Foundations Spring Gala Bids Up Catholic Education

April 1, 2019 | Foundations in Education | News

DARIEN—More than 250 guests provided extraordinary generosity, while Catholic school students delivered the inspiration at the Spring Gala of Foundations in Education held last night at Woodway Country Club in Darien.

The evening began on the right note when members of the Select Choir of Saint Aloysius School in New Canaan, under the direction of Alexander Patrie, sang “I choose to believe” at the reception before dinner.

Student speaker and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School 8th grader Joshua Dixon delivered the main course with a talk about the value of Catholic education, which brought the audience to their feet in a standing ovation for the young man who overcame many challenges, including the loss of his mother when he was 8 years old, to receive a Catholic education.

He said that his life and his studies fell apart after his mother’s death to cancer. He attended five different schools in the two years after her passing before his older sister enrolled him at St. Thomas in Fairfield.

“I am a different person mentally and spiritually than I was before I got to St. Thomas,” said the 13-year-old who will be attending Fairfield Prep in the Fall and hopes to be an architect. “It has brought balance to my life and I’ve grown in faith.”

Proceeds from the evening are expected to exceed $1.3 million for the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, which provides more than $2.5 million in aid to nearly 1,400 Catholic elementary school students throughout the diocese each year.

“If you believe, you see miracles,” the Bishop said in referring to the performance of St. Aloysius students. “My message tonight is that we should look upon the miracle of Catholic education, a work of love unfolding in the lives of the students entrusted to us.”

The Bishop thanked donors and the Foundations in Education Board of Trustees for supporting “the mission to strengthen and transform Catholic education by supporting innovation, professional development and scholarship assistance.”

“Doing things the same way is not good enough anymore,” the Bishop said. “I’m deeply grateful for all of you who joined us to transform one school, one program and one child at time.”

Foundations in Education Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine said that “tuition assistance brings students to our schools and innovation keeps them here.” She thanked the Bishop for his vision to “make Catholic education more vibrant and more accessible to all those who seek it. He is the driving force and why we’re here tonight.”

Thomas McInerney, Vice Chair of the Foundations in Education Board of Trustees, said that when he visits Catholic schools he is impressed by the innovation and leadership and the “remarkable transition” underway. McInerney, who is a major donor to Foundations, said that the students have “embraced personalized learning” and it’s changing their lives.

Mr. McInerney and Bishop Caggiano recognized the evening’s honorees: Barbara and R. Bradford Evans honored for their philanthropic giving and service on the Board of Trustees; the faculty of St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Brookfield for its role in introducing multi-age personalized education; and Fairfield University for its institutional partnership with diocesan schools.

In his brief remarks Bradford Evans said he and his wife Barbara, a former elementary school teacher, are strongly committed to educational choice for parents, particularly for those who are financially challenged.

“Financial aid is the first priority of Catholic education. It all starts there with helping parents to have a choice,” he said.

Fairfield University President Mark Nemec accepted the award on behalf of the school’s elementary and secondary education programs that have assisted diocesan schools in transforming the curriculum and adopting new teaching techniques.

Dr. Nemec said the university is committed to assisting in the formation of young people during a time of exponential change, when the young themselves often have the skills to lead older people. He said the university’s support is based on its “Jesuit values of finding God in all things and helping people to live their lives more profoundly.”

Pam Fallon, Education Director and leader of St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Brookfield, accepted the honor on behalf of the faculty members who led the transition to a multi-age personalized learning model which has revived the school and become a model for other programs throughout the diocese.

Mrs. Fallon said the new program has empowered students and exceeded expectations. “The teachers learn to teach differently and the students learn how to learn differently,” she said of the personalized learning approach.

Immediately following the recognition ceremony, celebrity auctioneer Patrick Tully drove up bidding during the live auction with his energetic, humorous and skillful style, as guests raised their paddles on a variety of donated items including dinner with New York Giants owners Frank and Lynn Mara and quarterback Eli Manning, golf and vacation destinations and other items.

Through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund and its special initiative, Leaders of Tomorrow, Foundations in Education strives to make transformational Catholic education more affordable for families, regardless of their financial circumstances.

In this past year, Foundations in Education awarded over $2,540,000 in Bishop’s Scholarship Fund tuition assistance to 1,380 students at Diocesan elementary schools throughout Fairfield County, with the Leaders of Tomorrow program awarding $201,250 to 44 elementary school students. In its effort to support teacher’s creative project or initiatives by providing funding $125,000 in the Innovation and Leadership Grants to 19 Diocesan elementary schools.