Gratitude Shines Through at 32nd Annual Alumni Gala


Gratitude is a sentiment that was never more apparent than at the 32nd annual Saint Joseph's University Alumni Gala November 2 at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Center City. Michael J. Hagan ’85 received the heralded Shield of Loyola, the highest honor bestowed by the University and its Alumni Association, at the black tie affair attended by nearly 500 alumni, honoree family members and University friends. Joseph Feeney, S.J. received the Rev. Joseph S. Hogan, S.J. Award, and Beth Ford ’99, M.S. ’00 was recognized with the Ignatius Award.

Gala photo gallery

Hogan and Ignatius Award tribute video
Shield of Loyola tribute video

Hagan’s remarks after University President C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J. ’72 placed the Shield of Loyola ribbon around Hagan’s neck were heartening and humorous. He lauded the value of Philadelphia’s elementary and secondary Catholic schools, saying, “For the better part of a century, those schools have formed the bedrock of Saint Joseph’s University.” Hagan poked fun at his brother for attending Villanova adding, “We all knew he made a mistake, so I wasn’t going to follow him.

“I’m so happy that I had a balance of terrific business educators and courses that forced you to use your whole brain. That’s one of the unique beauties of a Jesuit education,” Hagan added. He offered his definition of magis: “Work a little harder and dig a little deeper. I’m probably oversimplifying … for me it starts with pushing your intellectual boundaries.”

The lead benefactor enabling the renovation of the Memorial Fieldhouse during the University’s With Faith and Strength to Dare campaign, Hagan was the 2006 Forbes Entrepreneur of the Year. He serves as the president and CEO of national home security provider LifeShield, and previously served as chairman and chief executive officer of the weight loss management company Nutrisystem, Inc. He made a name for himself in the 1990s as the co-founder of VerticalNet, Inc., a business-to-business Internet and software company.

Half-jokingly, Hagan offered a stock tip, saying, “If Saint Joe’s were a stock, I’d want to buy a lot of it and hold onto it for a really long time. The value of my diploma has only grown over the past 27 years.” He continued on, adding that his degree has appreciated because of the great leadership of Nicholas S. Rashford, S.J., SJU’s 25th president, Timothy Lannon, S.J., the University’s 26th president, John Smithson, interim president, 2011-12 and Fr. Gillespie.

“I believe this school’s best days are ahead,” he added.

He closed with a tribute to his wife of nearly 20 years, Joyce. “None of this would have been possible without her,” he said. “She’s really the one who makes it all happen.”

Thankfulness for being recognized for their good works and for having the opportunity to be of service to their fellow men and women radiated from Ford and Feeney in video tributes to them that were projected onto giant screens at the Bellevue’s Grand Ballroom.

An internationally renowned expert on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Fr. Feeney has been instilling his love of the great English Victorian era bard in students on Hawk Hill for more than 40 years. Fr. Feeney discovered the Hopkins poem “Consule Jones” in London, and has lectured on him throughout the United States, and in Japan, England, Wales, Ireland, Italy and Spain. He is co-editor of The Hopkins Quarterly, wrote The Playfulness of Gerard Manley Hopkins (2008), and co-edited Hopkins Variations (2002). He has published articles and reviews on Hopkins in books and journals in Europe, North America and Asia.

Ford, who serves as the associate director of campus ministry at Saint Joseph’s, coordinates local service and social justice programs, campus ministry student leadership formation, and assists with local, national and international immersion programs.

“It’s extremely gratifying to be able to recognize two of our University colleagues who – day in and day out  – dedicate their time and their talent toward teaching and influencing our students to aspire for the magis – to live greater, learn more and contribute more for the greater good,” Fr. Gillespie said of Ford and Feeney.

Most apparent, though, on this evening was the gratitude of the University community for being able to call these three incredible Hawks their own.

The Shield of Loyola is given to a distinguished alumnus or alumna who has had remarkable success in his or her profession, whose life reflects the values of St. Ignatius Loyola , and who has demonstrated unparalleled loyalty to Saint Joseph’s University. The Hogan Award is granted for “the exemplification of Christian principles and outstanding loyal service to Saint Joseph’s University.” The Ignatius Award is given to an alumnus from within the past 20 years who has devoted efforts in the service and promotion of Saint Joseph’s University and/or has lived a life of “service to others” consistent with the principles of St. Ignatius Loyola.