By Nadia Maria Smith

CS&T Staff Writer

As part of Catholic Schools Week, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will be honoring six outstanding Catholic school graduates with 2008 Distinguished Graduate Awards for not only achieving professional success in their chosen fields, but also having demonstrated a commitment to living their lives by Gospel values.

These men and women will be inducted into the Archdiocesan Hall of Fame in a ceremony held Friday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. at the Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia.

Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.
Jesuit Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer, professor emeritus of the department of Biblical Studies at Catholic University of America and award winner, credits his Catholic education at St. Hugh of Cluny School and St. Joseph’s Preparatory School for his lifelong academic career.

“I owe a debt to the teachers at St. Hugh’s and St. Joseph’s who taught me so much,” he said. “I have spent most of my life studying and teaching – and the Catholic education that I received enabled me eventually to do that because it built on what I learned at both those schools.”

He fondly remembers how his sixth and seventh grade teacher, Sister Francis Veronica, would take him patiently after Sunday morning Mass for a tutoring session in mathematics. He credits her dedication for his success in achieving a scholarship to attend St. Joseph’s Prep, he said. He also remembers Sister St. Charles who taught him algebra in eighth grade so that when he attended high school it was just a review for him.

And thanks to the Jesuits who taught him at St. Joseph’s, he decided to study for the priesthood as a Jesuit and developed a love for teaching, he said.

Mary Lou Quinlan
Mary Lou Quinlan is a graduate of St. Helena School, Cardinal Dougherty High School and St. Joseph’s University.

She is known as “the Oprah of Madison Avenue” for her successful work as a leading marketer and founder of Just Ask a Woman, a top strategic marketing consulting agency focusing on marketing to women.

Quinlan started her business in 1999 after building a 25-year career with companies such as Avon, DDB Needham Worldwide and N.W. Ayer. She has authored several books, including the best-seller “Just Ask a Woman: Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy.”

Quinlan points back to her Catholic roots for her present-day success.

“I believe that the foundation of any successful career is the ability to match your God-given talents to your natural passions,” she said. “My Catholic education was the perfect preparation because I always felt cared for as an inspanidual, allowed to grow at what I loved, even though I went to two huge schools.”

Quinlan believes that it was that mix of fostering her talents and expecting academic rigor that gave her “the blend of skills that would mark my career in the challenging worlds of advertising and communications,” she said.

“Was it any one thing [that made me succeed]? A class, a role in a musical, a poem I published or a paper I wrote? No. I think it was the love that made me succeed, the love of selfless, dedicated parents and teachers that gave me roots to grow and wings to fly,” she said.

But the influence of her Catholic faith does not stop there. It has helped her throughout her 30 years in a highly competitive business in New York City. “After these years of working, I can say that I have brought that homegrown Catholic value of humanity with me to work,” she said, “and it’s made a huge difference.”

Dennis M. O’Brien
Dennis M. O’Brien, the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, has been an advocate for the residents of Philadelphia’s 169th Legislative District for the past 33 years. A graduate of Our Lady of Calvary School and Archbishop Ryan High School, O’Brien has prioritized health care, educational choice, veterans’ rights, economic development initiatives, early intervention and the maintenance of nursing services. He has also worked as an advocate for autism spectrum disorders and serves on several boards and caucuses committed to autism.

“My Catholic school education set the foundation for my approach in life and in my profession from a values-driven perspective,” O’Brien said. “Catholic education stresses the importance of the well-rounded person within the context of the Gospel message of caring for others.”

The Hanways
This year a couple will be recognized for their Catholic witness.

Edward Hanway, chairman and CEO of CIGNA Corp., and his wife, Ellen, Hanway are both graduates of Nativity B.V.M School in Media. Ellen went on to Notre Dame High School in Moylan and Edward attended Cardinal O’Hara High School.

An ardent supporter of Catholic education, Ellen is a member of the board of trustees of Drexel Neumann Academy.

Edward is recognized as a national leader in the effort to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care in the United States. He believes his Catholic education provided him with the educational foundation to succeed in his career because “it instilled in me a respect for myself and for others, as well as the responsibility to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than myself.”

Sergeant Patrick McDonald
Sergeant Patrick McDonald was a Philadelphia police officer fatally shot in the line of duty Sept. 23, 2008, at the age of 30.

A proud product of Catholic schools, he graduated from Christ the King School, Archbishop Ryan High School and St. Joseph’s University.

With a degree in criminal justice, Sgt. McDonald joined the Philadelphia police department in January 2000 and took tremendous pride in serving the people of Philadelphia. A well-decorated officer, Sergeant McDonald received many honors in his brief career.

In celebrating him as a Distinguished Graduate, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia humbly recognizes – and honors – all those graduates who dedicate their lives to making the Philadelphia area a better and safer place to live, work and pray.