By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
During another record-breaking Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner March 18, the president of the University of Notre Dame said that his university’s nickname —the
Fighting Irish — represents the “indomitable spirit” that is central to Catholic education.
To make his point, Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, turned to the words of a local teacher, Martha Lies, who discussed her approach to teaching in an interview with The Record last month.
He said, “When the diocesan newspaper interviewed her about the award she’ll receive tonight, Martha talked about her vision for creating risk-takers and hard workers.
She said, ‘I want my students to have the skills to listen and share with one another. And when things get hard, I hope they’re willing to admit it, turn to prayer and work.’
“That relentless care for students, that instilling of indomitable spirit, that sense of community, that’s what’s central to Catholic education,” he said. “I should know, I come from a family of 12 children. One thing was nonnegotiable. We were going to Catholic schools.”
Lies is a first grade teacher at St. Agnes School. She received this year’s Father Joseph McGee Outstanding Catholic Educator Award during the event.
The annual Salute raises funds for the Catholic Education Foundation which provides tuition assistance and grants to support Catholic schools and teachers.
This year’s event broke last year’s record by about $40,000, ultimately yielding more than $600,000, said Bradford Rives, chair of the Salute.
Father Jenkins also noted during his keynote address that Catholic schools are the same around the world — from his nephew’s school in Florida to one he visited in Bangladesh.
“Catholic schools have a special power,” he said. In addition to the traditional academic rigors, “They are so concerned with the whole student — their minds, their bodies, their spirits, their hearts. And in doing so they can create remarkable learning communities” centered on love.
None of that is possible, he added, without the sacrifice and dedication of Catholic school supporters. He thanked the educators and administrators in the room, as well as donors and Catholic school parents.
“Catholic schools demand sacrifice, but in the end, there’s no sacrifice more worthwhile and more meaningful than the sacrifice for young people, for our children. These young people are the future of the world and of the church. They are our responsibility, the responsibility of each and every one of us.”
Following his presentation, the CEF presented awards to seven people, in addition to Lies. Mary Moseley, president and CEO of the A.J. Schnieder Co., received the Community Service Award.
Six men and women were honored as distinguished alumni. As they received their awards, the honorees thanked their parents for the sacrifices they made to send them to Catholic schools, they thanked their educators and encouraged potential donors to support Catholic education for the next generation.
Rear Admiral M. Stewart O’Bryan, a graduate of Trinity High School, said he was grateful for his Catholic education and made lifelong friendships at Trinity High School.
“I was very fortunate my mother and father made the sacrifice” for Catholic education, he said. “Trinity High School shaped me into the person I became.”
William D. Newcomb, a long-time supporter and graduate of Bethlehem High School in Bardstown., Ky., lauded the school’s current principal, Tom Hamilton. Newcomb, vice president of Newcomb Oil Co., said he had a host of exceptional teachers, adding, “there are so many who do so much.”
Mary Jo Wolford Gleason, a graduate of St. Agnes, Sacred Heart Academy, St. Louis University and Spalding University, said she felt honored and humbled by the award.
Gleason, an attorney and advocate for women, said she feels gratitude when she thinks of Catholic education and encouraged people to continue to support Catholic schools for today’s children. Catholic schools, she said, prepare students “to know their faith, act on their faith and serve others based on their faith.”
Mary C. Pendleton, a graduate of Presentation Academy and Spalding University, has spent 39 years away from Kentucky, travelling the world as a diplomat, but said, “I remember fondly my days at Pres.” She visited the school recently, she said, to speak to students about her work. “It’s heartwarming to be recognized with this group,” she
added. “I admire you for your service and especially for your generosity.”
T. Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs and a graduate of DeSales High School and Bellarmine University, named some of his most beloved teachers, a coach and friends in education. He wondered aloud, “how can you thank everyone in one minute (the time allotted for each honoree to speak)?”
Those who taught him, he said, “have given me the opportunity to have a family — children and a wife who everyday challenge me to be the best I can be.”
Richard A. Lechleiter, a graduate of St. Stephen Martyr School, St. Xavier High School and Xavier University, was named the new president of the CEF last week and said he’s excited to assume that role.
“The dedication, sacrifice, hard work and the great gift of my faith in my Catholic education have defined me,” he said.
He thanked Rosemary Bisig Smith, the CEF’s retiring executive director, for the legacy that she leaves, having helped thousands of children receive a Catholic education.
The event concluded with a special tribute to Smith, chronicling her contributions to Catholic education.