Benedictine Academy Honors New Hall Of Fame Class

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ELIZABETH–Fifteen accomplished alumnae and outstanding friends of Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth are now official members of the school’s Hall of Fame. The group, which included four posthumous honorees, was inducted at a celebratory event held at the school on Sunday, October 14.

Chosen for this year’s honors were: The Arminio Family- Rev. Thomas Arminio (deceased)-parent of alumnae; Barbara Arminio LaMort ’67- Benedictine Academy Alumnae Association Chair and former Academy Advisory Board Trustee; Diane Arminio Schmitt ’68- Alumna and former Alumnae Board member; Brother Ralph Darmento, FSC- Acting Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Newark and Chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees; Mary Ann (O’Brien ’60) and M. Anthony DeSantis- Trustee of the Academy’s Advisory Board and alumna, and, Philanthropists; Frank J. Gentempo (deceased)- parent of Alumnae; James C. Kellogg, IV- Philanthropist and benefactor of Benedictine Academy; Justice Virginia A. Long ’59- Alumna and NJ Supreme Court Justice (retired); Margaret Harrington MacNeill ’62- Benedictine Academy Advisory Board Trustee and Alumna; Gertrude Turner Mahon ’31- Alumna; Maureen McKee Morrison ’38- Alumna; Bishop Chandler D. (deceased) and Mrs. Shirley Owens- parents of Alumnae; and Helen McGonegal Prusak ’56 (deceased)- Alumna.

Each nominee was presented by a friend or family member to Sister Germaine Fritz, OSB ’54, President and Principal of Benedictine Academy.

The inductees into this year’s Hall of Fame Class were all lauded for their service to Benedictine Academy, and the impact they have made by believing in the school’s mission. “You have made a special difference in the lives of our students”, Benedictine Academy Principal Kenneth Jennings remarked.

The bonds between the Arminio Family and Benedictine Academy began in 1963, whenThomas Arminio found a nurturing home for his daughters, Barbara and Diane, whose mother had passed away. As a widower, Arminio, the father of six children, eventually experienced a reawakening of the vocation he’d felt called to as a teenager. He studied for the Catholic Church’s permanent deaconate, and later, decided to enter the priesthood. With the total support of his grown family, Arminio served at local parishes in Union County for many years. An ardent supporter of the Academy in many ways, he passed away in 2010. His daughters have also served Benedictine Academy most diligently. Barbara Arminio LaMort ‘67, as an alumna, has been a member of the Academy’s Alumnae Association Board, currently serving as Chair; and, Chair of the Academy’s Advisory Board of Trustees. Retired from a twenty-five year career as a teacher in Union Township, Barbara is very involved with her parish, Holy Spirit in Union. Diane Arminio Schmitt ‘68, also was a big part of the Academy’s alumnae Association for many years. Also a teacher (Cranford, Kenilworth and Elizabeth), Schmitt has been involved in numerous civic activities and volunteer opportunities at her parish, St. Helen’s in Westfield. “Father Tom knew the value of a Catholic education and knew what it did for his daughters”, said Ann Marie Hodges, a family friend who introduced the Arminios at the event. “They always find a way to make time for others without asking anything for themselves,” Hodges commented.

Brother Ralph Darmento is a De La Salle Christian Brother who serves as Deputy Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Newark. He has given years of service in the area of Catholic education, including teacher, department chair, vice principal and principal. Recognized for his service to Catholic education with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal, Darmento is currently Chair of the Benedictine Academy Advisory Board of Trustees. “He continues to be a gift to Benedictine Academy”, said Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth Prioress Sister Sharon McHugh, who presented Darmento to Sr. Germaine Fritz, OSB. Darmento, in receiving his award, lauded the Academy, its Board, faculty and administration saying, “they are truly committed and perform the greatest miracle…to touch the hearts, nurture the souls, and kindle the minds of nearly two hundred young women entrusted to our care.”

Mary Ann (O’Brien ‘60) and Anthony DeSantis of Jersey City have blessed Benedictine Academy with very generous financial support and leadership. Mary Ann has served as Chair and member of the Academy’s Advisory Board of Trustees, Development Committee, and, with her husband, is a solid believer in the Academy’s mission to educate young women to “listen, learn, love and lead”. Knowledge of the role Benedictine Academy continues to play in the lives of young women of Elizabeth and its urban surroundings has led the couple to continue their investment in the educational mission of the school. “BA has offered opportunities to young women who otherwise would have never have been able to go to college,” Mary Ann DeSantis said.

Frank J. Gentempo, who died in 2012 at the age of 99, was honored for his many years of good works, both to Benedictine Academy and to his family and community. Active for many years in Union Township (Planning and Zoning Boards) and Elizabeth (Chamber of Commerce and Elmora Lions Club), Gentempo’s two daughters, Mary Leonardis ’59 and Joan Von Bushberger ’61, are graduates of the Academy. Gentempo, born and raised in Newark, was president of the Academy’s Fathers Club and helped in many ways over the years. His daughter, Joan, in accepting the award on his behalf, called Gentempo “a remarkable man”, who was a good and loving husband and an incredible role model to our children and grandchildren”.

James C. Kellogg IV has been a very good friend to Benedictine Academy. Kellogg, who has served on several corporate and charitable boards of directors, has been appointed by four Governors and two Chief Justices to various boards throughout New Jersey. The J.C. Kellogg Foundation has supported Benedictine Academy for more than twenty years through scholarships and grants. More recently, the Kellogg Foundation has worked to assist qualified families at the Academy with meeting the cost of tuition; sponsored senior class trips to Washington, D.C.; and worked with the Academy to provide students with computers. Upon receiving the award at the Hall of Fame event, Kellogg said “parochial schools are shining light in the inner city”. “BA is a shining example of rigorous academic leadership,” Kellogg continued, noting that last year’s graduating class was awarded $5.3 million in scholarship monies in a class of less than fifty girls. “That’s over $100,000 for each child,” Kellogg stated.

Retired NJ Supreme Court Justice Virginia A. Long was inducted as a Hall of Fame member for “epitomizing the essence of a successful Benedictine Academy graduate”. Long, Class of 1959, has been a staunch supporter of the Academy, emotionally and financially. She has visited and met with students at the Elizabeth campus, as well as welcomed them into her Trenton office to discuss her work. Justice Long was the guest speaker at the commencement exercises for the Academy’s Class of 2012. “She has served as an exemplary role model for the student body, demonstrating the successes that can build on the solid foundation of a Benedictine Academy education”, administrators at the Academy feel. Long, in accepting her award, stated that, in the same way it did when she attended, the Academy continues to “create strong women leaders through a demanding curriculum that teaches one to value intellectual pursuits and encourage the life of the mind.”

Margaret Harrington MacNeill, Class of 1962, remains very involved with Benedictine Academy. She was chosen as a Hall of Fame inductee because of “her generous devotion to Benedictine Academy and its mission”. MacNeill, a resident of New Providence, “believes strongly that all young women should be afforded the excellent college prep education the Academy provides- and most especially- when finances limit their options”. She has served tirelessly on the Academy’s Advisory Board of Trustees, Development Committee, and Annual Appeal Cabinet. Retired from the practice of law for many years, MacNeill commented that Benedictine Academy’s hospitality has “optimized” the school’s success. “It’s hard to outstay your welcome at BA,” MacNeill said. “There is always an open door, a seat at the table, an openness and generosity of spirit which has always been alive here and breathes life and light into the school”. “I want Benedictine Academy hospitality to be available to another generation of young women,” MacNeill stated.

Class of 1931 graduate Gertrude Turner Mahon attended the Paterson campus of Benedictine Academy. Now age ninety-seven, the Fair Lawn resident was honored for “believing in the lasting impact of a strong educational foundation” such as Benedictine Academy. Education was always an important aspect of life to Mahon, especially in her era when most young women did not go to college. Mahon has been a long-time supporter of Benedictine Academy because she believes in the value of a quality education combined with Benedictine values.

Maureen Morrison McKee, Class of 1938, also of Fair Lawn, has lived a long life of service to her church, community and family. She was honored for her volunteer activities and her demonstration of “the values she was taught so many years ago at the Academy- hope, caring and love”, as noted by her daughter, Mary Ann Lund, who presented Morrison. “She is ninety-one years young and still an active member of the community”, Lund noted, bringing Communion to neighbors who can no longer go to church, among other acts of kindness. In 2011, Morrison received the Governor’s Jefferson Award for Faith-Based Service.

Bishop Chandler Owens, an internationally known leader now deceased, and his wife, Shirley, were honored for their loving commitment and generosity to the students at Benedictine Academy. The Owens’ daughter, Shirlitha, died in 1990 during her senior year at the Academy. Another daughter, Chandra, is a 1987 graduate. The Owens started a scholarship in their younger daughter’s name- the “Shirlitha Owens Pursuit of Excellence” four-year renewable scholarship, which is awarded annually to a diligent, young female student who desires a BA education but is in financial need. Thus far the scholarship has afforded four young women the opportunity to attend BA and go on to college. Four more are currently studying at the Academy.

Helen McGonegal Prusak, Class of 1956, was inducted into the Benedictine Academy Hall of Fame because “her life reflected the very best of Benedictine traditions, and so much more”. Prusak, who passed away in 2012 from Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) was regarded with respect and admiration by students, parents, faculty, administrators, family and friends. She was a teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and, standout hoops player. Presented by her sister, Virginia McGonegal Martin, Prusack was lauded as a person who “modeled the values that would define our lives”. In facing her illness, Martin said, she was “the best example of grace”. “She was the quintessential Benedictine Academy student, who honored our parents’ sacrifice by becoming fully engaged in all BA activities,” Martin recalled.

The nearly two hundred attendees at the Hall of Fame event were treated to music by Gary Russo, the construction worker from New York City, whose spunk and spirit, along with a break on You Tube, propelled him into the national spotlight. Russo sang several Frank Sinatra songs, and, along with Andrea T. Goeglein, PhD., the co-author of their book entitled “Don’t Die with Your Song Unsung” encouraged the audience to “do what they love”. Then, “the world opens up to you”, Russo stated.

The new class of BA Hall of Fame honorees join the 22 other members of the school’s Hall of Fame, inducted in 2004 and in 2006. The inaugural Hall of Fame group included BA alumnae: Mary Lou Flynn ’55, Susanne Masterson McDonnell ’55, Sister Sharon McHugh, OSB ’67, Maripat Ryan Brennan ’63, Juliene Brazinski Simpson ’70, Ozelina ‘Ena’ Gorham Johnson ’78 and Antoinette ‘Toni’ Staton Harris ’83; former faculty: Rose Marie Battaglia and Brian Devaney; and BA Advisory Board Vice-Chair Mary Rabadeau.
The 2006 Class inductees included former Dean of Students and faculty member Peter Litrenta; Shannon Luby ’67; the McNany Family: O. Vincent McNany (deceased) and Mary (Aloia ’41) McNany; Dennis McNany; and Sister Kathleen McNany, OSB ’63. Other 2006 inductees were Noreen Nash O’Neill ’68; John and Kathleen (Cunningham ’67) Patten; and Kathleen Soltis. Two others were honored posthumously: Robert H. Grasmere of the Turrell Foundation, and, Peggy (Pope ’50) Snyder, PhD.

Benedictine Academy Hall of Fame Class of 2012 inductees (l-r): Barbara Arminio LaMort; Diane Arminio Schmitt; NJ State Supreme Court Justice (retired) Virginia Long; Margaret Harrington MacNeill; Mary Ann O’Brien DeSantis; M. Anthony DeSantis; Maureen Morrison McKee; Brother Ralph Darmento; and (foreground) James Kellogg. Unable to attend were inductees Gertrude Turner Mahon and Shirley Owens. Four others were inducted posthumously: Frank Gentempo, Rev. Thomas Arminio, Helen McGonegal Prusak, and Bishop Chandler D. Owens.

NJ Supreme Court Justice (retired) Virginia Long was inducted as a Hall of Fame member for “epitomizing the essence of a successful Benedictine Academy graduate”. Long, class of 1959, commented that the Academy continues to “create strong women leaders through a demanding curriculum that teaches one to value intellectual pursuits and encourage the life of the mind.”

James C. Kellogg IV, a very good friend to Benedictine Academy, was among the Hall of Fame inductees honored on October 14. The J.C. Kellogg Foundation has supported Benedictine Academy for more than twenty years through scholarships and grants; assisting qualified families with meeting the cost of tuition; and providing students with computers. “Parochial schools are shining light in the inner city”, said Kellogg. “BA is a shining example of rigorous academic leadership,” he stated, noting that last year’s graduating class was awarded $5.3 million in scholarship monies in a class of less than fifty girls. “That’s over $100,000 for each child,” noted Kellogg.

Brother Ralph Darmento, center, Benedictine Academy Hall of Fame honoree, with Benedictine Academy President Sister Germaine Fritz, OSB (left) and Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth Prioress Sister Sharon McHugh. Darmento, who serves as Deputy Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Newark, is currently Chair of the Benedictine Academy Advisory Board of Trustees. Darmento, in receiving his award, lauded the Academy, its Board, faculty and administration saying, “they are truly committed and perform the greatest miracle…to touch the hearts, nurture the souls, and kindle the minds of nearly two hundred young women entrusted to our care.”

Barbara Arminio LaMort, and her sister, Diane Arminio Schmitt (center, l-r) Were honored as Benedictine Academy Hall of Fame inductees on October 14. Family Friend Ann Marie Hodges (far left) presented the sisters to Academy President Sister Germaine Fritz, OSB (far right). Said Hodges of the pair, “They always find a way to make time for others without asking anything for themselves”. The Arminos’ Father, the Rev. Thomas Arminio, now deceased, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame, as a dedicated supporter of the school.

Bishop Chandler Owens, an internationally known leader now deceased, and his wife, Shirley, were honored as Hall of Fame inductees for their loving commitment and generosity to the students at Benedictine Academy. The Owens started a scholarship in their deceased younger daughter’s name- the “Shirlitha Owens Pursuit of Excellence” four-year renewable scholarship, which is awarded annually to a diligent, young female student who desires a BA education but is in financial need. Thus far the scholarship has afforded four young women the opportunity to attend BA and go on to college. Four more are currently studying at the Academy. They are, l-r- Marielis Vazquez of ELizabeth, Laura Gomes of Newark, Ewa Kowalczyk of Elizabeth and Noelle Sollivan of Belleville.

The nearly two hundred attendees at the Benedictine Academy Hall of Fame event were treated to music by Gary Russo, the construction worker from New York City, whose spunk and spirit, along with a break on You Tube, propelled him into the national spotlight. Russo (with construction clothes hanging beside him) sang several Frank Sinatra songs, and, along with Andrea T. Goeglein, PhD., the co-author of their book entitled “Don’t Die with Your Song Unsung” encouraged the audience to “do what they love”. Then, “the world opens up to you”, Russo stated. (Photos courtesy of Benedictine Academy)


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