By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Rosemary Bisig Smith, the executive director of the Catholic Eduction Foundation (CEF), announced March 7 her plans to retire this summer.
Richard A. Lechleiter, retired executive vice president and CFO of Kindred Healthcare, Inc., has been named president of the CEF.
“Catholic education is the foundation of our spiritual community and Rosemary has dedicated her life to supporting that effort,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in a press release from the CEF. “Her empathy for families choosing to educate their children in the Catholic school system has driven her success and we will miss her dedication and endearing spirit.
“Under Rich’s leadership, I am confident that we can continue this strong tradition and strengthen our outreach to families who desire the gift of Catholic education for their children but cannot afford it,” the archbishop said.
The CEF is an independent, non-profit organization that supports Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Louisville. It offers financial aid to families for Catholic school tuition and awards grants to Catholic schools for religioius education, technology and professional deveopment. Last year, it awarded $2.1 million, including $1.7 million for tuition assistance.
Smith served as director of stewardship for the Archdiocese of Louisville from 1990 to 2004. In that position, she led a capital campaign that provided seed money for the foundation, the press release said. She became the leader of the CEF in 2004.
Under Smith’s leadership, the foundation’s two major fund raisers — the Salute to Catholic School Alumni banquet and the Salute to The Game luncheon — have grown into two of the largest fundraisers in the region, the press release said.
Last year, the Salute raised a record of $560,000 and the luncheon raised $202,000 for the CEF’s work. This year’s Salute is set for March 18 at the Galt House Hotel.
Lechleiter, the CEF’s new president, is one of six Catholic school graduates who will be honored as distinguished alumni at the Salute.
Lechleiter has a long history with Catholic education. He attended St. Stephen Martyr School, St. Xavier High School and Xavier University. He served on the CEF board from 2006 to 2012 and was chairmen of the board in his last two years.
Lechleiter also was honored by Pope Francis in November. He received the Holy Father’s Benemerenti Medal for his service to the church. He retired in January after 19 years of service to Kindred Healthcare, Inc.
Brad Rives, current chair of the Catholic Education Foundation’s board said in the release, “The Foundation is very blessed to be in this position. Rosemary has been a tireless advocate for the foundation and her ability to raise awareness and funding for this important cause is unparalleled. We will miss her greatly.
“At the same time, we couldn’t be more fortunate to have Rich succeed her,” said Rives, Chief Administrative Officer of LG&E and KU Energy. “During his time on the foundation board, Rich demonstrated outstanding leadership and great passion for our Catholic education tradition and was tireless in his efforts to expand the role of the foundation.”