Founder’s Dinners Honors – Franciscan “Ambassadors”

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Founder’s Dinners Honors – Franciscan “Ambassadors”

Awardees were recognized for their impact on the University during the 2021 Founders’ Day dinner.

Winter 2022 | Lisa Ferguson

In This Article

In 1949, President Father Daniel Egan, TOR, held the first Founders’ Day to foster ties between the local community and the young College of Steubenville. At first the venue for bestowing the Poverello Medal (see story, p. 46), in 1978, President Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, created the Founders’ Award, which recognized those who had played a significant role in establishing and supporting the College. The first recipients were Samuel Freifield, followed by Michael Starvaggi, and John C. Williams.

On December 11, Franciscan University continued this tradition, honoring the Dr. John ’58 and Judy Irvin family, Paul Giannamore ’84, Ross Gallabrese, and Sister M. Regina Pacis Coury, FSGM, at the 2021 Founders’ Dinner.

Mike Florak, executive director of Community Relations at Franciscan University, first honored Sister Coury, for founding Franciscan’s Great Books Honors Program and Classics Program and for her impact on the academic and spiritual growth of Franciscan and her students.

Currently director of Education at the Domus Sanctae Mariae Guadalupe in Rome, Sister Coury sent video-recorded remarks. She described teaching at Franciscan, a university “that vibrates with the charism of St. Francis,” as a “gift from God.” Her time at Franciscan “made me the beneficiary of much more than I could ever give to the University. Now and always, I will be grateful for that experience.”

In introducing the next honoree, Florak said “communities need pillars” and that he “couldn’t think of anyone currently who was more of a pillar of our community than Ross Gallabrese.”

Gallabrese, awarded for “his tremendous contributions to the local community and Franciscan University of Steubenville,” has worked at the Herald-Star since 1981 and is currently the executive editor of the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times newspapers. Very active in civic service, he has also been a longtime member of Franciscan’s local Board of Advisors.

Gallabrese credited colleague Marian Houser with teaching him the importance of “taking an active role in groups and organizations that are working to make the area better.” He said it was “truly an honor to be receiving this award.”

Paul Giannamore, who worked for over 30 years as a reporter, editorial writer, and editor at the Herald-Star and now serves as executive producer for WTOV-9/FOX9 in Steubenville, was honored as “a trusted friend of Franciscan University and a terrific ambassador of Franciscan in the local community.”

Giannamore thanked his former professor Dr. Jim Coyle, who built the University’s Communications Program in the 1980s “from nothing,” for helping him and many other students develop successful careers in the field.

The Irvin family has a long history with the University, with several generations graduating from Franciscan, Judy volunteering on campus, and John serving on the Board of Trustees (1977-1989)—and as dentist to every president but the first. Their son Chris Irvin ’90 has followed his father as a trustee since 2018, and daughter Beth (Irvin) Matanzo works in Franciscan’s Graduate Nursing Department.

Florak said, “You’d be hard-pressed to name another family of such great ambassadors for Franciscan University. You are so kind and so well respected that Franciscan University is blessed to count you as friends.”

Dr. John Irvin spoke about the close ties between his family and Franciscan.

“I don’t believe I’m a founder—I’m not old enough to be an actual founder,” he said jokingly, then went on to say Franciscan “stands on the shoulders of giants in the University and community” who’ve made it what it is today.

Father Joseph Lehman, TOR, minister provincial of the TOR Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Province, presented the Founders’ Awards on behalf of President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, who could not attend.

Dr. Daniel Kempton, vice president for Academic Affairs, presented the Founders’ Association Scholarships to Franciscan students Jean Bahen, nursing; Jacob Estep, biochemistry; Ekaterina Scaffidi, performance theatre; and the Rose M. DeFede Women’s Guild Scholarships to Sonya Arellano, clinical psychology; Nyashadzash DiLeonardo, nursing; Melanie Fecske, social work; and Luz Piedra, criminal justice. The Dr. Patricia Fletcher Scholarship was announced by Fletcher ’67 herself for Rachel Rosenbusch, English.

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