs, has awarded over 6,000 scholarships. The family has also funded the Dougherty Family College Continuation Scholarship program, which allows select DFC scholars to pursue bachelor’s degrees at St. Thomas, and the Eugene and Mary Frey Endowed Deanship at Dougherty Family College.