Salute aims to raise record-setting
$1.35 million for Catholic education

Each year, the Catholic Education Foundation’s Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner includes a Community Service Award to honor someone who is a leader and exemplifies dedication to society. This year, the award will be given to 1,717 “someones” at the March 15 event.

All Catholic school teachers and staff in the archdiocese’s 48 schools have been named Community Service Award winners by the CEF.

Their award will be presented at the Galt House Hotel March 15, when the CEF aims to raise a record $1.35 million to support the foundation’s tuition assistance program.

The program helps students who can’t afford a Catholic education to receive one, according to Richard Lechleiter, CEF president.

“The success of this event will determine our success for the year,” he said during a recent interview.

Last year was the foundation’s biggest year to date, granting $7 million in scholarships to 3,400 students.

Meeting this year’s donation goal would be record-breaking, said Lechleiter. But he noted, the fundraising effort is not about setting records; it’s about meeting needs.

It’s “really important because the needs of our families we support keep going up so the amount of assistance we offer has to go up,” he said.

Those who attend this year’s event will hear from keynote speaker Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who spoke to a sold-out Salute dinner in 2016 and was slated to speak in March of 2020 before the pandemic forced its cancellation.

Eight awards will be presented during the event, including awards honoring six alumni of Catholic schools, an outstanding Catholic educator award and the Community Service Award.

For community service, “Every year we look at someone who has exemplified community service and has been a leader,” said Julie Baum, CEF vice president, in a recent interview. “When we were thinking about that, we thought about the people who really put a lot of time, effort, energy into making sure Catholic schools were open and that our students were able to go back in person.”

She said teachers were working more hours than ever before, often in situations that they weren’t necessarily trained for. First they shifted to teaching online without time to prepare. Then they balanced both in-person and online instruction. In person, some were separated from their students by Plexiglass and had to stay six feet apart for safety.

“We could not come up with one person,” Baum said. “There were so many people who deserved that award so that’s why we decided to honor that group of very hardy recipients.” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Beth Bowling will receive the award on their behalf.

The other award recipients are:

Salute Honorees

Deborah Akers Ford
Akers Ford, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin – Parkside in Kenosha, Wis., attended St. Gabriel School, Mercy Academy and the University of Louisville. Her career in higher education began at Spalding University.
She and her husband, John, have been members of St. Aloysius Church in Pewee Valley, Ky., St. Mark and St. Anthony churches in Kenosha, and have two children.

Claudia M. Coffey
Coffey, host of Great Day Live!, attended Guardian Angels School, Assumption High School, Indiana University and Georgetown University.
The Emmy Award-winning journalist and her son, Jack, are members of St. Gabriel Church.

Joseph “Jody” F. Demling Jr.
Demling, who runs the online sports media platform Cardinal Authority, attended Holy Spirit School, Trinity High School and the University of Louisville.
The former journalist and radio host was named Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year in 2004.
He and his wife, Angela, are members of Holy Trinity Church and have two children.

Stephen T. Hamilton Sr.
Hamilton, the secretary and treasurer of his family’s coal business, attended St. Joseph School and Bards-town High School in Bards-town, Ky., and the University of Kentucky.
The United States Army veteran has served on St. Joseph Church’s parish council and finance committee as well as on the boards of St. Joseph School, Bethlehem High School, the Stephen Foster Drama Association and the local public housing authority.
He and his wife, Sylvia, are members of St. Joseph and have three children and nine grandchildren.

D. Hank Robinson
Robinson, senior vice president of tax for Humana, attended Holy Trinity School, St. Xavier High School, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
Volunteer work and boards he has served on include Norton Healthcare, St. Xavier High School, Assumption High School and the Catholic Education Foundation, among others.
He and his wife, Karen, are members of Holy Trinity Church and have six children and six grandchildren.

John A. Zoeller
Zoeller, the CEO of Louisville-based Zoeller Company, attended St. Lawrence School, Bishop David High School and the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering.
He joined the Zoeller Company in 1989, which was founded by his grandfather in 1939, and became CEO in 2003.
He and his wife, Elaine, are members of St. Raphael Church and have four children and 11 grandchildren.

The Father Joseph McGee Outstanding Catholic Educator Award winner, Lisa A. Lauder, who was announced during Catholic Schools Week observed Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, will receive the award during the dinner.
Lauder has been a teacher at St. Gabriel School for more than 30 years. She attended St. Gabriel, Assumption High School and the University of Louisville.
She will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Record.

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