Catholic Education Foundation’s awards banquet raised a record $450,000
By GLENN RUTHERFORD
David A. Jones co-founded the international insurance and health-care giant Humana Inc., and he’s proud to tell people that he did it with the help of a large contingent of Catholic school graduates.
Jones was the keynote speaker at the 22nd annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni held March 14 at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville. This year’s Salute topped even last year’s record-breaking event. More than 2,000 people attended, and more than $450,000 was raised for the Catholic Education Foundation — which administers proceeds from the event.
That $450,000-plus easily passed last year’s record financial donation of $335,000, according to Richard A. Lechleiter, chairman of the CEF. Lechleiter is also executive vice president and chief financial officer for Kindred HealthCare, Inc.
Jones, the keynote speaker, was quick to note the impact on the local economy of Catholic education and those who benefit from it.
“I’m honored to be able to speak to you about something very precious but very rare — a school system that really works,” he said. Within the Catholic school system in the Archdiocese of Louisville, he said, “thoughtful leaders have minimized bureaucracy, allowing talented teachers and administrators to do their very best work.
“As a result, the system has been remarkably successful at producing students who understand history, have language skills and understand basic math,” he said.
“Isn’t that wonderful?” Jones added. “It is a system that allows its graduates to work toward a college degree and many go on to advanced degrees.”
Humana Inc., with 41,000 employees worldwide, “was built on your graduates,” Jones said.
“We live in a community filled with your graduates,” he added. “They are often entrepreneurial, creating jobs our community needs, and the work they do is based on the values taught and values they learned at our Catholic schools.”
Catholic education, he said, allows the local community to “produce confident, capable and responsible leaders of society.”
“I believe the strength of the system lies in the essential and eternal values taught there,” Jones said. “Those values allow our Catholic schools to continue to fulfill their mission.”
And the leadership example provided by Archdiocese of Louisville schools and the graduates the system produces can also serve as an avatar for improving local public schools, Jones said.
“Let’s all work together to help our public schools get on the right track,” he said. “We have in Catholic schools an example that shows that capable teachers and administrators can work wonders.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz — co-chair of the event with Tom Partridge, president and chief executive officer of Fifth Third Bank — also noted the success of the annual Salute, which in raising money for the CEF helps that foundation make Catholic school tuition grants to area families.
“We’re here tonight to provide something of a 22-year, a 22-gun salute if you will, to the parents, the staff and the teachers and administrators who all work so hard to make our Catholic schools successful.”
Catholic schools, the archbishop said, work to make every Catholic student a better Catholic and every non-Catholic student a better person.
“And tonight in a special way I want to salute someone who, over the last 12 years, was very special and very close to me — Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly,” the archbishop said.”It was Archbishop Kelly who worked with local leadership to be able to begin what we now celebrate annually as the Salute.”
Seven Catholic school alumni were honored during the event, including Bishop William F. Medley, who, in 2010, became the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro.
“People who know me as a pastor and homilist may doubt that I can speak tonight with the brevity that’s necessary,” Bishop Medley said with a smile. “But I assure you that I can, though there are many people for me to thank.”
He began with his family, people who “laid the foundation and structure of my faith,” the bishop said.
“I remember when I was going to school under the direction of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount St. Joseph,” Bishop Medley said. “And one of the great joys of my new life is that I’ve been able to reconnect with them in Owensboro.”
Bishop Medley also gave thanks for the role of Sulpician and diocesan priests in his educational and religious formation.
“Through Bellarmine College and into seminary, priests and religious were always bringing something memorable to their teaching,” he said. “Schools today are largely without sisters and priests in the classroom. Let’s all pray that there will be again an abundance of sisters and an abundance of priests so that teaching will once again be an option for them.”
Another honoree, Laura A. Dills, told the crowd of 2,000 or so that “it is pretty humbling to be honored here before all of you.”
“It’s also been an honor to serve with Catholic Relief Services all across the world,” she added. “And you should be proud to know that the Archdiocese of Louisville sent $1.8 million to Haiti (where she was working) following the earthquake, and I was honored to be a good steward for those funds during my time there.”
Dills, a graduate of St. Aloysius School in Shepherdsville, Ky., and Presentation Academy, said her Catholic education “put me on the right path to do what I’ve been doing my entire life.” For the past eight years that has meant working for Catholic Relief Services across the globe — she now is the country representative in Madagascar.
Scott Wiegandt, athletic director at Bellarmine University, was also an honoree and he noted that the nights of March 13 and 14 had been really good for him personally.
“Last night I presented the regional championship trophy to Coach (Scott) Davenport and our basketball team,” he said. “And tonight I’m receiving this award — I could get used to this.”
Wiegandt said he, too, was humbled by the honor. “The only way I can make sense of it is to say ‘thank you’ to all the Catholic educators who shaped my life from first grade through graduate school,” he said.
Other alumni honored were James W. Stuckert, David H. Miles, Charles J. Kane and Mary Carmel Borders.
Michael B. McCallister, chief executive officer of Humana Inc., since 2000, was presented the Community Service Award. And the Father Joseph McGee Award, which recognizes an educator, was presented to Mary Jane Spaulding, a teacher at St. Dominic School in Springfield, Ky. (A story about Spaulding was featured in the Feb. 23 issue of The Record.)