NCEA President’s Awards Dinner

Tonight’s honorees have each demonstrated, in the most remarkable ways, that Catholic education is a gift to the Church and to our country that needs to be preserved and strengthened for the future.


Tonight we celebrate the good news of Catholic education and the marvelous people who support it.

Special Service Award

Dr. Stephen Phelps, who passed away this past December, was a true innovator and futurist in the field of Catholic education. With a career spanning more than four decades, he had tremendous impact on Bishop O’Dowd High School in his twelve years as president, and lasting influence on Catholic education in the Diocese of Oakland and in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Stephen advanced and improved Catholic education by acting on two deep insights that drove the innovative approach in everything he did.

John F. Meyers Award

The John F. Meyers Award, is presented to an organization/individual who has provided substantial support for Catholic education through contributions in the areas of development, public relations, scholarship programs, financial management, or government relations.

It is our honor to present the Msgr. John F. Meyers Award to Steven Virgadamo. As an early Catholic school teacher Steven recognized the wisdom of Msgr. Meyers’ approach, fully embracing his belief that institutional advancement could be the financial salvation of Catholic education. He has dedicated his personal and professional life to sharing, fostering and inculcating these concepts across the United States.

Catherine T. McNamee, CSJ Award

The Catherine T. McNamee, CSJ Award is presented to an individual or institution that offers exceptional leadership in promoting a vision of Catholic education that welcomes and serves cultural and economic diversity or serves students with diverse needs.

Mayra Alza Wilson started her work in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2011 as the Latino Outreach Coordinator for the Catholic Schools Office. During this time the Latino population in Cincinnati Catholic schools has grown significantly: in the 91 elementary schools in the archdiocese from Latino student population grew from 2.0% to 4.2%. In addition, the Latino population in the ten targeted schools of the urban core of Cincinnati and Dayton increased from 4.5% to 18.8%. These ten schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati experienced a 98% retention rate for Latino students for the 2015-2016 school year, with the remaining two percent of the students having moved out of the state. The number of Latino students advancing to Catholic high schools in the fall of 2017 was 100%.

Leonard F. DeFiore Parental Choice Advocate Award

The Leonard F. DeFiore Parental Choice Advocate Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting full and fair Parental Choice in education.

Since 2008, John F. Elcesser has served as the Executive Director of the Indiana Non-Public Education Association. Prior to that, he served as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, and has also served the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia, as assistant superintendent, superintendent of schools, and Vicar of Education and Formation.  In addition, John served Catholic schools as an elementary school principal, junior/senior high school principal, and special education consultant.

Dr. Karen M. Ristau Innovations Award

The Dr. Karen M. Ristau Innovations Award is presented annually to an individual, school or program that has furthered the mission of Catholic education through an innovative program or approach. At this time, I call upon NCEA’s 9th President, Karen Ristau, to assist me in presenting this award, named in her honor.

The Academy of Catholic Educators, known as ACES, is an outreach program in the School of Education for Catholic Education at Notre Dame of Maryland University. The program supports academic excellence for all students through quality, research-based professional development for teachers and administrators in Catholic schools.  In the five years since its inception, the program has grown to assisting over 30 schools in both the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Washington, DC. This program has changed the face of participating schools from whole group, teacher-centered instruction to engaged, student-centered instruction. The skills learned through the ACES program schools are developing Action Plans with SMART goals and implementing research-based strategies for the purpose of differentiating instruction and raising student achievement and teachers have begun to notice how being intentional with instruction makes a significant difference in student success. Whether working with a large school (500 – 800 students) with 21st century resources or an at-risk school with fewer students and diminished resources teachers are feeling successful through the skills learned in the program. Standardized formative assessments, have indicted the process is working even in the most at-risk schools. In schools not using standardized formative assessments, teachers are collecting supporting data in order to evaluate the most effective strategies. It is hoped that the ACES program through additional grants could be replicated across the country. There is potential for ACES to serve as a model across the country with the support of grants.

The C. Albert Koob Award

The C. Albert Koob Merit Award is given to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to Catholic education at any level in one or more of these areas:  teaching, administration, parish religious education, research, publication or educational leadership.

Dr. Merylann “Mimi” J. Schuttloffel, is Professor of Educational Administration and Policy Studies at The Catholic University of America, where she serves as Chair of the Department of Education. She directs the Catholic Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program and is also a fellow of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies.