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In Memoriam: S. Prestley Blake, 1914 – 2021

Posted: February 17, 2021

Please pray for the soul of S. Prestley Blake, a generous friend of the College who warmly welcomed its expansion into New England in 2019. Mr. Blake died on February 11, 2021, at the age of 106.

An alumnus of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, which previously occupied the College’s century-old campus in Northfield, Massachusetts, Mr. Blake was a successful entrepreneur and generous philanthropist. In the midst of the Great Depression, he and his brother Curtis founded Friendly Ice Cream in nearby Springfield with a $547 loan from their parents. The brothers had an audacious plan: They would best the competition by emphasizing customer relations and charging 5 cents — half the going rate — for double-scoop cones.

The plan exceeded even their ambitious hopes. Friendly’s went on to become an 850-restaurant chain, famous for its burgers and “Fribble” milkshakes, throughout much of the East Coast. The menu also included grilled-cheese sandwiches — a neighborly gesture to Catholic customers who eschewed meat on Fridays.

The Blake brothers worked tirelessly on their joint venture, save for the time they took off to serve the country during World War II. The business would reopen “when we win the war,” they announced by way of a sign posted on its front door. In 1979 they sold the chain to the Hershey’s company for $164 million.

Throughout his life, Mr. Blake was a passionate supporter of many worthy causes, particularly educational institutions and those in Western Massachusetts. He and his wife, Helen, met with TAC officials shortly after the College came to New England. Out of love for his alma mater and the region, he made a generous gift, which fittingly included funds for ice-cream-making equipment and a freezer in the revamped Tracy Student Center.

“President McLean and I enjoyed getting to know Pres and Helen Blake,” says Paul O’Reilly, the College’s vice president for advancement.  “We’re grateful that they included our East Coast campus among their philanthropic priorities. Though not Catholic, the Blakes embraced TAC’s mission and enjoyed telling us that one of their granddaughters was received into the Church after rooming with the sister of a TAC alumnus and current student while attending Northfield Mount Hermon School.”

Please also pray for Mrs. Blake and the consolation of the Blake family.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord