An inspirational, and financial, boost

An inspirational, and financial, boost
James Dunne, senior managing principal of the New York investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill and Partners, visited Our Lady Star of the Sea School, Atlantic City, Sept. 10, where he met with students and made a financial donation. He is pictured with Tuyen Hoang, a graduate who now attends Atlantic City High School; Michelle Carranza, seventh grade; Sakshi Harjani, seventh grade; and Samantha Smoger, a graduate and current student at Holy Spirit High School, Absecon. Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com .

James Dunne, senior managing principal of the New York investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill and Partners, visited Our Lady Star of the Sea School, Atlantic City, Sept. 10, where he met with students and made a financial donation. He is pictured with Tuyen Hoang, a graduate who now attends Atlantic City High School; Michelle Carranza, seventh grade; Sakshi Harjani, seventh grade; and Samantha Smoger, a graduate and current student at Holy Spirit High School, Absecon.
Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com
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Catholic education and good questions, both profitable

By Joanna Gardner

As James Dunne, senior managing principal of the New York investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill and Partners, stood in Our Lady Star of the Sea School’s cafeteria addressing the students, teachers, friends and benefactors of the school, his voice suddenly filled with tears. He was talking about his mother.

“She had the broom and she was doing something in the kitchen and I remember she put the broom down. And she said, ‘Jimmie boy, sit down.’” Dunne said.

As an elementary school child he had come to her saying he thought the tuition, then five dollars a month, his father paid to send him to the now closed St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Philadelphia, wasn’t worth the sacrifice.

“Number one, your father worked very hard and he can afford the $5 a month,” Dunne’s mother told him. “Number two, I would be thrilled to go clean the ladies room at Penn station, on my knees, to send you to Catholic school. And I’d be the proudest person in the world.”

“I realized that was the end of that, I was staying in St. Joseph’s Grammar School,” Dunne said.

Dunne, who attended Catholic schools his entire life, talked about the importance of Catholic education to students on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Dunne’s firm, Sandler O’Neill, lost 66 of its 171 partners and employees in the World Trade Center attacks. Dunne spearheaded the firm’s recovery.

“What I remember most is his experience with 9/11, because he dealt with it in a very positive way and he never gave up,” said Claudine Smith, an eighth grade student at OLSS. “It made me appreciate being in Catholic school more and the sacrifices that our parents do to send us here, and give thanks.”

The Notre Dame alumnus had been invited to the Atlantic City elementary school by his friend Steven Brady, president and CEO of Ocean City Home Bank and an alumnus of Our Lady Star of the Sea School. Former state Sen. William Gormley, a graduate of Notre Dame, was present for Dunne’s presentation and was instrumental in connecting OLSS to the Notre Dame Ignite program, aimed at helping promising middle school students from urban areas supplement their education and reach their goals for higher education.

The idea had been for Dunne, a member of the board of trustees for Notre Dame, to meet the four students from OLSS who are involved in the Notre Dame Ignite program and then address the larger student body.

“He told the students, if you ask a good question it’s $500; if you ask a great question it’s $1,000,” said Sister Shamus Zehrer, R.S.M., principal of OLSS for 38 years until her retirement in August. “In the end the children had raised $10,000, which we are going to put toward our tuition assistance program.”

From kindergartens to eighth graders, students withquesitons raised their hands. Many wanted to know more about how Dunne had overcome such great loss after 9/11. Dunne connected his recovery to his foundation in Catholic education.

“I was not the best student. But I had a lot of friends and teachers that were supportive of me, and coaches that I had playing sports and I felt like all those people had invested some time and energy into me. So now [after Sept. 11] it was my turn to demonstrate to them that that effort was not wasted,” Dunne said. “I felt an obligation to my parents, my sisters, my teachers, my coaches, my friends, my partners, my employees to keep going.”

Sister Shamus is a long-time fanatic of Notre Dame football. At the end of Dunne’s talk, he and Sister Shamus swayed together in the front of the cafeteria while the school choir sang the Notre Dame alma mater and fight song.

“It made me think of all the possibilities I have,” said seventh grade student Michelle Carranza, a participant in the Notre Dame Ignite program.

“What’s important is not whether or not you go to Notre Dame. What’s important is that you set a goal and if you’re disappointed you go on to the next goal and you keep going,” Dunne said in his talk.

Our Lady Star of the Sea is the last Catholic elementary school in Atlantic City. Dunne said he was impressed by the school and wanted to help keep their mission alive.

Our Lady Star of the Sea “is making a terrific contribution to the community. I loved the school, the atmosphere, the teachers,” Dunne said. “I’m a product of Catholic education. I wanted to share my experiences with them; I probably enjoyed it more than they did. I wish that my grade school was still open and I could do it there.”

“It was a beautiful day, a beautiful message, to see someone who is so successful but has such a strong faith and is so generous as well as really believing in Catholic education,” said principal Susan Tarrant. “We have to let people know what we’re doing in Catholic schools. Any opportunity to do that is wonderful for us.”

Categories: Catholic School News

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