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January 27, 2011


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will honor three remarkable Catholic school graduates and a passionate alumni association with its 2011 Distinguished Graduate Award. Also known as the Archdiocesan Hall of Fame, the Distinguished Graduate Awards have a grand tradition of honoring Catholic school alumni who have not only achieved professional success in their chosen fields, but also have demonstrated a commitment to living their lives by the Gospel Values that guide and define Catholic education in the Archdiocese.

"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 Most Reverend Michael Fitzgerald, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. "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."

7:00 p.m.
Friday, January 28, 2011
The Crystal Tea Room - Wanamaker Building
Broad and Juniper Streets

The four honorees to be inducted into the Archdiocesan Hall of Fame are:

Dr. Rosalie Mirenda- President of Neumann University
St. Paul School, Philadelphia, Pa.; John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls' High School, Philadelphia, Pa.

When Dr. Rosalie Mirenda's parents emigrated from Italy to the United States, they were "poor in the ways of the world -- money and assets -- but rich in tradition, love, religion, and faith." Not surprisingly, they sought for their daughter an educational environment that emphasized these same values.

It was from those earliest days at St. Paul School in Philadelphia in the late 1940s that Dr. Mirenda began her lifelong appreciation for and commitment to Catholic education. By 1996, Dr. Mirenda was able to apply this commitment as the President of Neumann University.

In this role, Dr. Mirenda has forged a reputation as a tireless visionary and advocate for the Catholic identity and Franciscan Mission of the university. Since she became president, enrollment at Neumann has more than tripled and capital giving has increased more than 30 percent.

Dr. Richard Vassallo - Doctor of Internal Medicine, Cardiologist, and Chairman of the Nazareth Hospital Foundation Board
St. Mary of the Eternal School, Philadelphia, Pa.; Roman Catholic High School, Philadelphia, Pa.

How does a Catholic education reach beyond the life of a single student to touch the lives of many others? In the case of Dr. Richard Vassallo, he has not only touched lives, but he has saved them.

As a doctor of Internal Medicine, Cardiologist, and Chairman of the Nazareth Hospital Foundation Board, Dr. Vassallo has extended his care and compassion to patients for over 28 years. His well-known skill, warmth, and friendship have earned Dr. Vassallo the love and respect of fellow medical professionals and patients alike.

Dr. Vassallo is also a lifelong supporter of the Catholic Church and Catholic education to which he credits so much of his success and happiness. He has served on the Roman Catholic High School Board of Advisors for nearly two decades and is a member of the Cahilll Trust and a Knighted member of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.

Marcella B. Schankweiler, Esquire - Founder and Executive Director, For Pete's Sake Cancer Respite Foundation
Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Doylestown, Pa.; Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Flourtown, Pa.

"I was fortunate and blessed to have gone to a Catholic school my entire life, which instilled within me a strong sense of community, compassion, drive and dedication to make the world a better place," said Schankweiler.

Just how to put this awareness into action became clear to Ms. Schankweiler while on a vacation with her cancer-stricken husband, Peter, that was funded by a large Catholic community fundraiser at Mount Saint Joseph Academy. She wanted to help other families dealing with cancer to reconnect with each other and build new lifelong memories the way she and Peter had.

So in 1999, only weeks after Peter's death, Ms. Schankweiler founded For Pete's Sake, a nonprofit organization that sends young adult cancer patients and their families on fully-paid respite vacations.

Since then, Ms. Schankweiler has given 850 cancer patients and more than 3,500 caregivers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make memories together away from the rigors of cancer treatment. An active member of the St. Rose of Lima Parish and St. Rose of Lima Parish School in North Wales, Ms. Schankweiler has been recognized by People magazine and Major League Baseball as a finalist in the national "All-Stars Among Us" contest. She was also recently recognized as a Woman of Distinction by the Philadelphia Business Journal and presented with LaSalle University's alumni award, the Signum Fidei Medal.

The St. Thomas More Alumni Association
St. Thomas More High School 1936-1975

St. Thomas More High School began its life in 1936 as an annex to the overcrowded West Catholic Boys High School nearby. By the time it closed in 1975, an estimated 6,000 boys, many of whom went on to become leaders in government, industry, education, and the arts, received an exceptional education there.

That could well have been the end of a bittersweet Catholic education story. But the St. Thomas More Alumni Association (STMAA) was determined to remain a vibrant and vital part of the promise of Catholic education.

Since its establishment in 1982, the St. Thomas More Alumni Association has added almost one million dollars to the principal balance of the STMAA Scholarship Fund. The interest earned from this fund has been used to award scholarships to deserving students of Catholic high schools within the Archdiocese.

In 2010, 74 scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each were approved, bringing the total of all grants from the inception of the program to $504,000. Recipients have included boys and girls from every high school class level who have attended nearly every Catholic high school in the Archdiocese.

2010 also marked the opening of the Saint Thomas More High School Room at Cardinal O'Hara High School. The room at Cardinal O'Hara is decorated in the St. Thomas More school colors of green and gold, and is filled with various championship trophies and photos from the school's archives. The Saint Thomas More Room also is a place for meetings, and a central hub where O'Hara students can connect with each other. Most Reverend Joseph P. McFadden (St. Thomas More Class of 1965), Bishop of Harrisburg and former President of Cardinal O'Hara, blessed and dedicated the room.

These three individuals and alumni association exemplify the Promise Fulfilled by Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

To purchase tickets for the 2011 Distinguished Graduate Awards please visit


Meredith Wilson
Communications Specialist

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