It was a celebration of Catholic education and one of its true champions at St. Mary’s Cardinal Cushing Society Reception at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Nov. 20.
The school honored Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neill, who recently stepped down after five years as education secretary and superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston. In addition to presenting O’Neill with the Cushing Award, St. Mary’s Headmistress Grace Cotter Regan and event chair William Mosakowski of Swampscott announced the formation of a scholarship in her honor to be given to a Marian Division grade 8 student who will be attending St. Mary’s High School.
“This was a fabulous night for St. Mary’s,” Regan said. “There is no one more worthy of recognition than Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neill. She epitomizes what the Cardinal Cushing Award is all about. To be able to doubly honor her with a scholarship in her name is extra special.”
In her role at the Archdiocese, O’Neill, a Milton resident, oversaw 120 schools and 42,000 students. She also had a front-row seat for the transformation that has occurred at St. Mary’s, a Catholic, college-preparatory school for students in grades 6-12.
“The turnaround at St. Mary’s has been amazing,” said O’Neill, who is on the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “To see a Catholic school that is so modern with advanced technology is very gratifying. There is an energy and spirit there that is contagious.”
Mosakowski, who established a scholarship for St. Pius, Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Assumption students who attend St. Mary’s High School, called O’Neill “an exceptional educational leader with a strong voice and a clear vision. She came to the Archdiocese when we needed it the most. She was the right leader at the right time who found ways to make a difference every single day.”
St. Mary’s students played a leading role in the event, providing music and song and welcoming guests. Seniors Drew DiMaiti, Jennie Mucciarone and Helio Meirelles Neto and freshman Eve Smith shared their St. Mary’s experiences with the more than 200 guests.
St. Mary’s established the Cushing Society in 1999 to highlight the impact of Catholic education and honor its strongest supporters. Members of the society are leadership donors to St. Mary’s who consistently and generously commit to improving access to a quality Catholic education. The Cushing Award is presented annually to champions of Catholic education whose personal and professional life reflect the mission and values of St. Mary’s.
Previous winners of the Cushing Award include: William F. Connell ’55; Dr. John R. Silber; Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J.; William M. Bulger; Rev. Philip A. Smith, O.P.; Richard J. Santagati; Jack Connors Jr.; Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch; Anthony F. DiCroce ’67 and Joan Luise Hill ’71; Michael A. Ruane ’67; Paul A. Gustafson ’59; Margot C. Connell; Sister Janet Eisner, SND ’58; William S. Mosakowski; James J. McInnis; Robert J. Devereaux ’52 and Thomas W. O’Brien ’52; Monsignor Paul V. Garrity and Owen Lynch ’52.