THE BROPHY FAMILY
Brophy College Preparatory was the gift of Ellen Brophy in memory of her husband, William Henry Brophy, who died in a boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico, Nov. 14, 1922. According to Mrs. Brophy, the school "will be dedicated to the young people of Arizona in which Mr. Brophy had a most paternal interest."
William Henry Brophy
Born in Ireland in 1863 and orphaned at a young age, William Henry Brophy was raised by his grandmother. He left school in eighth grade and in 1881 at the age of 19, he borrowed money and moved to America where he traveled west to Arizona and took a job at a sawmill in the Chiricahua Mountains.
Hardworking and ambitious, he moved to Bisbee, Arizona, where a new mine was being developed, and became manager of a small mining store. By the turn of the century, he had founded the Bank of Bisbee, serving as its president, and had acquired banking and land interests around Phoenix. He later became general manager of the Phelps Dodge Mercantile Company and was instrumental in its success.
During World War I, he interrupted his career to serve his country, taking charge of the Red Cross supply chain in Europe while stationed in France. On Nov. 13, 1922, he sailed from Guaymas, Mexico, on a fishing trip. A storm hit and he was swept overboard. His body was recovered on Dec. 12, 1922. He left behind his wife, Ellen Amelia Brophy, and his son, Frank Cullen Brophy, as well as a fortune of $2 million (over $30 million in today's dollars), the largest estate ever probated in Arizona at that time.
Ellen Amelia Brophy
Mrs. Brophy was born Ellen Amelia Goodbody on Jan. 12, 1871, in Waukegan, Illinois. She met William Henry Brophy in California where her family had moved and married him in 1890. They had three children, but only their son, Frank Cullen, survived to adulthood. Their daughter, Mary, died at eight months and their daughter, Ellenita, died at age 16.
After the death of her husband, Mrs. Brophy began to consider establishing a Catholic school in his honor. It is believed that both the Jesuits' reputation as excellent schoolmasters, as well as Mrs. Brophy's close friendship with Fr. Henry Welch, SJ, president of what was then Loyola College in Los Angeles, resulted in her choosing to establish a Jesuit school. With an invitation from the Rev. Daniel J. Gercke, Bishop of Tuscon, (whose diocese then included all of Arizona) and approval from Rome, in 1927 Mrs. Brophy donated $250,000 and 25 acres of land, and construction began. Doors opened on Sept. 10, 1928.
Mrs. Brophy died in June 1934 at age 63. She left a legacy of philanthropy which also included an annex to St. Joseph's Orphanage in Tucson and the Sisters of Loretto Convent in Douglas. Pope Pius XI awarded her the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal.