When he graduated from Saint Anselm College in 1934, Ernie Louis Thorne became the college’s first Black alumnus. From that time on, he became not only a memorable member of the Anselmian community, but also a vital part of Manchester. At his 70th birthday party, former Manchester mayor Sylvio Dupuis ’56, H.D. ’83 said, “He is one of the few people I know who could have a letter addressed ‘Ernie Thorne, Manchester’ and it would still be delivered to him.”
Thorne’s path to the Hilltop was a unique one. “As the story goes, in 1930 Ernie’s mother appeared on campus and convinced the monks of the Abbey to admit her son Ernie to the college even though he and his family did not have the resources to finance his education,” says Father Francis McCarty, O.S.B. ’10. “The monks admitted Ernie to the class of 1934 on a complete scholarship.”
As a student, Thorne was a member of Delta Sigma Mu, serving as the secretary and vice president, and worked as a reporter and contributing editor for The Tower newspaper. He studied history and Romance languages. He performed in a number of school productions and in 1933 directed Amateur Night at the college.
After graduation, Thorne continued to live and work in Manchester for the rest of his life where he was a well-known member of the community. He worked as a car salesman, driving instructor, and later in life as the bartender and host of the Anheuser- Busch brewery in Merrimack, N.H., where he met many Saint Anselm students. He regularly attended alumni and sporting events at the college and served as the vice chairman of the Order of Golden Anselmians. Thorne passed away in 1995 at the age of 85, and his class ring is held in Saint Anselm’s archives.
“ Our strong social justice focus of the Catholic intellectual tradition grounds our work and propels us toward empathy and action.”
— Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D.
This past summer, Denis Lynch ’81 and Keith Woolley ’82 led the charge to set up the Ernie Thorne ’34 Scholarship Fund for Racial Equality in his honor. This endowed scholarship will provide financial aid and educational opportunities to underrepresented students from Manchester, southern New Hampshire, and California. The idea for the scholarship was in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“Denis has been my friend for over 40 years. I believe this long-standing friendship, fostered as students at Saint Anselm, and solidified as alumni, has been enriched by our willingness to engage in open and candid discussions about race,” says Woolley. “We both believe that now is the time for not just passionate dialogue but, more importantly, it is time for action.”
Lynch agrees. “After attending three global town hall meetings on racial equality and inclusion by my company, Hewlett-Packard, I was motivated and challenged to make a difference in my new community of New Hampshire,” he says. “I believe in supporting this scholarship because I know the gift of a Saint Anselm education will benefit the next generation of black leaders.”
More than $100,000 has been raised, including generous matching gifts from Hewlett-Packard and a leadership gift from the monastic community. “The monks of Saint Anselm Abbey have designated a gift of $50,000 to the Ernie Thorne ’34 Scholarship for Racial Equality with the hope that others will join in supporting the fund so that the college’s diversity initiatives will be sustained for years to come,” says Father Francis.
These gifts, according to Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D., president of Saint Anselm College, are important and appreciated for many different reasons. “We are grateful to all our generous alumni, the monastic community, and the Saint Anselm community, who contribute to the college, and these gifts are particularly important at this moment as we feel a new urgency to our commitment to creating a community of inclusion and equity,” he says. “Our strong social justice focus of the Catholic intellectual tradition grounds our work and propels us toward empathy and action.”
The college will begin awarding the scholarship in the 2021-2022 academic year.