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Busy time at Franciscan

Things were a little busier than normal for everyone on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville last weekend.

That was especially true for the Rev. David Pivonka, TOR.

Oct. 4-6 was homecoming weekend at the university, and it included the traditional events that go along with the yearly celebration. An addition was the official installation of Pivonka as the school’s seventh president. That ceremony, held on the afternoon of Oct. 4, was followed by a Mass and an outdoor reception at the school’s Egan Plaza.

Pivonka’s weekend included participating in the university’s Alumni Awards Banquet and Ceremony on Oct. 5. What made the event in the Gentile Gallery inside the J.C. Williams Center a little more special was that Pivonka is not only the seventh president in the school’s history, which dates back to 1946, he is the first alumnus to serve as president.

“It’s just cool as an alumnus to be at this event,” he said during his remarks. “To be surrounded by brothers and sisters who have this in common — what a great, great blessing.”

Like Pivonka, each of the alumni who was recognized discussed what a difference the university has made in their lives. Whether it was meeting their spouse at the school or experiencing a spiritual awakening, they each were thankful they had the chance to come to Steubenville.

Theresa Danaher, for instance, has made a mark on Catholic education in Steubenville since she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1980. The recipient of the Rose DeFede Faithful Franciscan Award has served in many capacities in several of Steubenville’s Catholic schools.

She said she was thankful for the partnerships developed between the Catholic schools and the university.

“It’s a university that’s a gift to the local area, and I love the local area,” she said.

Daniel Flynn, who received the Dr. John J. Carrigg Award; James Nolan, a 1999 graduate who was the recipient of the Alumni Citizenship Award; and Chris Stefanick, a 1998 graduate and the recipient of the Bishop John King Mussio Award, agreed the university offered a solid education and helped to strengthen their faith.

A 2002 graduate, Flynn is the principal of St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, Md. He said it is critical they find the right people to teach their kindergartners through eighth-graders.

“When it comes to hiring people, we can find experts in certain fields like Latin and math, the humanities,” he said. “We can train them and coach them in the classical methods, but what’s important is that we find teachers who have a love of the Eucharist, who understand forgiveness, who know what piety is.”

Tobias Schlueter, a 1996 graduate who now lives in Aurora, Ill., received the Professor Edward J. Kelly Award. He’s a top-rated lawyer in employment law and said the school provided an important foundation for his life.

“Success in the business world comes through family, faith, purpose and perseverance,” he said.

“Everything that I am as a businessman, a father and as a member of the community was forged in the fires of Franciscan and the truths that we learned here, the relationships that we developed here, the honesty in the holistic approach to who we are as human beings in our relationship to Christ and our relationship to each other. I am indebted to Franciscan for this experience.”

Dr. Jackie Schabold, a 2011 graduate and the recipient of the Young Alumni Award, offered a different take on her experience at the school.

A pharmacist at the Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee, Schabold said she was working one evening when a security guard brought her a bag of cocaine that was to be destroyed.

She told the guard she had never seen a bag of cocaine before and wanted to take a look.”

“The guard said, ‘Didn’t you go to college?’ and I said, ‘Sir, you don’t know the likes of my university,'” Schabold said,

She added, “Everyone in here knows that everything that is trying to be filled with drugs, that emptiness, can be filled with Jesus Christ, and that is why I chose to come to this university.”

Andrew Bremberg, a 2001 graduate, received the Father Dan Egan Award, but he was unable to attend the dinner.

Pivonka echoed many of the thoughts expressed by the recipients.

“There is a pride that I have in Franciscan,” he said. “For the last seven years, I have traveled full time. I have been on the road about 25 days a month, and everywhere — everywhere — I go there are people who speak about the Franciscan University. One of the blessings of the last seven years was to be with alumni.”

Pivonka’s long ties to the university made the homecoming weekend, his first as president, important for him, and all who participated.

“It is such a great blessing to be back at the university,” he said. “And I just want you to know you are always welcome here.’

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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