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Six* Stars: CUA to Honor Outstanding Alumni

Every year, the Office of Alumni Relations honors a select few graduates of CUA. This year’s six honorees will receive awards during a luncheon at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center on April 18.

Michael L. Mark
Michael L. Mark
B.M. 1958, D.M.A. 1969

When Michael Mark began learning the clarinet in junior high school, he knew he wanted to become a music teacher. CUA helped him reach his goal, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Music Educators Hall of Fame for his distinguished teaching career and for writing 13 books on music education.

After earning his CUA bachelor’s degree, Mark taught music in Maryland public schools and was supervisor of music in two New York school districts. He then went back for more schooling, becoming the first music education student to graduate with a CUA Doctor of Musical Arts degree.

He returned to CUA in 1973 to serve as a music professor for eight years. In 1998, he retired from Towson University after 17 years as dean of the graduate school and professor of music.

In his “retirement,” Mark continues to write, performs in clarinet and saxophone quartets, makes furniture, travels, serves as the president of the board for Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., and chairs the board of governors of the alumni association of the University of Michigan School of Music, where he earned a master’s degree in 1962.

Sister Jamie T. Phelps, O.P.
Sister Jamie T. Phelps, O.P.
Ph.D. 1989

Dominican Sister Jamie Phelps directs the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, the only black Catholic university in the United States. The institute promotes the theological and pastoral education of priests, women religious and laity to help them engage in more effective Church ministry in the black community.

Her concern about the continued presence of the Catholic Church in that community was one of the reasons she left her professorship in systematic theology at Loyola University of Chicago to take her current position. She researches the need for Church outreach to the nation’s 2.5 million to 3 million black Catholics.

“I sometimes think the larger Catholic community doesn’t realize that the black Catholic community is here,” she explains. “We are here and we are an integral part of the future of the Catholic Church in the United States.”

Sister Phelps, Xavier’s Katharine Drexel Professor of Systematic Theology, has published numerous articles in Catholic theological journals, edited the book Black and Catholic: The Challenge and Gift of Black Folk: Contributions of African American Experience and Thought to Catholic Theology (Marquette University Press) and co-edited the book Stamped in the Image of God: African Americans as God’s Image in Black (Orbis Books).

Brig. Gen. Coral Wong Pietsch
Brig. Gen. Coral Wong Pietsch (Retired)
J.D. 1974

For Coral Wong Pietsch, attending CUA meant more than earning a law degree. At the university she met her husband, an Army officer and fellow law student. And through him, she developed an interest in serving in the Army as a lawyer. Thus began a historic career.

When she joined the Army’s Judge Advocate General legal corps (known as the JAG Corps) in 1974, there were 1,450 attorneys in that group. Of those, only about 20 were women. She eventually became the first female general in the JAG Corps and the Army’s first female Asian-American general. Last year she returned from a year in Iraq where she was a member of the U.S. State Department’s Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team.

“I think one of the things CUA instilled in me was the conviction that leadership means including everyone,” she says. “Leadership isn’t just about you and no one else. That is what CUA taught me. There, everyone was included regardless of their background.”

Rev. Gerard J. Schubert, O.S.F.S.
Rev. Gerard J. Schubert, O.S.F.S.
B.A. 1956, M.F.A. 1964

In the summer of 1971, Oblate Father Gerard Schubert travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, England, on a royal observership to study the directorial techniques used for plays produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. There he worked on a production of The Duchess of Malfi that starred acclaimed actress Judi Dench.

The experience helped inspire Father Schubert to create the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival in 1992, for which he served as the producing artistic director until 2001. Last summer more than 30,000 people attended the six plays performed at this official Shakespeare festival of the Keystone state.

In 1969, with the help of Bill Callahan, his former professor at CUA, Father Schubert founded the Performing and Fine Arts Department at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa. He says the success of CUA’s drama department had inspired him to try to start an equally successful undergraduate department at DeSales. When it began, the department had 13 students, all of them men. Today, the department is the university’s largest, with more than 300 male and female students and 37 full-time faculty and staff.

Luis A. Vasquez
Young Alumni Merit Award
Luis A. Vasquez
B.A. 2000

After Luis Vasquez graduated from CUA and earned his master’s degree in social work from Howard University, he decided to volunteer at Hermano Pedro Hospital in Guatemala in 2002. While in that country, he joined a million others in attending the canonization rite of Hermano Pedro de San José Betancurt (1626–1667), for whom the Guatemalan hospital was named.

“When I came back to Washington, D.C., I wanted to do something in the same spirit as Hermano Pedro, which was to serve everyone, regardless of race, creed and need. Everyone deserves a chance to get help,” Vasquez explains.

Catholic Charities gave the CUA alumnus $500 and space to start a shelter in Washington, D.C. Today the Hermano Pedro Day Shelter provides food, showers, laundry facilities, first aid, social work case management and mental health care to more than 250 people a day. His work earned him the honor of being one of Washingtonian magazine’s “Washingtonians of the Year” in 2007.

Vasquez also started an overnight shelter for homeless women in Southeast D.C., as well as other homeless service programs.

Today he works for the D.C. Department of Mental Health as the director of a program in which mental health professionals go into the community to help people in crisis.

Frank Persico
Frank A. Kuntz ’07 Award**
Frank Persico
B.A. 1974, M.A. 1976

Frank Persico is one of the best-known figures on CUA’s campus. Since 1974, he has served in the offices of the provost, student life, alumni relations, the law school and, currently, in the Office of the President as chief of staff and vice president for university relations.

A leader of the university, he served as co-chair of the papal-visit organizing committee when Pope Benedict XVI came to CUA’s campus in 2008.

“In any role he has ever undertaken, Frank has served with enthusiasm, innovation and professionalism, setting an example for other CUA staff and administrators,” says Anthony Albence, president of CUA’s Alumni Association.

At the opening Mass for the current academic year, Persico received the Benemerenti Medal, conferred by the Pope upon individuals who have exhibited long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church.

At that ceremony, Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., university president, noted the commitment Persico has shown to the university. “He is, without question, my closest collaborator in the administration,” Father O’Connell said. “I have been so impressed by his passion for and dedication to CUA.”

* Note: Details of alumni achievement awardee John Carl Erickson’s nomination were finalized after CUA Magazine went to press. Look for biographical about him notes at www.cuatoday.com.

**This award recognizes CUA’s “unsung heroes.”

If you’d like to join alumni, students, faculty and staff at the April 18 awards luncheon, please call the Office of Alumni Relations at 202-319-5608 for information about reservations.

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Revised: March 2009

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