Brother Christopher Donnelly, FSC, Facilities Department
He’s a man who wears many hats – hardhats included. Brother Christopher Donnelly is a builder, a pilot, a locksmith and fire chief – just to name a few of his jobs since becoming a Christian Brother in 1968.
His assignment in the Facilities Department at Saint Mary’s College this year seems tailor-made for a man of his talents. He’s in charge of new construction and major projects. “I have a background in building, so it’s kind of a perfect match,” he says, calling himself “a Brother who can swing a hammer.”
But Brother Christopher’s first introduction to work at Saint Mary’s was as a student in the late 1960s. Then-president Brother Mel Anderson asked him to install the first comprehensive master key system at SMC – much of which is still in place today. “I remember the conversation,” he says. “Brother Mel pulled this box out and said, ‘These are the keys. This is just a mess – you can re-key it.’”
With a unique skill-set, Brother Christopher has spent most of his career as an administrator or facilities director in high schools from Washington State to Southern California. And for the last 25 summers, he has helped run the Christian Brothers’ Camp La Salle, 70 miles east of Fresno.
In 1996, he and camp co-director Brother Jack Henderson joined the struggling Huntington Lake Volunteer Fire Department. “Everybody had quit, none of the equipment ran and they had $300 in the bank,” he remembers. Brother Christopher used his fund-raising skills to bring in donations, and today the department is considered one of the best in the state, covering 150 square miles of response area.
When it comes to construction skills, Brother Christopher credits his principal at Saint Mary’s College High School in Berkeley – Brother Mel Anderson. During the years when Brother Mel oversaw major theatre productions at the school, Brother Christopher was on his stage crew. “Mel took me under his wing. He’s a Renaissance man,” says Brother Christopher. As the saying goes – it takes one to know one.