By Lou BaldwinSpecial to The CS&T
Graduates of Catholic schools within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia make a difference.
In keeping with a tradition begun in 1991, on Jan. 29 the Archdiocese presented Distinguished Graduate Awards to three inspaniduals and one group.
Honored during the ceremony, which was held at the Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Building, were Rosalie M. Mirenda, president of Neumann University; Nazareth Hospital’s Dr. Richard W. Vassallo; attorney Marcella B. Schankweiler; and the St. Thomas More High School Alumni Association. X
“The Distinguished Graduate Awards celebrate the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s legacy for providing a superior Catholic education – an education that focuses on the academic, moral and spiritual development of our youth,” said Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who oversees Catholic education. “In their personal and professional accomplishments and their continuing commitment to the values they learned as students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, our honorees exemplify our mission for Catholic education and the promise we see in all of our students.” {{more}}
Mirenda is the daughter of Italian immigrants “who were poor in the ways of the world, money and assets, but rich in tradition, love, religion and faith,” she said.
A graduate of St. Paul School in South Philadelphia and John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, she has been president of Neumann University since 1996. During her tenure enrollment has nearly tripled.
“My own Catholic school education is the guiding force behind my commitment to preserve Catholic education in contemporary society,” she said.
Vassallo, who is a graduate of St. Mary of the Eternal School in Philadelphia and Roman Catholic High School, is a doctor of internal medicine and a cardiologist. He is also the chair of the Nazareth Hospital Foundation Board. He has served on Roman’s board of advisers for two decades and is a board member of the school’s Cahill Trust. He is also a recipient of the papal honor Knight of St. Gregory the Great.
“A Catholic education is the beginning of a lifetime of responsibility,” Vassallo said. “Through the values my education instilled in me, I recognize that God was an ever-present part of my life and learned to use my talents to the best of my ability.”
Schankweiler is a graduate of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Doylestown and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown. At age 30 she lost her first husband, Peter, to cancer. Determined to help other families dealing with cancer, she founded Crossing the Finish Line, a nonprofit organization that sends young adult cancer patients and their families on all-expenses paid respite vacations.
Through the foundation she has given 850 cancer patients and nearly 3,000 caregivers the opportunity to make future memories away from the rigors of cancer treatment.
“I was fortunate and blessed,” she said, “to have gone to Catholic school my entire life, which instilled within me a strong sense of community and compassion, of drive and dedication to make the world a better place.”
The award to the St. Thomas More Alumni Association was unusual in that St. Thomas More High School, founded in 1936, closed in 1975, after its West Philadelphia neighborhood lost most of its Catholic population. During its relatively brief existence it educated an estimated 6,000 boys.
Seven years after it closed the alumni association was founded, and since that time has focused on raising money in support of Catholic schools.
In 2010, 74 scholarships of $1,000 each were awarded by the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, bringing the total since its inception to $504,000.
“Our motto is fiercely supporting Catholic education,” said Al Fanelli, one of the founding board members of the fund.