The Catholic University of America

April 12, 2011

Catholic University to Award Cardinal Medal for Fortitude to Nine Honorees

The Catholic University of America will give the Cardinal Medal for Fortitude to nine members of the CUA community — two posthumously — at the Cardinal Leadership Celebration on April 13. 

The medal will be awarded to CUA faculty, staff, and students who exemplify the cardinal virtue of fortitude. Members of the CUA community were invited to nominate those who have overcome adversity with a joyful spirit, exhibit constancy in the pursuit of good, stand firm in difficulty, and exemplify quiet strength.

This special award is part of a series of events related to President John Garvey’s inaugural year theme “Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University.” Throughout the semester, the university has dedicated one month to each of the four cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude. The month of April is dedicated to fortitude.

Those who will be recognized at the ceremony are:

  • Carla Calhoun, a student in the Master of Social Work program in the National Catholic School of Social Service. Approximately 10 years ago, Calhoun ended her 19-year career in business and engineering to raise her two children after her husband died of colon cancer. After his death, she converted to Catholicism and decided to pursue a degree in social work so she can help others.
  • Vernon Ennels, an officer in the Department of Public Safety. Ennels has used his experiences as a recovering alcoholic to help others, especially students in the Columbus School of Law, where he can often be found while on duty. Two and a half years ago, his son was murdered. His faith, family, and friends helped him persevere at home and at work during his family’s loss.
  • Glenda Flores, manager of custodial services in the Office of Facilities Maintenance and Operations. Flores was 12 when her mother came to the United States to seek work to support her family. Glenda was left to take care of herself and three younger brothers in El Salvador. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, Flores came to the United States to take care of her mother and her youngest brother. She will begin working on a business management degree in CUA’s Metropolitan School of Professional Studies this fall.
  • Stewart Gay, a student pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary studies in the Metropolitan School of Professional Studies. Gay lost his mother to cancer in 1996. In 2002, Gay was in a major accident on his way to see his father who was undergoing surgery due to complications from lung cancer. The stress from these events took a toll on his health: his kidneys failed, and Gay now undergoes dialysis three times weekly. He is currently waiting for a kidney donor. Despite these experiences, Gay has continued to pursue an academic degree and is an inspiration to his classmates.
  • Patrick McClellan, a senior in the School of Architecture and Planning. When McClellan was 16, he went to Chihuahua, Mexico, on a church mission trip and helped at a local soup kitchen. After his experience there, he helped raise $37,000 to purchase the building that houses the soup kitchen as well as kitchen supplies. This helped the operator of the soup kitchen keep it open. McClellan has gone back to help at the soup kitchen several times since.
  • Kathleen Miedreich, a psychology major. Miedreich started CUA in 2006. During her sophomore year, she fell and hit her head. After the fall, Miedreich felt stressed and directionless. Several doctors tried to diagnose her problem, but to no avail. She eventually left CUA during her junior year to try to alleviate some of the stress. Finally, a neurologist found that the fall had caused her to lose function of the right side of her brain. Since regaining brain function, Miedreich has returned to CUA to finish her degree.
  • Jane Pesci-Townsend, former chair of the musical theater program in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. Pesci-Townsend came to CUA in 1994 when she began teaching voice lessons. Later, she directed several shows put on by the music school. Pesci-Townsend passed away last August from cancer, but those who knew her admired her strength in the face of her long battle against the disease.
  • Rev. Kurt Pritzl, O.P., former dean of the School of Philosophy. Father Pritzl came to CUA in 1980 and served in a number of leadership positions prior to his appointment as dean in May 2000. After he passed away from a long illness this past February, the University announced the creation of the Father Kurt Pritzl, O.P. Chair in Philosophy. Those who nominated him said they admired his genuine joy and happiness, care for others, and great fortitude.
  • Joan Vorrasi, director of student life and special events in the Columbus School of Law. Vorrasi has worked at CUA for 45 years, with a couple of short breaks. After her husband passed away from multiple sclerosis, Vorrasi was left to raise their two children, then aged 10 and 3. Both of her children later graduated from the University and began successful careers. In addition to her role in the law school, Vorrasi serves on University committees, helps with important CUA events, and serves as a mentor, teacher, and role model for those who work with her.



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