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Honoring Excellence: The Frank J. O’Hara Alumni Awards

Honoring Excellence: The Frank J. O’Hara Alumni Awards
From back left: Alumni Society President Mike Short ’99, then-Interim University President Herbert B. Keller, S.J. H’06, COL James F. Cummings, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, FASTMH, U.S. Army (ret) ’88, H’15, Matthew R. Bernard ’99, G’03, William J. Brady ’83, P’12. From front left: Francis J. Pearn ’83, P’16, Dominique Ponzio Bernardo ’93, Michele Giancatarino Gil llan ’98, Elena M. Habersky ’13 and John H. Appleton, Esq. ’68, P’00, P’03, enjoy a moment together immediately after the Frank J. O’Hara Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony June 8.

Over the years, Reunion Weekend has become many things to many people. For most, it’s a chance to make new memories with old friends; for some, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with the positive energy the campus radiates thanks to Scranton’s pursuit of cura personalis; for The Alumni Society, it’s the time, at the Frank J. O’Hara Alumni Awards, to honor select alumni who have achieved distinction in their professional or personal endeavors.

The Alumni Society and the University established the Frank J. O’Hara Distinguished Alumni Award in 1981 as the highest recognition they jointly bestow to honor the memory of Frank J. O’Hara, an administrator who served the University for more than 53 years. Honorees are selected based on the nominees’ commitment to Ignatian values and their pursuit of professional and personal excellence. In 2015, they established the Frank J. O’Hara Recent Graduate Award to recognize alumni who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to service for others in their personal or professional achievements while embodying Scranton’s Catholic and Jesuit values within 10 years of their graduation date. 

At this year’s O’Hara Awards Ceremony, The Alumni Society and the University honored the following alumni:

Elena M. Habersky '13
Cario, Egypt
Andrew W. Mellon/HUSSLab Post-MA Research Fellow, The American University in Cairo

“We, ourselves, as Jesuit-educated, must live greater so our fellow brothers and sisters can live the lives that they feel they are called to live but are unable to do so. Only then will we bring back harmony to the world. Only then will everyone be able to see God in all things. Only then can we live the greatest and make the magis the normal, the everyday. So, I implore you to listen to the migrants, and then also to listen to yourself and feel the pull of the greater, of the magis, of the connections that we all have in-between. Then, we can go forth and set the world on fire.”

John H. Appleton, Esq. ’68, P’00, P‘03

Clarks Summit

“The O’Hara Award is a very prestigious award, and it is to be cherished when someone is selected to receive it. But for myself and my family, it is something more: It is a special reminder, with gratitude, of how my family over three generations got here, and so it will always have a special place in the lore of the Appleton Family.”

William J. Brady ’83, P’12
Wellesley, Massachusetts
Sustainability-focused Executive, Entrepreneur and Investor

“I remember distinctly the feeling I had that day when I walked onto this campus (for the first time), the feeling of belonging, the feeling of community, and it’s the same feeling I had when I came back here and walked on the campus today.”

Francis J. Pearn ’83, P’16
Garden City, New York Chief
Compliance Officer,  JPMorgan Chase & Co

“(The University of Scranton) is a fantastic institution. I’m so glad so many people are back to see it. It’s really been transformed since our days here on Linden Street.”

COL James F. Cummings, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, FASTMH, U.S. Army (ret) '88, H' 15
Chevy Chase, Maryland
President, ICON Government and Public Health Solutions, Inc. 

"The Idea of being a man for others—that fire burns deep and has continued throughout my career"

Dominique Ponzio Bernardo ’93
CFO, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, North Philadelphia

“Please, please, find a cause that is meaningful to you, be it foster children, be it the environment, be it four-legged friends, be it a multi-service Latino organization in North Philadelphia (hint, hint), and commit something."

Michele Giancatarino Gilfillan ’98
Bloomfield, New Jersey
Director, Foundations and Corporate Engagement, Catholic Relief Services

“What more can I do? What more can we do to manifest God’s love? We are a community, a community that has responsibility, and that responsibility is to love and seek a sense of justice and right relationship in our world.”

Matthew R. Bernard ’99, G’03
Clarks Green
Director of Counseling & Campus Ministry / Social Studies Teacher, Scranton Preparatory School

"Let us tonight be grateful not only for The University of Scranton but also for Jesuit education and the opportunity for us to be pushed beyond our comfort zones and to be loved.”  

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