For more than 60 years Bill Crimmins has been a leading philanthropist who has steadfastly driven a wide range of civic and cultural advances for the people of Newport County and Aquidneck Island.
He co-founded the Newport Music Festival, helped establish the Norman Bird Sanctuary, has long supported the Martin Luther King Jr. Center/NAACP, and, with his wife, Gael, contributed in many ways to both the Redwood Library and Athenaeum and the Newport Art Museum. He was instrumental in the Monumenta contemporary sculpture show that brought Christo, Willem De Koonig, Anne Healy and many others to Newport in the 1970s. But beyond these and other such high-profile contributions, Bill also embraced many lesser-known causes in the greater Newport community such as a new organ for St. Columba’s Chapel in Middletown and a new balance beam for the Newport County YMCA honoring Mary Lou Retton’s Olympic success.
At Portsmouth Priory, now Portsmouth Abbey, Bill’s philanthropic contributions were always discreet and enduring. They include the beautiful double-faced crucifix, designed by Swiss sculptor Meinrad Burch-Korrodi, hanging above the altar in the Church of St. Gregory the Great given by Bill in memory of his two brothers killed in World War II. He stepped in when the original Science Building fell short of funds for completion. And, when informed by his friend Fr. Ambrose that no funds would be forthcoming to fix the broken church organ, Bill stepped up to replace it in recognition of the importance of music to the religious life of the School and Monastery.
But perhaps his most significant legacy remains his support of and commitment to the students of Portsmouth. Bill worked tirelessly from the late 1950s through the early 1970s as a teacher of Ancient and Medieval History and as coach of multiple sports teams. Over those years he paid tuition for students in need, intervened on behalf of those in academic or other trouble, and mentored many with humor, compassion and honesty.
Despite his singular history of his support to the Monastery, School, students, and even fellow faculty members at Portsmouth, Bill never sought any recognition and always deflected credit. As a result, he has never been officially recognized by Portsmouth Abbey.
This past fall, several alumni of Portsmouth Abbey decided to rectify that situation by honoring Bill, now in his 91st year, with the creation of The William A. Crimmins ’48 Scholarship Fund for Arts, Athletics and Civilization. This scholarship reflects Bill’s personal values and supports the mission of the School.
The establishment of this scholarship fund in Bill’s honor by alumni, faculty and friends is a signal event in Portsmouth’s history, connecting a precious link to the School’s founding headmaster, Fr. Hugh Diman, to the upcoming celebration of the School’s centenary in 2026 and the start of its second century of operation.
Not surprisingly, in view of Bill’s significant generosity over the years in the Newport community, many people not affiliated with Portsmouth Abbey have demonstrated their appreciation of Bill by participating in this effort.
With significant progress towards the $1 million goal for the Fund to date, Portsmouth Abbey anticipates awarding the first scholarship to a deserving student in the 2021/22 academic year.
Those interested in learning more about the Crimmins Scholarship Fund can contact Matt Walter, assistant headmaster for advancement at 401-643-1291 or direct email to firstname.lastname@example.org.