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"Salute to Franciscan Day" Honors Local Alumni

Honorees moved to Ohio valley for college, then stayed in the area

Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2009

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STEUBENVILLE, OH — Fourteen Franciscan University alumni, originally from different regions of the country but now Ohio Valley residents, were honored for their contributions to Jefferson County as part of a day-long event held at Franciscan University on May 22.

Dr. Patricia Fletcher ’60, community leader and chairman of the Franciscan University Board of Advisors, organized “Salute to Franciscan Day.”

As part of the day’s events, visitors boarded the Steel Valley Transit Trolley for a campus tour and visited the Tony and Nina Gentile Gallery that houses the University’s permanent art collection. The Steubenville Rotary Club also held its monthly meeting in the Gallery, reacquainting many with the “gem on the hilltop.”

The “Salute to Entrepreneurs” took place in the International Lounge of the J.C. Williams Center. Former classmates, neighbors, and friends gathered to recognize and applaud the “transplanted” Franciscan graduates for their achievements. The event kicked off with comments by host and vice chairman of the Board of Advisors, Richard Saxon. Speakers included Mayor Domenick Mucci; Sue Hershey, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce; Ed Looman, executive director of Progress Alliance; Most Reverend Gilbert Sheldon, bishop emeritus of Steubenville; Father Terence Henry, TOR, Franciscan University president; Father Richard Davis, TOR, Franciscan University vice president of Community Relations, and Dr. Fletcher.

Mayor Mucci described the University as a “golden asset” to the community, especially in times of local and national economic uncertainty. Mucci congratulated Franciscan University for consistently breaking recent enrollment records.

Ed Looman of Progress Alliance shared a laundry list of what makes residents proud to be from Jefferson County and handed out “Jefferson County Proud” pins to reinforce his message. Topping his selections were excellent secondary schools, the Ohio River, great people, and Franciscan University. Looman mentioned the university’s business program, “Students In Free Enterprise.” The program provides student interns with direct experience with local businesses under the guidance of business professor Dr. Thomas Kelly. Looman drew laughter when he told the crowd, “I would have come in my cheering costume today but I thought this was kind of a formal thing, so I don’t have my pom-poms!”

Sue Hershey, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, commended the Franciscan alumni who spanned several decades of graduating classes. “You chose to stand on our community ground, take root, persevere, and provide employment for not only yourself but for others, as well, while giving back to the community at the same time. It takes guts, it takes character, and a heavy dose of faith to accomplish what you have done,” said Hershey before the awards were handed out to the honorees. Dr. Fletcher encouraged current students to follow in the footsteps of the honorees. “It’s just like planting a garden. You plant seeds and ideas, then stay to see them grow.”

The honorees included Gus Acantilado ’55, John DuBois ’84, Stephen Feher ’96, MBA ‘99, John Fischer ’83, Theresa (Fischer ’80, MSA ’07) Danaher, Mark Fischer ’89, Rob LeFever II ’93, Robert Lesnefsky ’99, Brian Loot ’95, ’01, John Luther ’91, MBA ’95, Dr. Thomas Matanzo ’81, Ed Pankus ’83, ’97, Jean-Philippe Rigaud ’89, Jason Rivers ’06, ’08, Kenneth Schmitz ’97, and Shawn Scott ’89.

John Luther, originally from Connecticut, founded The Ridgefield Group, Inc. in 1997. The Ridgefield Group is a premier provider of computer and Internet services to businesses in the Ohio Valley. Also working for the Ridgefield Group, Inc. is alumnus Stephen Feher, originally from New York. Other honorees work in education, law enforcement, business, healthcare, and other professions.

Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, former president and now chancellor of Franciscan, closed the ceremony with a blessing and a sendoff. “I can’t quite be a proud parent,” he said of the successful alumni, “but I remember you all as you came through here!”

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