By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Last year when the Catholic Education Foundation announced its aim to raise $1 million at its 2018 fundraising dinner, organizers called it a “miracle” goal.
That “miracle” goal was reached and last week an even greater sum was raised to assist families who seek to provide a Catholic education for their children.
The 2019 Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner netted $1,125,000, a sum greater than its latest goal of $1.1 million.
“Thanks to our wonderful support across central Kentucky, this result that we are reporting tonight is nearly double the amount we raised just five years ago,” said Richard A. Lechleiter, CEF president.
Lechleiter said at the event the foundation aims to raise $2 million in the coming years.
“We are on a march to $2 million at this event some day,” Lechleiter said. “That is our mission going forward.”
Educators, donors, parents, students and Catholic education supporters — nearly 1,700 in all — filled the grand ballroom of the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville March 27 to honor a slate of Catholic school alumni and to raise critical funds needed to assist families.
Lechleiter told them, the CEF — together with its funding partners — provided tuition assistance to 3,100 students in Catholic elementary schools totaling $6.4 million this school year. Among its partners are the Archdiocese of Louisville, Catholic parishes and elementary schools, School Choice Scholarships and Community Catholic Center.
Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Tenn., delivered the evening’s keynote address. Bishop Spalding was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville in 1991. He was appointed by Pope Francis as the 12th Bishop of Nashville in November 2017.
In his address, Bishop Spalding said that every Catholic school “is our Catholic school.”
“Their success, whether they are on our property or not, is our success. And, their challenges are our challenges,” he said.
He noted that some schools are made up of students whose parents can afford the tuition and are located in areas that are easily able to be successful. Others schools, he said, have more challenging demographics.
“Those schools, especially, have inside of them students who need, above all, a Catholic education,” he said.
“They are ours. They are not just that pastor’s. They are not just that principal’s. They are not just that parish’s. They are our responsibility,” he said.
He urged schools and parishes to increase efforts to welcome a more diverse group of students “both in color and culture. Both, in the way they learn and how they speak bringing them into our schools.”
The Nashville bishop said excellence in academics and in athletics must be tied to excellence in faith formation and witness, which drew applause from the crowd.
“I’ve seen so much effort in our Catholic schools to make them worthy academic institutions, to make sure our students are strong and clever and powerful athletes.
“But, likewise we can never fail in tying them into our faith traditions and in sharing with them the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our schools are Catholic schools. We must keep that always before ourselves,” he said.
Bishop Spalding said more still needs to be done to ensure all families have access to a Catholic education.
“As generous and kind as everyone has been this evening … If we do not do more, there will be less.
“I am asking you to be generous, even more so. Move the decimal point … to the right,” he said. “If you are that generous, you will changes lives for the better.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who co-chaired the event along with William E. Mudd, president and chief operating officer of Churchill Downs Incorporated, added a similar message.
“We cannot allow Catholic schools to only be an option for the affluent, only for those people who have sufficient income,” the archbishop said.
“We need everyone of you and your support so that the Catholic schools become reachable for people regardless of their income,” he told those gathered last week.
To conclude the evening, the CEF presented awards to this year’s distinguished alumni honorees: Monica Beam Bohn, Jeffrey S. Brohm, Rev. Thomas E. Gentile, R. Kenyon Meyer, Victoria Imorde Weber and Thomas A. Wimsett.
Monica Beam Bohn founded Century Mortgage and Executive Title Company and Century Entertainment and Furnishings with her late husband, Matt.
She attended St. Mary Church in Maryville, Ky., and is a graduate of Mercy Academy. She attended Georgetown College.
She and her three children Maria, Matt and Ava are parishioners of St. Edward Church.
Jeffrey S. Brohm is the head football coach at Purdue University.
He attended St. Bernard School and graduated from Trinity High School, where he was named Mr. Football in Kentucky and the Courier-Journal’s Player of the Decade for the 1980s.
Brohm went on to play as quarterback from the University of Louisville, where he was named most valuable player in the 1993 Liberty Bowl. After he earned his degree in business, he spent seven seasons playing in the National Football League.
Brohm and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Brady and Brooke, and attend the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette, Ind.
Rev. Thomas E. Gentile, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville in 1973.
He attended Sacred Heart and St. Barnabas schools and graduated from St. Xavier High School. He later attended St. Thomas Seminary and later earned philosophy and theology degrees from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.
Father Gentile served as associate pastor at St. Denis, St. Pius X and St. Helen before being named pastor of Sts. Simon and Jude Church in 1984. For the next 33 years, he served the south Louisville communities of St. Helen, St. Mathias, St. Denis and in 2009 became the founding pastor of Mary Queen of Peace Church until he retired in 2017.
He has served on the board of the Catholic School Athletic Association continuously since 1973 and as board chair since 1996. He also has twice served as chair of the board of directors of DeSales High School.
From 1984 to 2009, Father Gentile was a licensed NASCAR stock car racer, and was twice named most popular driver in the street stock division. Today, he is chaplain of DeSales and serves as a senior associate priest for five parishes in West Louisville.
R. Kenyon Meyer is the managing partner of the Louisville office of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, where he is also a member of the firm’s board of directors.
He graduated from St. Raphael School and St. Xavier High School. He earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from the University of Louisville.
Meyer has served on the boards of the Children’s Law Center, YouthBuild Louisville and the Oates Institute. In addition, he was named one of Louisville’s “40 under 40” and was inducted into St. Xavier’s Hall of Honors in 2004.
He and his wife, Karen, have four children: Sydney, Sullivan, Elizabeth and Keenan. They attend St. Raphael Church.
She attended St. Agnes and St. Gabriel schools and graduated from Assumption High School.
Her early career included work in the Offices of County Judge/Executive, County Commissioner, Economic Development and the administration of Mayor Harvey Sloane. She then served for 13 years as president of the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce.
She has served on the board of directors of Women 4 Women, Spirit of Louisville Foundation, Gilda’s Club and the Jeffersontown Economic Development Authority. In 2016, Today’s Woman selected her as its Most Admired Woman.
Weber and her husband of 45 years, Rich, have two children and four grandchildren. They are parishioners of St. Margaret Mary Church.
Thomas A. Wimsett is the founder and chairman of both Wimsett & Company and Merchant’s PACT, payment card industry advisory firms based in Louisville.
He attended St. Catherine School in New Haven, Ky., Nelson County High School and the University of Louisville.
Wimsett is also an operating partner in several private equity-backed companies and a director of a S&P 500 public company.
He serves as board chair of the Catholic Education Foundation. He also serves on the board of advisors for the University of Louisville’s College of Business, the Bethlehem Legacy Foundation Board and as chair of the development council for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
He and his wife, Rhonda, have three children and one grandchild. They are members of St. Gregory Church in Samuels, Ky.
He earned undergraduate degrees in physical education and history from the University of New Hampshire, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in higher education administration from the Ohio State University.
Rothwell taught and coached at the University of Wisconsin, where he was the head ice hockey coach of the National Championship team in 1973. He was also a member of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Selection Committee for the 1980 team that won a gold medal.
He also served as the executive director of the Penn State University Alumni Association and later as the vice president for development and alumni at the University of Louisville from 1989 until his retirement in 2000.
Rothwell also served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. He has served on the boards of Rotary Club of Louisville, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Cathedral Heritage Foundation, National Public Radio and the Catholic Education Foundation.
He and his wife, Sandy, have three children and five grandchildren and are members of St. Margaret Mary Church.
And, Anne C. Bahr, a first-grade teacher at St. Martha School, received the Father Joseph McGee Outstanding Catholic Educator Award.