By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Last year’s Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner netted an unprecedented million dollars in tuition assistance for Archdiocese of Louisville families seeking a Catholic education.
This year organizers say they aim to match and top last year’s “phenomenal success” at the March 27 event at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.
Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the Catholic Education Foundation — which hosts the annual fundraiser — said the effort isn’t about topping goals or breaking records but rather a commitment to families.
“It’s about answering the call for families that need us,” he said in an interview last week.
The foundation aims to raise $1.1 million, all of which will help families pay for tuition at Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese.
Lechleiter called last year’s success a “threshold event” for the foundation.
“At that time, we took it upon ourselves to start aiming a lot higher. We are on a march for $2 million. We will raise the goal every year and eventually we’ll get there,” he said. “We need to achieve the goal to meet the rise in demand for school families.”
The Salute routinely exceeds its goals, breaking records with each successive event while also setting more ambitious goals. In 2011, the event surpassed its goal by raising more than $300,000. By 2014, that figure had doubled. In 2017 the foundation exceeded its goal of $800,000.
Lechleiter said he’s convinced the CEF will once again surpass its goal with the “generous support of our donors.”
“It’s neat to talk about breaking records and all-time highs, but it’s even more exciting to talk about how this impacts people’s lives. That’s what motivates us to keep growing this event,” he said. “This event dictates how successful we are going to be with our school families” in the fall.
Well over 4,000 applicants sought aid from the CEF for the 2018-19 school year. It awarded $6.4 million to 3,100 students.
While the CEF responded with aid for
every family that met financial qualifications, there is still work to be done to meet rising demand, Lechleiter said.
“We are growing rapidly but we are not growing as fast as I would like to. I’d like to grow overall revenues by 15 percent each year and we’re not doing that right now,” he said.
While the goal of $1.1 million — up 10 percent from last year — is “stout,” he said, it’s necessary.
“When you think about what we need to do for the future of our young families, if you consider the rising cost to educate kids in every school, we don’t have an option if we want to be a meaningful partner to them. We have to grow in a way that makes us relevant to them,” he said.
Lechleiter said the foundation’s endowment must also grow in order to serve future families. Today, the endowment stands at over $21 million. About 10 years ago, during the economic downturn, the endowment dipped to roughly $13 or $14 million, Lechleiter noted.
“We’ve been very good stewards of that money and we continue to try to gain new investments going forward,” he said, noting gifts to the endowment are separate donations collected by the Salute.
The 1,700 or so people who are expected to attend this year’s event will hear from Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Tenn. Bishop Spalding was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville in 1991. He was appointed by Pope Francis as the 12th Bishop of Nashville in November 2017. And he is a graduate of Catholic schools.
The co-chairs of this year’s event are Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and William E. Mudd, president and chief operating officer of Churchill Downs Incorporated.
The annual awards dinner will honor six alumni of Catholic schools for having made a positive impact on the community. The CEF will also present its Community Service Award.
The Father Joseph McGee Outstanding Catholic Educator Award will be presented to St. Martha teacher Anne C. Bahr, who will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Record.
Sponsorship opportunities, tables and tickets are available at www.ceflou.org or by calling 585-2747.
Following is a list of this year’s honorees:
Monica Beam Bohn founded Century Mortgage and Executive Title Company and Century Entertainment and Furnishings with her late husband, Matt.
She attended St. Mary Church in Maryville, Ky., and is a graduate of Mercy Academy. She attended Georgetown College.
She and her three children Maria, Matt and Ava are parishioners of St. Edward Church.
Jeffrey S. Brohm is the head football coach at Purdue University.
He attended St. Bernard School and graduated from Trinity High School, where he was named Mr. Football in Kentucky and the Courier-Journal’s Player of the Decade for the 1980s.
Brohm went on to play as quarterback from the University of Louisville, where he was named most valuable player in the 1993 Liberty Bowl. After he earned his degree in business, he spent seven seasons playing in the National Football League.
Brohm and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Brady and Brooke, and attend the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette, Ind.
Rev. Thomas E. Gentile, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville in 1973.
He attended Sacred Heart and St. Barnabas schools and graduated from St. Xavier High School. He later attended St. Thomas Seminary and later earned philosophy and theology degrees from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.
Father Gentile served as associate pastor at St. Denis, St. Pius X and St. Helen before being named pastor of Sts. Simon and Jude Church in 1984. For the next 33 years, he served the south Louisville communities of St. Helen, St. Mathias, St. Denis and in 2009 became the founding pastor of Mary Queen of Peace Church until he retired in 2017.
He has served on the board of the Catholic School Athletic Association continuously since 1973 and as board chair since 1996. He also has twice served as chair of the board of directors of DeSales High School.
From 1984 to 2009, Father Gentile was a licensed NASCAR stock car racer, and was twice named most popular driver in the street stock division. Today, he is chaplain of DeSales and serves as a senior associate priest for five parishes in West Louisville.
R. Kenyon Meyer is the managing partner of the Louisville office of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, where he is also a member of the firm’s board of directors.
He graduated from St. Raphael School and St. Xavier High School. He earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from the University of Louisville.
Meyer has served on the boards of the Children’s Law Center, YouthBuild Louisville and the Oates Institute. In addition, he was named one of Louisville’s “40 under 40” and was inducted into St. Xavier’s Hall of Honors in 2004.
He and his wife, Karen, have four children: Sydney, Sullivan, Elizabeth and Keenan. They attend St. Raphael Church.
Victoria Imorde Weber most recently served as senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Kosair Charities until her retirement in 2018.
She attended St. Agnes and St. Gabriel schools and graduated from Assumption High School.
Her early career included work in the Offices of County Judge/Executive, County Commissioner, Economic Development and the administration of Mayor Harvey Sloane. She then served for 13 years as president of the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce.
She has served on the board of directors of Women 4 Women, Spirit of Louisville Foundation, Gilda’s Club and the Jeffersontown Economic Development Authority. In 2016, Today’s Woman selected her as its Most Admired Woman.
Weber and her husband of 45 years, Rich, have two children and four grandchildren. They are parishioners of St. Margaret Mary Church.
Thomas A. Wimsett is the founder and chairman of both Wimsett & Company and Merchant’s PACT, payment card industry advisory firms based in Louisville.
He attended St. Catherine School in New Haven, Ky., Nelson County High School and the University of Louisville.
Wimsett is also an operating partner in several private equity-backed companies and a director of a S&P 500 public company.
He serves as board chair of the Catholic Education Foundation. He also serves on the board of advisors for the University of Louisville’s College of Business, the Bethlehem Legacy Foundation Board and as chair of the development council for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
He and his wife, Rhonda, have three children and one grandchild. They are members of St. Gregory Church in Samuels, Ky.
William J. Rothwell, the recipient of the Community Service Award, was born and raised in New England.
He earned undergraduate degrees in physical education and history from the University of New Hampshire, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in higher education administration from the Ohio State University.
Rothwell taught and coached at the University of Wisconsin, where he was the head ice hockey coach of the National Championship team in 1973. He was also a member of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Selection Committee for the 1980 team that won a gold medal.
He also served as the executive director of the Penn State University Alumni Association and later as the vice president for development and alumni at the University of Louisville from 1989 until his retirement in 2000.
Rothwell also served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. He has served on the boards of Rotary Club of Louisville, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Cathedral Heritage Foundation, National Public Radio and the Catholic Education Foundation.
He and his wife, Sandy, have three children and five grandchildren and are members of St. Margaret Mary Church.