Roger Joseph honored at ICSF dinner

BOSTON -- The Catholic Schools Foundation held its 19th Annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund Dinner Celebration March 31 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.

The black-tie event is held annually to celebrate and support the Inner-City Scholarship Fund (ICSF), which provided $7 million of scholarship aid to nearly 5,400 disadvantaged students in the Greater Boston area in 2008.

The evening also highlighted the presentation of the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award, which this year went to Roger P. Joseph and his law firm, Bingham McCutchen LLP, for donating more than a million dollars and computers to several schools. The Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award has recognized individuals and organizations for their superior inspirational vision and steadfast dedication to making a difference in the lives of children in Boston’s inner-city schools since 2001.

Michael B. Reardon, Executive Director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, began the main event with introductory remarks, welcoming the nearly 900-person gathering.

“In these uncertain economic times, your continued commitment is most appreciated,” said Reardon. “I can tell you with absolute certainty that you are making a difference in the lives of young people (and) you are an integral part of the formula for success for these students and families.”

Following Reardon’s remarks, Cardinal Sean O’Malley delivered the invocation.

Cardinal O’Malley asked God to bless all those who support Catholic education and thus act as witnesses of His presence on Earth.

He prayed, “With the commitment to truth revealed in Jesus Christ, may we help our young people to strive for knowledge and truth and achieve their potential in life.”

Mary Richardson, co-anchor of the WCVB-TV’s “Chronicle,” served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.

“What a special evening this is tonight. It is all about hope in the future, about our children, about how much better the world can be,” said Richardson.

“We can all use a dash of hope right now. Just for one night put aside the bad news and headlines about the economy and celebrate all of the good and generous people who are gathered here in one room tonight; who give of themselves and of their money to help families they don’t even know,” she said.

After dinner, Poline Chhor, a junior at Lowell Catholic High School, spoke to the assembly on his journey since birth in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand, where his parents had fled to escape the genocide of the Khmer Rouge, to his Catholic education in Massachusetts since 1st grade.

“Today, Lowell Catholic provides me with unlimited experiences and challenges. I am able to build new relationships with people, try new things and pursue a higher education. If it were not for that, I would not be standing up here now,” said Chhor.

“Your support for Catholic education is a key component for my future achievements,” he said. “You have all become part of the ‘Formula for Success’ for many students. Thank you for making this possible; you have made a difference not only in my life, but in the life of my family and in the lives of thousands of other students.”

The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. John Silber, the president emeritus of Boston University. During his time as president, Silber established the Cardinal Medeiros Scholarship Program which, over the last 23 years, has awarded nearly $31 million in full, four-year scholarships to Boston University for graduates of Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.

Silber gave a punctuated address on “the central importance of early childhood education” and some of the obstacles facing children today.

He spoke of the efficiency of the Catholic school system and of the “critical importance” of ICSF in sustaining, “its solid curriculum, its moral instruction [and its] high standards of learning and discipline.”

“I know of no institution more likely to improve the quality of life in our beloved country than this one,” said Silber.

ICSF chairman Peter Lynch delivered the evening’s closing remarks, speaking on the “tens of thousands of lives that have been transformed” and citing Chhor as just “one example of the 15,000 we have in our schools.”

“I was worried at the beginning of the year when the economy made a turn for the worse, but what an amazing success it’s been,” said Lynch.