Immaculate Heart Legacy Gala Award Winners
2016 Award Winners
The Immaculate Heart Distinguished Alumnus Award – Senator Hugh T. Farley, IHA ’48
Immaculate Heart is honored to present the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus award to Senator Hugh T. Farley, IHA ’48. After winning twenty Senate elections and becoming Senior Senator for the State of New York, Senator Farley has decided to not seek re-election in order to spend more time with his wife and family. It is thus a fitting time to honor an alumnus who, since graduating Immaculate Heart, has been an outstanding Catholic, soldier, high school and college educator, legal scholar, town councilman, and New York legislator.
Senator Farley’s legislative accomplishments are many. He has authored and help gain passage of legislation benefiting senior citizens, safeguarding the environment, regulating the banking industry, reigning in money laundering, protecting homeowners from predatory lending, strengthening regulation of the financial sector, guarding privacy rights, and bringing jobs to the Capital region in partnership with the private sector. Senator Farley is particularly proud of being the Senate’s leading advocate for libraries, having sponsored nearly every piece of major library legislation for the last four decades, and increasing state support for libraries, including school and hospital library programs.
Senator Farley has a distinguished record of spearheading initiatives to benefit his local area, including creating the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, establishing the Hugh T. Farley Regional Law Enforcement Academy, protecting the Schenectady Great Flats Aquifer, and enabling the construction of a new Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES facility. He has worked with local officials and residents to attract businesses and develop industrial parks, and to preserve cultural and historic treasures.
Throughout his years in the Senate, Senator Farley was increasingly sought for his expertise and effectiveness at working across state lines, and was recognized as a leader in his party. Says Senator Farley, “I’ve been privileged to work with state officials from throughout the country.” Among other honors, he was elected President of the National Republican Legislators Association and the 1989 Legislator of the Year by the National Republican Legislators Association. He has also served in a variety of leadership positions, including Majority Whip, and Chair of a variety of committees and subcommittees.
Despite this long list of accomplishments, Senator Farley’s own words best capture his career. “Service to individual citizens has always been of paramount importance to me. … I have enjoyed making a real difference for real people.” Senator Farley has provided unique assistance to thousands of people and families; no problem has ever been too big or too small.
Senator Farley has led a model Catholic life in his personal and professional affairs. He has been an active parishioner in the Catholic Church his entire life and Eucharistic Minister. While it is not noted in his current official biography, we were able to glean from his 50th reunion submission (i.e. which he wrote in 1998) that he was proud to have been named the 1997 New York State Catholic Legislator of the Year. He has been recognized by the New York State Catholic Conference “for courageous public service in pursuit of the common good.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in his recommendation letter supporting Senator Farley’s nomination for this award, commented that Senator Farley’s “work as a public servant and support of the Catholic Church is second to none. For his defense of religious liberty, his protection of life from conception to natural death, and his support of educational choice, I say ‘Bravo.’ It is hard to imagine a public servant who better exemplifies the notion of a true Catholic gentleman and defender of the Church.”
We would also like to recognize and honor tonight Mrs. Farley. For 57 years, Sharon Farley has been Hugh’s faithful and steady partner. Without Sharon, we are sure that Senator Farley’s successful career could not have been possible. Hugh and Sharon are blessed with three successful children and are proud grandparents and great-grandparents.
The “Friend of Immaculate Heart” Award – Bill P. Plante, IHC ’76
Immaculate Heart is honored to present this year’s Friend of Immaculate Heart Award to Mr. William P. Plante, IHC ‘76. For the past three decades, Bill and his wife Judi have been deeply involved in supporting the church, Holy Family School (now IHC Primary School), and the entire Immaculate Heart Central School System. While devoted teachers, priests and principals have come and gone, Bill has remained a constant – always there, always dependable, and always dedicated to Immaculate Heart.
Bill and Judi have had children in attendance at Immaculate Heart Central for the past 27 years, and have tirelessly dedicated themselves to supporting the school. Bill served on the Education Council of the former Holy Family School, and was a critical resource to then-Principal Sister Ellen Rose. Rarely did a facilities issue arise that Bill was not somehow involved in fixing … from the simple things, like broken fan belts, to major projects, such as the safe removal of asbestos insulation in the classrooms. Bill gave freely of his time, common-sense approach to problems, and engineering expertise to help the school continue its mission. Almost single-handedly, Bill helped plan and install the Primary school playground, which our students still enjoy. Over the years, he has helped maintain and improve the playground. Perhaps just as importantly, Bill would simply drop-in on Sister from time to time to see how things were going. Bill’s unwavering interest in the school extended to his and Judi’s investment in their own children’s education and development in the Church community, serving as role models to all.
Bill continued his service on the IHC Education Council, broadening his service to IHC High School and IHC Elementary school formed when the four parish schools unified in 2004. Bill played an important role in planning the unification. Since his term ended on the Council, Bill has remained as a member of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He has not ceased to give freely of his time and professional expertise to keep the school system in good repair, always providing sound advice to the administrators in finding effective and affordable solutions. His contributions have included supervising structural work on the Greystone building, which housed our St. John Bosco Pre-School; transferring and installing donated seating from McDonald’s restaurant to the school cafeteria; responding to countless “emergency calls” and consultation requests; and helping plan and supervise installation of the Intermediate School playground. This summer, several major capital projects will take place at IHC Elementary School, all of which Bill helped develop. As he did decades ago, Bill will be supervising the removal of vinyl asbestos tile throughout the Primary School, which will be replaced with bright, new flooring. This list does not include similar work for Holy Family Church, where he has been a long-time parishioner
Perhaps as important as any of these contributions has been Bill’s temperament. Patient, calm and level-headed, Bill’s focus has always been on the school and the students, never on the politics that sometimes embroil facilities and resource decisions. His demeanor was a source of confidence for administrators, and certainly a powerful example for his children.
It would not be possible to discuss Bill’s contributions without mentioning Judi’s as well. Said Sister Ellen Rose Coughlin, “Judi was always the first person asked to help, and she never said no.” Judi was Room Mother Coordinator, classroom mother, librarian, chaperone, driver, bake sale organizer, Girl Scout leader, and fundraising coordinator. Together, Bill and Judi are powerful examples of what one family’s dedication to faith and a quality Catholic education can produce. Their three oldest children – Ryan, Kyle, and Aimée – are thriving, and their youngest, Cole, will graduate IHC this year. Next month will be the first in 29 years that a Plante has not been enrolled at IHC. As Bill and Judi celebrate and are grateful for what they have achieved with their children, it is time for us as a school community to celebrate and be grateful for what Bill has tirelessly contributed to the well-being of Immaculate Heart.
The Immaculate Heart Community Service Award – Mr. and Mrs. T. Urling and Mabel Walker
It is hard to think of a couple who have done more to serve the community of Watertown, and indeed the entire North Country, than Mr. and Mrs. T. Urling and Mabel B. Walker. Immaculate Heart is honored to present this year’s Immaculate Heart Community Service Award to the Walkers.
The Walkers have a long and esteemed track record of community service. Mr. Walker turned 91 in March, and he and Mabel celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary in September. The couple moved to Watertown in 1951, and has resided here for 64 years. Throughout their adult lives they have been inseparable, devout Christians, active in civic life, community servants, and philanthropists.
Mr. Walker is perhaps best known as a two-term Mayor of Watertown from 1983 to 1991, during which he sought to lead a proactive administration. As Mayor, Mr. Walker was instrumental in working with officials then seeking to establish Fort Drum. Demonstrating his proactive style, he was successful in working with Army leaders to accommodate a major troop installation while retaining Watertown’s way of life, preserving the city’s character, and creating arrangements to ensure the Fort and the City would forge a productive partnership (for example, in health care).
Though an engineer by training, Mr. Walker is truly a teacher by disposition, having served on the faculty at Jefferson Community College, as a JCC trustee, and as a founding member of the JCC Foundation. Mr. Walker served five years on the Watertown School Board and the Jefferson/Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, including a stint as President on each. He served on the first Jefferson-Lewis School Boards Association. The Walkers are also believers in the right of parents to choose where to send their children to school, including parochial and private school. For this reason, the Walkers have supported Immaculate Heart Central Schools over the years. As Mayor, Mr. Walker ensured that the street along Holy Family School was included in the tree plantings throughout the city. In recent years, the Walkers have helped support the Immaculate Heart Annual Fund, with the goal of preserving an independent school in Watertown. At JCC, the Walkers sustain three scholarships: the Walker Family Engineering Scholarship, the Winifred G. Walker Nursing Memorial Scholarship and the Constance Walker Monroe Liberal Arts Memorial Scholarship, all to help students in financial need. They support an endowed scholarship and an endowed nursing scholarship at the SUNY Empire State College Foundation. At SUNY Potsdam, the Walker Research Fellowship Program encourages faculty from the region’s 11 institutions of higher education to undertake research on critical issues facing North Country communities. The Walkers also contribute to the foundations of several North Country colleges.
Mr. and Mrs. Walker support many other worthy causes, including tree planting in Watertown, a cancer committee at Samaritan, the Ontario Bays Initiative, the Orchestra of Northern New York, the Frederic Remington Museum, Watertown Urban Mission, the Jefferson County Historical Society, and many others. Recognizing the honor and joy of giving, in 2010 the Walkers established the Walker Family Community Fund to provide a lasting source of community grantmaking and perpetuate the family’s values by giving back to their community. In addition to their varied philanthropic efforts, the Walkers have served on numerous boards and advisory committees of North Country organizations.
Over the years, Mabel Walker has been active in the health care field, helping to start hospice in Jefferson County. She also volunteers her nursing skills to help friends and neighbors who have undergone surgery, given birth, or need other care.
Anyone who knows the Walkers understand that their commitment to their neighbors and community is part of an incredibly strong Christian faith. Members of First Presbyterian Church in Watertown for over 60 years, they have let God guide their actions and generosity.
2015 Award Winners
The Immaculate Heart Distinguished Alumnus Award – Dr. Matthew D. Cheney, IHC ’98
Immaculate Heart is honored to present the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus award to Dr. Matthew D. Cheney, IHC ’98. Matt’s personal and professional accomplishments have been consistently characterized by passion, excellence, and a devotion to others.
After graduating as the IHC Class of 1998’s valedictorian, Matt went on to Dartmouth College, where he became captivated by a love of research science and medicine. He buckled down in his studies, earning several fellowships and scholarships which allowed him to complete his medical training while also achieving his doctorate in biochemistry. While in graduate school, Matt focused his research on acute myeloid leukemia. It was at this time that his intellectual interests took a personal turn. His father’s melanoma, which had been treated while Matt was at IHC, had spread. Matt, then 24, became very involved in helping his father go through treatment and navigate clinical trials in the final months of his life. “My dad’s illness and death had a huge impact. I saw what it’s like to be a patient; to walk the other side of the road.” His father’s death led Matt to devote his career to radiation oncology. “Having been there as a family member of someone with a really advanced and difficult malignancy, I sense a deep fellowship with people confronting cancer. It’s a privilege to be involved in a person’s life at that challenging time. I’m continually inspired by the perspective and hope that oncology patients find in life.”
At each step, Matt’s professional achievements have reflected his sense of purpose. He was chosen by his medical school peers to receive Dartmouth’s “Good Physician Award” as the class member who best exemplifies the personal and intangible qualities of the ideal physician – the doctor his classmates would send family to see. In his final year of medical school, he received Dartmouth’s prestigious Syversten Fellowship, awarded to the medical student considered first among their peers in academic excellence, scientific rigor, a passion of learning, a love of medicine, a depth of human concern, and sense of community spirit and citizenship. At the University of Washington, Matt received the “Intern Teaching Award” as the intern who best exemplifies an excellent clinical teacher. A resident of Harvard’s Radiation Oncology Program since 2011, Matt was selected to be the Chief Resident, charged with ensuring that residents of the country’s largest radiation oncology program are “prepared to go out and give great care.”
Matt is now preparing for the next stage of his career at Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he will practice medicine, while continuing to teach. “I’ll have the privilege of helping people through difficult situations – certainly their physical health, but there is also a large spiritual dimension as they encounter end of life concerns. That’s very important to me.”
Matt and wife Kate recently celebrated the birth of their first child, Leif, now 5 months old. Matt is grateful to his family, as well as the priests, Sisters, and lay teachers at Holy Family School and Immaculate Heart Central, for providing the “great foundation” for his life and career. He credits his AP Biology teacher at IHC for inspiring him to pursue studies and a career in the life sciences. “I was definitely nervous going to college but quickly learned that I was really, really well prepared. There’s just not enough time in college to learn the full spectrum of things that are important to know. I have always been amazed at the range of things we were able to learn at Holy Family and IHC.”
The “Friend of Immaculate Heart” Award – Terence D. Burgess
Immaculate Heart is honored to present this year’s Friend of Immaculate Heart Award to Mr. Terence Burgess. Terry has served the students of Immaculate Heart for decades – as a teacher, coach, dean of men, faculty advisor for the Faith Community Service program, and as the director for the Immaculate Heart Central Mystery Players. In all these roles, he has enriched the traditions and values at the heart of IHC’s mission, helping students grow more deeply in their faith.
Terry taught for two years at St. Anthony’s School before joining the faculty at IHC High in 1976, where he taught science and health for 25 years. He also coached the girls’ soccer, basketball, and junior varsity basketball teams; the boys’ junior varsity football; and the golf team (and probably a few others!).
Terry is perhaps best known for his 31-year involvement with IHC’s Mystery Players – the last 20 as director. “Even though I’m no longer teaching at IHC, IHC is still in my heart … to me, Mystery Players is about continuing to serve IHC on a daily basis.” Terry has affected hundreds of seniors who count Mystery Players as their most powerful and treasured experience at IHC. “I just continued what Fr. [Mike] Gaffney brought to IHC [in 1981] … and do it the way he started, in a prayerful way.” Under Terry’s guidance, the Mystery Player program offers a special opportunity for IHC seniors to pray together, to let their guard down with one another, and to share their prayerful performances with thousands of people throughout the Northeast. For the students, Mystery Players is a year-long, mutual prayer experience.
Over the 20 years Terry has led the program, the Mystery Players have expanded their travels – west to Buffalo; east to Boston; north to the border; and as far south as Charlotte. The Players have explored many new scripts, including “The Stations of the Cross for those Dealing with Cancer,” a special performance introduced several years ago and that will be held again this year on May 30. The Players have mastered an austere but dramatically effective use of acting, narration, music and lighting.
Most importantly, the Mystery Play has remained a powerful spiritual journey for IHC’s seniors. In the words of one former “MP’er:” “Most of [us] have grown up hearing about Jesus’s sacrifice for us … but it takes on new meaning when you experience it through the Mystery Play. I can’t even really explain the feeling … To take on a ‘part’ and try to feel what that person may have been feeling … To see your friends ‘play parts’ … Something happens to you… You ‘get it’ (right, Mr. B.?).” Perhaps no activity or experience better embodies Immaculate Heart’s purpose.
Under Terry’s guidance, seniors this year and last had the opportunity to bring their performance of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection to St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Connecticut. “I have done absolutely nothing more powerful, more significant, and more rewarding than praying with the people of Newtown,” said one student. Commented another, “No words can describe how I felt that night but I know that will always be a part of me. The first thing that I now think when I hear Newton is ‘acts of kindness.’ Even when something horrific like that happens you have good people and God there to overpower grief.”
The Immaculate Heart family is especially grateful for Terry’s many years of faithful service to IHC and for helping provide decades of students a once-in-a-lifetime experience exploring their faith.
The Immaculate Heart Community Service Award – Tracy L. Leonard, IHC ’04
Immaculate Heart is honored to present this year’s Immaculate Heart Community Service Award to Tracy L. Leonard, a graduate of Sacred Heart School and the Immaculate Heart Central High School Class of 2004.
The youngest award winner to date, Tracy is seemingly anywhere and everywhere about town, giving freely of her time, energy and passion. Like many Immaculate Heart alums, Tracy’s “volunteer career” began in elementary and high school, where she was the youngest of five sisters to graduate Immaculate Heart. She has kept herself firmly rooted in those experiences by continuing to stay involved with IHC students. Most prominently, Tracy continues to support the Immaculate Heart Mystery Players, helping with practices, performances, and trips, and serving as an example to IHC’s seniors. “I think Mystery Players is the most important thing a student can do at IHC. It was an incredible experience for me as a senior, and I want it to continue for future students, and for the people and communities they will touch. Hopefully, that experience will stick with them.” To further her goal of enriching the faith experience for IHC students, Tracy has also helped organize a number of the school’s trips to the March for Life in Washington, DC.
Tracy’s work with IHC students exemplifies her approach to service; she finds plenty to do right around her, and draws on her personal experiences and passions to motivate her. “With everything, I try to follow my passion; to engage family, friends and young people. It makes giving of your time easy.” Involved as the student representative on SUNY Jefferson’s Center for Community Studies Board of Directors, Tracy has continued to work with the Center and with students, helping them understand the practical community applications of research. Through her involvement with SUNY Jefferson’s Partners in Education Board, and Nursing Advisory Board, she has worked to connect students with opportunities that address community healthcare needs.
Tracy has continued her emphasis on mentoring young people by serving on the LEAD Council, an initiative of the Northern New York Community Foundation that seeks to build a spirit of philanthropy among young professionals and students. The LEAD Council is a “pipeline approach to building leadership,” according to Tracy, “to continuing the legacy that other community servants have left.” Through the LEAD Council, Tracy has been working on a forthcoming initiative to encourage students to volunteer throughout Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties, and to help students better understand their community. “This community has given me so much. I want it to flourish.”
A big part of Tracy’s life involves her faith. In addition to her service to Catholic Charities, which “serve the most vulnerable in our community,” Tracy is active in her parish, helping with events at the Sisters of St. Joseph motherhouse, and involving her family and friends in bible study. “The Sisters and priests have always been part of our family life … and IHC’s faith-based education really instilled in me a sense of spirituality, morality, service, and personal responsibility for my choices.”
“When you know your work is based on truth,” says Tracy, “it is easy, enjoyable, and very fulfilling.”
The Immaculate Heart Distinguished Alumnus Award – Brian D. Rich, IHC ’96
The Immaculate Heart Central Schools Distinguished Alumnus Award is the school’s most prestigious alumni award. It is given annually to a distinguished alumnus of Immaculate Heart Academy or Immaculate Heart Central Junior/Senior High School who has, through personal example and selflessness, brought credit to the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the school by personal accomplishment, professional achievement, responsible citizenship, or humanitarian service that has nurtured a closer union with God and neighbor.
Our youngest Distinguished Alumnus Award winner to date, Brian D. Rich, IHC Class of 1996, embodies the criteria for the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Even before leaving IHC, Brian has been a leader in his community. Brian is an active and faithful parishioner and parish council member of St. Peter Claver Church in West Hartford, CT. Brian also does invaluable work as the Vice Chair of Trustees of the Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation, an organization dedicated to eradicating homelessness. Mercy, the largest such organization in the Hartford area and one of the largest in Connecticut, operates shelters and provides housing, food, job training, and access to medical services to the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless. As Vice Chair, Brian’s main role is to help guide Mercy in accomplishing its mission and strategy; however, he also gives freely of his time and resources to physically pitch in and run events and services. “It takes a lot,” says Brian.
Brian’s professional career has been equally distinguished. After graduating from Boston College in only three years, followed by a law degree from Syracuse, Brian quickly became one of the youngest equity partners in the 80 year history of the Halloran and Sage law firm, a large firm with some 100 lawyers. In his role as partner, Brian supervises and mentors many of the firm’s less experienced attorneys. Brian’s range of legal experience is unusually deep. He routinely represents national and multinational financial institutions and other corporate and individual clients in a broad spectrum of commercial litigation issues. Recently, he was named by the Connecticut Law Tribune as one of their 2013 New Leaders in the Law.
Brian credits his outlook and success to the “strong formal practice of the faith” he learned at IHC. He expresses his gratitude for maintaining his connection with many of the “special people” at IHC (some of whom are attending the Legacy Gala). Brian has given back to IHC, honoring one of those special people by establishing the Sr. Jeanne Baptiste Scholarship for a student who “best exemplifies her legacy, through a devotion to the study of history and a profound fidelity to the Roman Catholic faith.” In his own words, Brian presents the scholarship “as a grateful beneficiary of the power of an astonishing teacher and as a witness to her remarkable Christian life.” Brian continues to sustain the Sr. Jean Baptiste scholarship.
Brian’s greatest source of pride? “My wife and our three young boys, aged 4,2, and 1. They are always foremost on my mind.”
The “Friend of Immaculate Heart” Award – Jayme and JoAnn St. Croix, IHC ’74 and ’75
The “Friend of Immaculate Heart” Award is given annually to a person (or for the second year in a row, persons) who has substantially advanced the school’s mission, helped safeguard the school’s future, and affirmed the importance of Catholic Education, through their selfless generosity, devotion, leadership, or power of example. Immaculate Heart is honored to present this year’s award to Mr. and Mrs. Jayme and JoAnn St. Croix. Jayme and JoAnn believe in the value and importance of Catholic Education. They carry-out that belief through constant action – big and small – and by inspiring others in the Immaculate Heart community through their steadfast commitment.
Jayme and JoAnn are lifelong parishioners of Sacred Heart. Jayme and JoAnn have always been professional fixtures in the community – Jayme through his years of service as the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, and JoAnn as the owner of Watertown’s H&R Block (in fact, the 2008 “Franchise of the Year” award winner). They have been even more visible in their service to the community, and to Immaculate Heart schools in particular. They easily qualify for the Immaculate Heart Community Service award. It would be difficult to list all of the organizations that Jayme and JoAnn have supported, or the boards they have served on, though they include the Sacred Heart Foundation, their parish council, the Sacred Heart School board of education (one of the predecessor schools of the current Immaculate Heart Central Elementary school), the Youth Bureau, the Disabled Persons Action Organization, the Teen Center, and the Watertown Empire Zone administrative board.
But above all, Jayme and JoAnn are true “Friends of Immaculate Heart.” They are always volunteering, doing whatever needs doing, helping the faculty and staff, and supporting the school’s mission. Jayme has coached IHC’s youth basketball team. JoAnn has served on the Home and School club at both Sacred Heart School and Immaculate Heart. At the first Home and School Club “grandparent breakfast,” instead of sitting with the rest of the grandparents being honored, Jayme and JoAnn were busy serving donuts and pouring coffee. Jayme is in the lunch room at IHC Primary three days a week serving lunch, who is now known to the children as “Papa Jay.” The students also see Papa Jay regularly taking photos at their prayer services, attending events, and driving on field trips.
The criteria for this award include selfless generosity and a commitment to help safeguard the school’s future. It is important to thank the St. Croix’s for their substantial financial support of the school. The St. Croix’s are among the school’s Top 100 donors, including their steadfast support helping establish the Immaculate Heart Legacy Gala.
The Immaculate Heart Community Service Award – Richard “Dick” Gaffney, IHA ’49
Immaculate Heart is honored to present this year’s Immaculate Heart Community Service Award to Richard “Dick” Gaffney, a graduate of St. Patrick’s School and the IHA Class of ’49.
People across the North Country immediately associate Dick with the annual “North Country Goes Green” Irish Festival, and indeed Dick has played a pivotal role in the Irish Fest since it was first conceived and began in 1986. Dick was a co-founder of the event, and exerts the same tireless direction and energy today as he did 29 years ago. What many do not realize is how many lives Dick has directly impacted by devoting his time, sweat, and passion to build the Festival into the thriving event it is today. The Irish Fest was originally conceived as a local extension of Project Children, which, during the worst period of the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland, brought Protestant children from Northern Ireland to stay with Catholic families, and Catholic children to stay with Protestant families. Over the years, Dick has helped the Festival to evolve to serve as the vehicle for hundreds of thousands of dollars in local scholarships for students in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
With Dick’s stewardship, the Festival has also become a critical event for many of our community’s most worthwhile non-profit organizations and churches to raise funds and advance their missions. Again, Dick has helped these organizations raise hundreds of thousands of dollars that are routed directly back into the community to help those in need. A partial list of these organizations include the Children’s Home of Jefferson County, the Watertown Urban Mission, Wounded Warriors, the Ft. Drum USO, the Northern NY Community Foundation, the Association of the United States Army, the Food Bank of Central NY, the YMCA, Project Children North, the Volunteer Transportation Center, and the Community Action Planning Council. These organizations do critical work serving the citizens of Greater Watertown – much of which would not be possible without Dick’s efforts.
How has he had such a big impact? Those who know Dick know how hard a worker he is. From his IHA days (when he worked in the morning before school and in the evening after school), to his 34 years at the telephone company, to his constant efforts at the Irish Fest, Dick is always in motion. For many years, his beloved wife Linda worked alongside him. Linda and Dick often helped with World Changers, a program that helps Christian youth with opportunities to serve their community, often by helping serve lunches at McCarthy Hall.
The Immaculate Heart Distinguished Alumna Award – Rose Frattali, IHA ’49
Rose is truly a trailblazer among our many IHA and IHC alumni. Like many female alums of her day, Rose entered the workforce as a secretary — in her case at the Agricultural Insurance Company, which had been in Watertown for 128 years. However, Rose became elected a corporate officer of the company, the only woman so selected.
In 1976, she and the then-President of the company left and co-founded the New York Casualty Insurance Company, to which she was elected President in 1984.
For her impressive professional success, Rose was the recipient of the first Athena Award (a national award) given by the Greater Watertown Chamber of Commerce.
Rose has also served on a variety of professional and corporate boards, including the Marine Midland Advisory Board and the Business Council of the State of New York.
Her accomplishments have certainly not been limited to the professional sphere. Rose has served on a variety of community and non-profit boards, including the Mercy Center Board, the Finance Board for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, the Jefferson Community College Foundation Board, and presently the Finance Committee for St. Anthony’s Church and the Finance Board for the Sisters of St. Joseph. In addition to her intellectual acumen, she has given of her time as a choir member at St. Anthony’s and a member of the Precious Blood Auxiliary.
(Note: the IHC advancement office currently does not have a copy of the 1946 yearbook, from which we hoped to scan Rose’s graduation photo. If you are willing to donate a copy of the yearbook, lend one to us to scan electronically, or let us know if one was not produced due to wartime restrictions still in effect in 1946, please let us know at 315-221-3785).
The “Friend of Immaculate Heart” Award – Jim and Betty Coughlin, IHA ’49
It’s hard to think of a couple more devoted to Immaculate Heart Academy and Immaculate Heart Central Schools, to the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and indeed to Catholic Education throughout the Diocese of Ogdensburg, than Jim and Betty Coughlin.
First and foremost, and perhaps quite fittingly given the philanthropic purpose of this evening to benefit the IHC Scholarship Fund, Jim and Betty established the Alice Coughlin Memorial Scholarship in memory of their daughter Alice, who graduated from IHC in 1968 and tragically died in a car crash shortly after beginning her dream job as a teacher. The scholarship benefits graduating IHC seniors who wish to enter college in preparation for a teaching career. In the last several years, the Coughlins endowed the scholarship with over $150,000 in principal, placing it under the stewardship of the Sisters of St. Joseph. When we interviewed Jim and Betty about the scholarship and their many other gifts to IHC for our school magazine, the ECHO, we asked them: “why do you give to IHC?” Betty did not hesitate in her response: “because Immaculate Heart Academy taught me a way of life, and the Sisters were the guides.”
Jim and Betty’s devotion to IHC and the Catholic community of Watertown also includes Jim’s service as a member of the first IHC Education Council, when the school changed from being called Immaculate Heart Academy to Immaculate Heart Central High School. Betty, who served as organist and choir director at St. Anthony’s, also was active in the St. Patrick’s school PTA, Girl Scouts and Children’s Little Theatre productions. Jim continues to sit on the Finance Board for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, which safeguards the integrity of IHC’s savings, endowment, and scholarship fund.
Jim’s and Betty’s other professional and civic contributions are equally impressive and meaningful:
- President and CEO of several corporations with worldwide holdings
- Service as trustees at Mater Dei College, Franklin Academy, the Alice Hyde Hospital Foundation in Malone, the Malone Central School Board of Education, the SUNY Potsdam Foundation, North Country Hospice, and the St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center in Saranac Lake
- Active involvement with Rotary, the Boy Scouts, the Watertown Mayor’s Conference on Youth, the Alice Hyde Hospital Auxiliary, and, of course, their local parish.
Perhaps most importantly, Jim and Betty did a wonderful job raising their family of 2 girls and 11 boys.
The Immaculate Heart Community Service Award – Mel Busler, IHC ’77
When talking about Mel Busler’s service to the community, it is hard to know where to begin. Mel is passionate about improving the quality of life of the people of Watertown, and he has certainly led by example, inspiring and motivating many others.Mel has been on the Salvation Army’s old newsboy day committee for many years selling newspapers to benefit the Salvation Army, and ringing the Red Kettle bell.Of course, Mel’s distinctive and well-known voice makes him the perfect MC for events, and he has devoted his own time to many such charitable and community events over the years: the Clayton Christmas Parade, the Carthage Hospital Auxiliary’s annual Fasion Shhow, the Taste of the Town for the Victims’ Assistance Program, and the Festival of Trees for the Samaritan Foundation and the YMCA. In addition to his skills as an MC, Mel has also served as a judge and auctioneer for chili cook-offs, kite-flying contests, and auctions for groups such as the Volunteer Center, Hospice, the American Legion, and many others. Week-in, week-out, Mel is giving of his time and talent to benefit others.Mel serves officially as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Disabled Persons Action Organization, helping provide quality programs for disabled persons and helping families cope with the stress of caring for the disabled loved ones. More than just a Board member, he visits the organization’s clients throughout the year, perhaps to MC a bowling banquet, scoop ice cream, invite them to his home for Christmas caroling, or just say hello.For over ten years, Mel has delivered meals to shut-ins four days a week through Meals on Wheels. Like the mailman, whether it’s raining or snowing, Mel always delivers. He also devotes his time to the Made in New York festival in Sackets Harbor, which also benefits Meals on Wheels.His many years of service to Relay for Life, as a Board member and auction coordinator, has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for research and services to support cancer patients right here in our community.Mel is also a family man, and a church man. Whether coaching his son’s basketball team at St. Anthony’s school, Jello-wrestling at the Jefferson Country Fair, getting soaked in dunking booths across the country, helping with the Religious Education Program or serving as lector at Sacred Heart Church, Mel is always around, always visible, and always touching people directly through his generosity and kindness.
Distinguished Alumnus Award – Monsignor Paul Whitmore, IHA ’46
Monsignor Whitmore may be unique for the age at which he made his career choice: five. When Monsignor was a youngster, his pastor Father Pat Riley used to come to Monsignor’s house to do card tricks and make popcorn. Apparently, Monsignor decided that he too would like to do card tricks and make popcorn for a living.
In all seriousness, Monsignor Whitmore looked-up to Father Riley, and decided that when he grew up, he wanted to be just like his Pastor. This anecdote is fitting — Monsignor has, throughout his life, similarly inspired people as a loving and selfless role model.
Aside from his early inspiration to become a priest, Monsignor Whitmore credits the Sisters of Saint Joseph for fostering his vocation. Monsignor was taught by the Sisters at St. Patrick’s School (which is now our Intermediate School and in a newer building), Immaculate Heart Academy, and the Conservatory of Music (where he learned to play the organ). He was also inspired by the then-Pastor of St. Patrick’s, Monsignor John Plunkett.
Monsignor Whitmore graduated from IHA in 1946 and headed off to seminary. He began his vocation as a priest in May, 1954, which will make 58 years next month.
Monsignor Whitmore has ministered to the people in the North Country in many capacities over those 58 years –
- As a Pastor in Massena, Ticonderoga, Willsboro, Cape Vincent, Chateugay, Brainardsville, Lake Placid, Port Leyden and Lyons Falls.
- As a teacher at Wadhams Hall Seminary for 22 years.
- And as choir director and organist at St. Mary’s Cathedral and Wadhams Hall in Ogdensburg.
During these various assignments, Monsignor has been an important part of the lives of countless people, celebrating their joys and helping them through their crises. He has loved and cared for his parishioners and all of those whom he has touched.
He has also distinguished himself academically, having earned a doctorate in English and American literature from Fordham University.
Monsignor Whitmore’s life after graduating from IHA epitomizes the school’s and the Sister’s of St. Joseph’s values and virtues. He has lived a life illuminated by his love for and imitation of Christ. He is an educator. His Christian values have, indeed, helped transform the world. And, throughout his entire life, he certainly has nurtured a closer union with God and neighbor.
The “Friend of Immaculate Heart” Award – Dr. Noaman Sanni
Dr. Noaman Sanni has long been an advocate for education as a way of enabling children to achieve their full potential. He established the Watertown School in his native Pakistan. Understanding the role that IHC plays as a quality educational alternative in the Watertown area, and aware of the challenges facing Catholic schools, Dr. Sanni reached out to see if Immaculate Heart Central Schools could use some help.
“Yes,” was our response. We had been looking for opportunities to provide full-tuition scholarships to provide the opportunity for a quality Catholic education to new students who otherwise would be unable to afford tuition. Our goals were to offer education to a broader segment of the local community, to strengthen our ties with the community, and to ensure a healthy enrollment in order to sustain the quality of our educational and other programs.
We did not expect the magnitude of Dr. Sanni’s response, and remain enormously grateful. Dr. Sanni gave IHC $90,000 to establish ten full-tuition scholarships for three years. He challenged the local business community to match his gift with 90 additional scholarships, hence establishing the “IHC 100 Stars Scholarship Fund.” Dr. Sanni’s efforts to help IHC’s students continue, as he is actively soliciting matching gifts from both individuals and businesses.
Dr. Sanni’s gift enabled us to award ten full-tuition scholarships to new students last year, and welcome ten new families into the IHC community. His generosity has not only enabled a quality Catholic education for these and future scholarship recipients, but has inspired others to give to support IHC’s scholarship funds.
Dr. Sanni’s personal action has demonstrated a sincere belief in the value and importance of Catholic Education, and the importance of the long-term vitality of IHC schools.
The Immaculate Heart Community Service Award – James P. Scordo, IHC ’76
Jim Scordo is the Executive Director of the Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions. Credo Community Center has performed invaluable good to our community, having helped thousands of individuals, families, adults, adolescents and children deal with and overcome the disease of substance abuse. In doing so, Credo benefits the entire community by combating the wider effects of addiction, including crime, increased incarceration, childhood poverty, and increased demands on healthcare and mental health agencies.
Mr. Scordo joined Credo in 1983 as its Director of Credo’s residential program for adolescents, when the organization had eight employees. Later, he was instrumental in opening critical outpatient services in Jefferson County, and later merging the Credo Foundation with the Community Center for Alcoholism. Today, Mr. Scordo leads a staff of over 84 employees running a Community Center considered a trend center among addictions programs, implementing clinical practices that are research-based.
Credo’s outpatient, community residences, and women’s and adolescent programs – provide a variety of therapy, counseling, life skills, and rehabilitation services, as well as opportunities to assist with re-entry into a healthy living situation, including volunteering, education, and employment. Under Mr. Scordo’s leadership, the Credo Community Center has become an essential non-profit force for good in the Greater Watertown area.