The 25th annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni will serve as an opportunity to say thank you to benefactors who have generously donated resources through the years, said Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF).
The annual banquet and awards presentation, set for 7 p.m. on March 18 at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville, provides funding for the CEF. The foundation awards scholarships for Catholic school tuition and grants to Catholic schools and religious education programs.
Last year, the CEF’s hallmark fundraising event netted more than $600,000, a figure that shattered 2013’s record of $560,000.
This year, the CEF would like to raise $650,000, a total Lechleiter admits is ambitious.
“In its infancy, it was essentially designed as a break-even kind of event, not even really a fundraiser,” Lechleiter noted in an interview last week. “We’ve grown it to one of the most successful events in the state, certainly one of the largest.”
Lechleiter said he largely credits the Louisville community — both Catholic and non-Catholic — for the event’s success.
The Salute’s success is critical to the CEF’s mission. Its success determines in large part how much aid will be available to families that struggle to pay for Catholic school tuition, Lechleiter said.
In the last quarter of a century, the Salute has netted $3.9 million for tuition assistance, according to Larry Miller, CEF business manager.
“The message for this event, and the one we carry everywhere, is the message of growth in student enrollment, outreach to the community and inclusion,” Lechleiter said.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will deliver the evening’s keynote address. He will also serve as the event’s co-chair, along with Ruth W. Brinkley, president and CEO of KentuckyOne Health.
Lechleiter said the event will focus, in part, on the new Catholic Elementary School Plan for those in Archdiocese of Louisville.
“I think it’s really important for the 2,000 people at this event to hear more about our new school plan,” Lechleiter said.
The plan was introduced last fall by the archdiocese and the CEF. It calls for expanded tuition assistance for families that wish to send their children to Catholic schools but lack the funds to do so.
The CEF aims to award $2 million in tuition assistance this fall, which would represent a 20 percent increase in aid. The foundation previously awarded a record of nearly $1.7 million in tuition assistance for the 2014-2015 school year, up from more than $1.3 million the year before.
Lechleiter noted that the CEF was able to assist 1,500 students with tuition assistance last fall.
“Our goal next fall is to help well in excess of 2,000 students. This event obviously is extremely important in achieving that goal,” he said.
This year the CEF will recognize John S. Asher with the 2015 Community Service Award and Ted Elsesser as the recipient of the Father Joseph McGee Award for Outstanding Catholic Educator. (A story about Elsesser was published in The Record on Feb. 12.)
Asher is the vice president for racing communications at Churchill Downs Race Track. He serves on the boards of WLKY-32’s “Spirit of Louisville Foundation,” which oversees the Bell Awards for community service, Simmons College of Kentucky and GuardiaCare Services.
Asher, a native of Leitchfield, Ky., is a graduate of Western Kentucky University. He and his wife, Dee, are members of Holy Spirit Church and have three daughters.
This year’s Catholic school alumni honorees are:
P. Doug Borders retired in 2005 from a 37-year career in hospital and health-care management. From 1995 until his retirement, Borders was the senior vice president of Catholic Healthcare Partners and president and chief executive officer of Mercy Health Partners Kentucky and Indiana region.
Borders is a graduate of St. Augustine School, where he attended elementary and high school, in his native Lebanon, Ky. He received a bachelor’s degree from Bellarmine University then earned his MBA from Murray State University.
Borders and his wife, Sue, worked and raised their children, Lewis, Stephen and Laura in Western Kentucky, where they attended St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro. The couple joined St. Patrick Church when they moved to Louisville in 2008.
Paul G. Fultz is a managing partner of the Louisville office of KPMG LLP, an international audit, tax and advisory professional services firm.
Fultz attended St. Denis School, entered Bishop David High School and graduated from Holy Cross High School. He earned an accounting degree from the University of Louisville.
He serves on the finance committees for the Fund for the Arts, Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana and of Greater Louisville, Inc. He is a member of the United Way Tocqueville Society, the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants and the Kentucky Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Fultz and his wife, Jennifer, are members of St. Albert the Great Church and have two children, Jaclyn and Aaron.
John P. Hollenbach is a managing member of Horizon Commercial Realty and a partner of Hollenbach-Oakley Development.
He is a graduate of Holy Spirit School and Trinity High School, where he has served on the Alumni Board, the school’s Foundation Board and the Hall of Fame selection committee. He earned a marketing and business administration degree from the University of Kentucky.
Hollenbach currently serves on the Old National Bank Advisory Board, The Olmsted Parks Conservancy Board and the March of Dimes REACH Awards nominating committee. He is a graduate of Leadership Louisville and Bingham Fellows.
He and his wife, Heather, are members of Holy Spirit Church and have two children, John, Jr. and Hannah.
Father J. Ronald Knott is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville. He founded the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates at the St. Meinrad School of Theology where he earned his master of divinity degree. He also earned a doctor of ministry degree from the McCormick Seminary in Chicago.
Father Knott established two mission churches in an area of the Archdiocese of Louisville where Catholics were sparse and he oversaw the revitalization of the Cathedral of the Assumption.
He has written several books that encourage and mentor those entering seminary. He has published works in several periodicals including The Record, America, Seminary Journal and Pastoral Review.
Currently Father Knott works with presbyterates through priest convocations, retreats and study days.
Rosemary Bisig Smith recently retired following a 34-year development career in which she earned a reputation as an “excellent fundraiser,” according to her Salute honoree citation. She retired last year as the executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation. She is credited with growing the Salute to Catholic
School Alumni Dinner and the Salute to THE GAME Luncheon into two of the most financially successful fundraising events in Louisville.
Bisig Smith previously served as the director of stewardship and development for the Archdiocese of Louisville from 1990 to 2004. Under her leadership, the archdiocese raised $20 million in the Endowment for Excellence capital campaign, which provided the seed money for the Catholic Education Foundation, as well as a total of $43 million for the Catholic Services Appeal.
Bisig Smith is one of 11 siblings and graduated from St. Agnes and Assumption High schools. She and her late husband, Bob, were long-time members of the Church of the Ascension and raised six children — Laura, Dawn, Robert, Melinda, Melissa and Colleen.
Peggy Noe Stevens founded Peggy Noe Stevens and Associates, an image branding business, in 2008. She previously worked for Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Brown-Forman Corporation.
As a child, she was adopted by a Catholic Italian family through Catholic Charities. She calls her Catholic education given by sisters, teachers and priests “a consistent and constant beacon.” She graduate from St. Martha School and Mercy Academy and earned a degree from the University of Kentucky.
Noe Stevens has written numerous articles and her second book, “Professional Presence,” was recently published. She founded the Bourbon Women Association in 2011 and was the first woman in the world to become a Master Bourbon Taster.
Noe Stevens and her husband, Ernie, are members of St. Margaret Mary Church and have two sons, Ernie Utah and Tanner.
Gary C. Ulmer is the president of the Louisville Bats. He has overseen the team’s name change, its move downtown to Louisville Slugger Field and a change of its Major League affiliation to the Cincinnati Reds.
He is a graduate of Holy Spirit and St. Xavier High schools and the University of Kentucky. Ulmer chairs the St. Xavier board of directors and is a board member of Bellarmine University, the Louisville Community Foundation, the Louisville Sports Commission, the Boy Scouts and US Bank.
Ulmer and his wife, Leslye, are members of Holy Trinity Church and have three children — Conrad, Olivia and Clark.
Tickets to the dinner are still available and can be purchased for $250 by visiting ceflou.com or calling 585-2747. Individual and corporate sponsorship opportunities are still available.