On March 21, Catholic University held its first in-person Gratus celebration honoring the University’s friends and benefactors. Two previous Gratus events were held virtually due to the pandemic. Nearly 300 gathered in the Great Room of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center to enjoy dinner and hear about transformative gifts to the University. 

“I am thankful to be in the same room with all of you tonight. For too long we have refrained from holding large events like this. The last one, believe it or not, was our Campaign launch in September 2019. A proper in-person thank you is overdue. And I am sad to say that, while this is our first in-person Gratus dinner, it will also be my last,” said President John Garvey, who will retire from his role in July. “Tonight we honor not only donors whose gifts on every level help individual students through scholarship support, but also those who have made large gifts to fund specific initiatives.”  

Those gifts included scholarship support, as well as those made in support of the schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Architecture; the Columbus School of Law and the Conway School of Nursing; and the Department of Athletics.

“Sometimes, God’s math includes opportunities for all of us to lend a hand and make those numbers add up for Catholic University students.”

— Rob Neal, University trustee

During his remarks, President Garvey also thanked those who had supported scholarships in memory of those in the Cardinal family who had died, including students Griffin Namin, Class of 2020, and Daniel Anderl, Class of 2022, and former BOT member John Campion. Members of the Board of Trustees (BOT) and 1887 Society were also recognized.

The Campaign extended with a higher goal

Trustee Enrique Segura offered an update on Light the Way: The Campaign for Catholic University. After reaching its initial $400 million goal six months early, the Campaign was extended to 2023 and the goal increased to $500 million.

“To date, we have raised more than $422 million toward our new half-a-billion dollar goal,” Segura said, breaking down some of the gains to note that $93 million has gone to support scholarships, while $125 million is being invested in academic programs and research.

Videos highlighted major gifts of the past year

Students Claire Rasin and Huey Bodger, both of the Class of 2023, served as emcees for the evening. While introducing two videos that highlighted student success and faculty excellence, each spoke about their own Catholic University experience.

“Assistant Athletic Director Jamie Walls and Emmjolee Mendoza-Waters, the director of community engagement, social justice, and Catholic Social Teaching Initiatives, have helped campus feel like home to me,” Bodger said in his intro to the faculty excellence video. “And I will always remember Dr. Michael Rohlf, one of my philosophy professors. He really cares about what he’s teaching. As a football player here, I especially enjoyed his Philosophy of Sports course last semester.”

Faculty excellence

The first video highlighted gifts made in support of faculty research, including those by Trustee Frank Hanna for $1.5 million to support the Institute for the Transformation of Catholic Education and another $3 million gift from Ascension to fund a geriatric nurse practitioner program. It also put spotlight on a $4.25 million gift directed by another Trustee, Leonard Leo, that established the Project for Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Columbus School of Law. A grant from the Templeton Religion Trust supporting the research of Architecture professor Julio Bermudez was also featured. 

Student success

Rasin introduced the student experience video by noting her own journey as a Conway Scholar.

“Being a scholarship recipient motivates me to work hard in my nursing classes. I am determined to earn good grades. I am so fortunate to be supported by such a special family who are making the biggest difference in my life,” she said. “Without this scholarship, I would not be where I am today. I have met all my amazing friends and branched out to play intramural sports. Catholic University has enabled me to flourish.”

“Being a scholarship recipient motivates me to work hard in my nursing classes. I am determined to earn good grades. I am so fortunate to be supported by such a special family who are making the biggest difference in my life.”

— Claire Rasin, Class of 2023

The student experience video then showcased 1887 Society Chairs Jim and Eileen Rullo for their gifts in support of scholarships and the University’s Crisis Response Fund. Mary Kohlmeier, a member of the St. Thomas Aquinas Society, was interviewed as the executrix of the estate of Dr. Joe Clark, M.S. 1967, Ph.D. 1969; using the $2.6 million he left in trust, she created engineering scholarships in his memory. Finally, the Jones family — Christian, B.A. 2020, Trustee Juan, and Lisa — was honored for their $2 million gift to support the first phase of the Diamond Project, which will light the baseball and softball stadium. 

Those donors, or their representatives, who were in the room were asked to stand and be recognized. All were applauded.

“Assistant Athletic Director Jamie Walls and Emmjolee Mendoza-Waters, the director of community engagement, social justice, and Catholic Social Teaching Initiatives, have helped campus feel like home to me.”

— Huey Bodger, Class of 2023

Most recent gifts announced from the stage 

Board of Trustees Chair Victor Smith, J.D. 1996, also spoke about three gifts made too recently to have been included in the videos. The first was an additional $4 million gift overseen by Leo that was made in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus to fund an endowed professorship in the new center. Another was a large bequest of nearly $4.7 million from the estate of double alumnus Dr. Louis Corvese, B.A. 1950, M.S. 1953, that will endow chairs in Chemistry and Physics. The final gift came from Catholic University’s largest donors, Bill and Joanne Conway.

“I’m pleased to announce that Bill and Joanne have renewed their commitment to the Conway Scholars program, giving another $20 million dollars to offer yet more nursing scholarships that will benefit students for years to come,” Smith said. “Thank you, Bill and Joanne, for your additional investment in support of our shared goal of educating thousands of Catholic nurses in the coming decades.”

BOT members rose to the challenge

Finally, Rob Neal, also a BOT member, announced the results of a recent challenge for the BOT to raise funds in support of impact scholarships to increase enrollment in the Class of 2026 — $5,000 per year for each year a student is enrolled at the University. 

“Sometimes, God’s math includes opportunities for all of us to lend a hand and make those numbers add up for Catholic University students,” he said, “University leadership issued a challenge to fund 200 new impact scholarships by March 15, so that these awards could be offered to accepted students early in the admissions process. When I heard that each impact scholarship leverages an additional $27,000 in room and board revenue per student per year for the University, I decided to fund 20 impact scholarships. 

“I’m so pleased to report that thanks to 25 University trustees and an additional 25 alumni and parent donors, we have raised $4.78 million, surpassing our goal of $4 million for 200 new impact scholarships! We have an additional 29 scholarships already raised for the fall of 2023.”