Catholic Education Foundation receives $1 million gift

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Richard Lechleiter

Richard A. Lechleiter

The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) is one step closer to its goal of providing tuition assistance to all families who wish to send their children to Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

David and Betty Jones recently announced their intention to donate $1 million to the foundation.

David A. Jones is the co-founder and former chief executive officer of Humana Inc., an international health benefits company.

Richard A. Lechleiter, the newly-appointed president of the CEF, said the gift signals to the community the great value of Catholic schools — and their graduates — in the archdiocese.

“I’m certain that the leadership the Jones family has shown will lead to even greater levels of generosity in support of the growth of our Catholic schools,” he said in a phone interview last week.

Lechleiter said the donation, which will occur over a four-year period, will provide assistance to an additional 100 students. About 20,000 students attend Catholic schools in the archdiocese, 13,000 of which are in elementary schools. Last fall, the CEF assisted the families of 1,300 students or 10% of the elementary student body.

“Adding another 100 to that annually is really quite meaningful,” he said.

The annual need of families today is approximately $5 million, according to the CEF. Lechleiter said the foundation will raise $2 million — or about 40% of that amount — this year.

“Clearly, that is just a start on the path to meeting the obligations,” he said. “Our strategic goal is to have the ability to grant $5 million annually within a five year period.” He acknowledged that the goal is an aggressive one. But added that “we are quite focused both at the foundation and in the Catholic community to raise sufficient funds to meet this need. This gift is clearly a big lift toward meeting that goal.”

Lechleiter said he believes that once families see assistance is available, enrollment in Catholic schools will grow.

“There are many more young families in this community who very much want their children to participate in the Catholic education experience,” he said. “It (this donation) will provide hope to these young families.

If there is assistance available today and in the future, they will join us.”

The mission of the CEF, Lechleiter said, is to raise enough funds to make Catholic schools financially accessible to all.

“A gift like the one from the Jones family is clearly advancing that mission,” he said.

The CEF holds two main fundraising events throughout the year — the Salute to the Game Luncheon, scheduled this year for Sept. 30, and the Salute to Catholic School Alumni, scheduled for March 18, 2015. Lechleiter said the combined net goal for those two events is $1 million. Last year, $800,000 was raised between the two events.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz expressed his gratitude to the Jones family for the donation and noted it was one of the largest in the foundation’s history.

“Since the Foundation was established in 1996, David and Betty Jones have been among our most generous benefactors. This gift … is yet another reflection of the Jones family’s incredible generosity to so many worthy causes in our community spanning over more than 50 years,” he said in a news release from the foundation.

David A. Jones was honored at the 1996 Salute to Catholic School Alumni with its Community Service Award. In 2012, Jones served as the keynote speaker at the annual “Salute.”

In his address, Jones noted the impact on the local economy of Catholic education and those who benefit from it.

Within the Catholic school system in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Jones said during the 2012 event, “thoughtful leaders have minimized bureaucracy, allowing talented teachers and administrators to do their very best work.

“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, Jones said, allows the local community to “produce confident, capable and responsible leaders of society.”

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