Annual ‘Salute’ aims for another record year

CEF-Salute-2016Logo-fBy Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

The Catholic Education Foundation’s (CEF) 26th annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni banquet, set for March 16, is on track to break another fundraising record, according to Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the foundation.

The CEF aims to raise $700,000 at the event this year, which will feature keynote speaker Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and honor distinguished alumni of Catholic schools.

Last year’s Salute broke its previous record, earning a total of $665,000.

Proceeds from the benefit dinner fund the CEF’s mission of providing tuition assistance for students to attend Catholic schools and grants for both Catholic schools and religious education programs.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, pictured in January, will be the keynote speaker at the Salute to Catholic School Alumni March 16. (CNS Photo)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, pictured in January, will be the keynote speaker at the Salute to Catholic School Alumni March 16. (CNS Photo)

“We’ve set this year’s goal at $700,000. Based on the response so far, I think we’re on track to meet that,” said Lechleiter. “I think our message, the work that’s been done in our schools this year, the numbers of students we’ve helped — up to 2,400 — resonates with people.”

Since announcing a plan in the fall of 2014 to increase tuition assistance awards by 20 percent — to $2 million — the CEF has increased giving dramatically.

At the beginning of the current school year, the CEF and its partners, including the Archdiocese of Louisville, increased the number of students receiving financial aid by 60 percent. And a total of $5 million was awarded to students.

Lechleiter pointed out that every student who applied for aid received an award.

Early ticket sales for this year’s Salute are on track for another big year, he said.

“We’re grateful for the support,” said Lechleiter, adding that such support will be more important than ever for the next school year.

“There’s no doubt the demand is going to grow,” he said. “We’re already seeing higher numbers in applications — possibly an increase

Kathleen Willenbrink

Kathleen Willenbrink

of 20 percent, and these are new families.”

Lechleiter said it’s possible that tuition assistance awards may reach $6 million next fall.

The Salute dinner is the CEF’s largest fundraiser. In addition to Cardinal Dolan’s keynote address, the benefit dinner also recognizes distinguished Catholic school alumni.

This year’s honorees are Donald J. Kelly, Dr. Donald T. Donovan, Stephen C. James, Steven E. Trager, Ursuline Sister Paula Kleine-Kracht, Father G. Nicholas Rice and Patricia A. Parks.

In addition, Kathleen Willenbrink and Steven E. Trager will be honored for their contributions to Catholic education.

Willenbrink, a teacher at St. Leonard School, was featured in The Record in January.

Steven E. Trager

Steven E. Trager

Trager, chairman and chief executive officer of Republic Bank, is this year’s Community Service Award winner. He is the 2016 campaign chair of the Fund for the Arts, serves on the board of directors of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority and is a trustee of Bellarmine University. He is a member and past chair of the University of Louisville Board of Overseers. Last year, he was inducted into Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame.

Trager earned a degree in finance at the University of Texas and his juris doctor degree from the University of Louisville.

Following is a detailed listing, including biographical information, of this year’s Catholic school alumni honorees:


Donald Kelly

Donald J. Kelly

Donald J. Kelly, the partner in charge of the Louisville office of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, graduated from St. Leonard and St. Xavier High School. Kelly has been recognized for excellence in Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America from 2010 to 2016, in Kentucky Super Lawyers, in Louisville Magazine and in Best Lawyers.

He also serves on the board of directors of Greater Louisville Inc., St. Xavier, New Hope Foster Homes and Community Catholic Center. He is also a former director and secretary of the Catholic Education Foundation.

He and his wife, Mary Carol, attend Holy Trinity Church and have three children.




Steven James

Steven C. James

Stephen C. James, chief financial officer of Mortenson Dental Partners, graduated from St. Thomas More School and DeSales High School before earning a degree in accounting at the University of Louisville.

He currently chairs the boards of the YMCA and the DeSales High School Foundation. He serves as treasurer of the Mortenson Charitable Foundation and Presentation Academy. Last year, he chaired the American Heart Association’s Kentuckiana Heart Walk.

Louisville Business First named him to its “40 Under 40” list in 1998, and then honored him as large private company CFO of the Year in 2014. He was inducted into the DeSales High School Hall of Honors in 2011.

Steve and his wife, Mary Ann, attend St. Thomas More Church and have three children.



Sister Paula Kleine-Kracht

Sister Paula Kleine-Kracht

Ursuline Sister Paula Kleine-Kracht is a former principal of her alma mater, Sacred Heart Academy, and co-founder of Nativity Academy at St. Boniface.

As principal of SHA from 1994 to 2001, she led the school to become an International Baccalaureate World School, the only Catholic high school in Kentucky to do so.

In 2002, she and Fathers Tim Hogan and Bill Fichteman founded Nativity Academy, a Catholic middle school in urban Louisville that serves at-risk students. She was the school’s first executive director and retired in 2011.

Sister Kleine-Kracht also attended St. Therese School, Ursuline College, Bellarmine College, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, where she earned a doctoral degree.

She is a member of Our Mother of Sorrows Church and of the Ursuline Leadership council. She has been honored by SHA as its Alumna of the Year and by Bellarmine University as a Distinguished Graduate.


Father Nicholas G. Rice

Father G. Nicholas Rice

Father G. Nicholas Rice attended St. Augustine School, St. Thomas Seminary, St. Meinrad College and School of Theology, Boston College and sabbatical programs in Louvain, Belgium, and Rome, Italy.

Father Rice, who founded the Mass of the Air in 1977, has served on the local, national and international level since his ordination in 1967. He has served as the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office and he founded and directed the permanent diaconate program.

Father Rice has given retreats to priests, deacons and parishes throughout the United States. In the broader community, he led the Senate of Priests in support of racial equality, open housing and the lettuce and grape boycotts. He has served on the “Moral Side of the News” program and the Crusade for Children Allocation Committee for more than 30 years.



Patricia Parks

Patricia A. Parks

Patricia A. Parks, president emeritus of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/Parks & Weisberg Realtors since 2013, attended Most Blessed Sacrament and Holy Name schools, Presentation Academy and Bellarmine University.

At Presentation, Parks now serves as a trustee and advancement committee chair.

President Ronald Reagan appointed her to a blue ribbon cabinet for professional women. She has been named the Louisville and Kentucky Realtor of the Year and has served as president of the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors. Dedicated to education and paving the way for women in business, she served as local, state and national president of the Women’s Council of Realtors and was instrumental in forming its Leadership Training Graduate designation.

Parks and her husband Mike Berman have three children and eight grandchildren.


John S. Turner

John S. Turner

John S. Turner, retired president and chief executive officer of Angell-Demmel North America in Marion County, Ky., attended Catholic schools in New Jersey, including Our Lady of Lourdes School in Milltown and St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Seton Hall University.

He currently serves as chair of the board of trustees of St. Catharine College in Springfield, Ky. He also co-chairs the Lebanon Centre Square Foundation Board and is a board member of the Lebanon/Marion County Industrial Foundation, Farmers National Bank and the Lebanon Water Works Commission.

He received the Governor’s Economic Development award in 1997 and was named Marion County Business Person of the Year in 1998. He and his wife, Suzanne, are members of St. Augustine Church in Lebanon and have four children.


Dr. Donald Donovan

Dr. Donald Donovan

Dr. Donald T. Donovan is the Olga Keith Wiess Professor and chair of the Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital.

Donovan attended Catholic schools in Texas and Kansas, as well as St. Francis of Assisi and Trinity High schools in Louisville. He also attended Harvard University and Baylor.

In addition to his academic post, he maintains a clinical and surgical practice.

He is a Diplomate and Honor Awardee of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. He received the Baylor College of Medicine Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty and Distinguished Service awards and Houston Methodist Hospital’s Physician of the Year award. He received Baylor’s Outstanding Faculty Award five times and has been listed among America’s Top Doctors each year since 1999.

He and his wife, Christine, are members of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Houston and have four children, including one in formation to become a Jesuit priest.


Tickets to the 2016 Salute at the Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth St., are $250 per person or $2,500 for a table of 10. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. For tickets or more information, call 585-2747 or visit

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