New tuition fund reaches $1.2 million

Third-graders at St. Nicholas Academy are pictured in this fall 2017 file photo. More than 40 percent of St. Nicholas students received tuition assistance this school year. They are among about 3,000 students across the archdiocese who received aid this year. A new endowment established in honor of the Archbishop of Louisville is expected to help another 100 or so children attend a Catholic school each year. (Record File Photo by Jessica Able)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) announced May 9 that commitments to the Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D. Scholarship Fund have reached $1.2 million.

The fund, named in honor of the leader of the Archdiocese of Louisville, is the CEF’s newest endowment and was announced at the annual “Salute to THE GAME Luncheon” fundraiser in September.

When the endowment was announced a handful of donors had committed $600,000 to the fund, said Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the CEF, during an interview early this week.

“In a few short months, we’ve doubled it. I’m thrilled,” he said.

This outpouring of generosity happened because the “archbishop, the foundation, our schools and pastors are in lock-step in what we should be doing for kids in this archdiocese,” he said.

Donors like Emil and Nancy Graeser, whose donation of $300,000 helped the fund reach its current sum, are noticing this trend and are appreciative, Lechleiter said.

The scholarship fund is part of the CEF’s permanent endowment, which assists students in need from kindergarten through eighth-grade.

The fund will contribute $100,000 a year to help these students cover the cost of tuition at a Catholic school.

If the average child receives $1,000 in tuition assistance, 100 students will be assisted by the fund each year, said Lechleiter.

“That to me is awesome,” he said. “It’s very meaningful in terms of how it can change people’s lives and the future of the kids.”

The goal for the fund is $2 million and Lechleiter said he’s optimistic it will happen.

“I’d like to encourage others to join us in this journey,” he said, noting that every member of the CEF’s staff and board have made commitments to the fund. 

Lechleiter said members of the board thought it fitting to name the fund for Archbishop Kurtz because of his impact on Catholic education in the archdiocese. 

“It’s because of the archbishop we have so much momentum in Catholic Education,” said Lechleiter. “He’s a dynamic leader in the community. But for Catholic education, he’s meant revival.”

Archbishop Kurtz said he’s “grateful” for the endowment, which he believes “honors the efforts of the whole archdiocese.”

“By that I mean, all the pastors, principals and all who are working so hard to make enrollment in a Catholic school possible for people,” said the archbishop. “Finances can be a great barrier” to families being able to choose a Catholic education.

Having a scholarship fund named in his honor also speaks to the “tremendous influence Catholic schools” have had in his life, Archbishop Kurtz said in an interview this week. “I think back to the teachers who influenced my life and it fills me with gratitude.”

The archbishop noted that he also has “deep gratitude” for those who have donated to the fund.

“It’s a testimony of their love of Catholic schools and their love of the work of the archdiocese,” he said.

In addition to reaching the $2 million goal set for this fund, Lechleiter said the CEF also aims to double the overall endowment, which currently stands at $21 million.

It’s one of the CEF’s “strategic goals,” he noted. “It’s very reasonable to think we can double the endowment over time.”

Donations to the Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D. Scholarship Fund may be sent to the CEF at 401 West Main St., Suite 806, Louisville, Ky., 40202.

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