October 8, 2010

Education awards honor people who make a difference

By John Shaughnessy

(Editor’s note: On the evening of Nov. 3, the archdiocese will honor the five recipients of the 2010 Celebrating Catholic School Values: Scholarship and Career Achievement Awards. The awards honor people who have used the foundation of their Catholic education to make a difference in the world. This story provides a look at the award recipients: James Schellinger, Shirley Kloepfer, William Kuntz, Dr. Michael Welsh, and the family of Archie and Bettie Smith.)

James “Jim” Schellinger

A natural storyteller, Jim Schellinger can tell entertaining anecdotes about growing up in a small home where he and his four brothers shared one bedroom.

He also has a nice story about how he and his brothers all wore the number “50” while paying football at St. Joseph High School in South Bend, Ind.—and how one of those jerseys ended up in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame as a symbol of the importance of family and tradition to the sport.

Then there’s his story of working nights as a steel grinder—removing the imperfections from steel as the sparks and the dust flew around him—to help pay for his education at the University of Notre Dame so he could become an architect.

Yet his best story may be the one about his continuing relationship with his eighth-grade teacher, Holy Cross Sister Aloysia Marie Mulcaire.

Now 50 and a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Schellinger still visits his 101-year-old teacher in South Bend several times a year, usually bringing her flowers and candy.

“She was a tough teacher and a strong disciplinarian, but I always thought her bark was worse than her bite,” Schellinger recalls. “She was nice, and a great, great teacher.”

His fondness for her extends to his appreciation for his Catholic education through grade school, high school and college.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to this—character, imagination, hard work, diligence and faith,” he says. “These are the things that determine individual achievement. Then it creates an inherent responsibility for your brothers and sisters. You have to give back.”

As the president of CSO Architects in Indianapolis, Schellinger has created a values-based company that has been involved in such projects as Circle Centre in Indianapolis. He has also donated architectural services to his grade school and high school as well as to parishes and schools in the archdiocese.

“It’s what my Catholic faith and Catholic education are all about. It’s an incredible thrill to give back.”

The family of Archie and Bettie Smith

While some blind dates can be disastrous, the one that paired Archie Smith and Bettie Crayton led to a beautiful story of lasting love—and continuing faith.

Archie and Bettie both grew up in rural Alabama in the 1920s, but they didn’t meet each other until they moved to Indianapolis. Their blind date turned into love at first sight, and their marriage created nine children.

Archie supported the family by working for 41 years as a handyman-chauffeur for the Daughters of Charity at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. He was so impressed by the faith and compassion of the Catholic doctors, nurses and religious sisters that he became a Catholic. So did Bettie. And they insisted on a Catholic education for their children: Betty, Demetria, Carrie, William, Bernadette, Doris, Joseph, Roy and Nellie.

“The saying around our house was, ‘You will finish Catholic high school or you will die,’ ” Joseph Smith says with a laugh.

Four of the Smith children were among the first black students to integrate Holy Angels School in Indianapolis in 1949. Eight of the children earned college degrees, and six earned post-graduate degrees, leading to careers in education, health care, law and government. Two entered the religious life. Roy became a Holy Cross brother and Demetria professed her vows as a member of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa.

“We were able to represent the values of Catholic education,” Joseph Smith says. “We’ve all taught our children that you have to help those who have less than you have.”

In keeping with that belief, the children of Archie and Bettie established an education fund 13 years ago in honor of their parents—to provide financial aid for Catholic school students.

“It’s a way to celebrate the lives of our parents,” Joseph Smith says. “We’re trying to respect their legacy, to help kids get a Catholic education.”

Shirley Kloepfer

Growing up on a farm near Madison, Shirley (Yancey) Kloepfer knows the importance of roots and commitment—qualities that she learned from helping to work the farm and watching the marriage of her parents, a union that would last 71 years.

“My mom told us, ‘Always work hard. Always try to do your best. And always think of others,’ ” says Kloepfer, a member of Prince of Peace Parish in Madison. “And Dad was successful in business because he treated people kindly and believed in them.”

A tragic moment far from home also shaped Kloepfer’s approach to people.

It occurred in the South American country of Colombia. She had served there for two years in the Peace Corps following her graduation from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. Then she returned there with her husband, Jake, to teach—a time when she became pregnant with their first child.

“We lost our first child six hours after she was born in Colombia,” Kloepfer recalls. “That was one of the saddest moments in my life. People treated me with such care during that time. It made me want to help people even more.”

She has been a Spanish teacher for more than 30 years in the Madison area, including teaching the language to students at Pope John XXIII School.

She also started and leads La Casa Amiga Center in Madison, a center that provides Hispanic families with English classes, computer training, job assistance, and translation services for legal and medical needs.

At Prince of Peace Parish, she helps with Spanish Masses, assists Hispanic families in the Catholic schools and takes part in parish mission trips to Mexico.

“All our gifts are given to us by God,” she says. “To use them to help others makes you feel great. Everybody has sadness in their life—and I’ve had my share—but the best way to be happy is to share your talents with others.”

William “Bill” Kuntz

There are some trips that a child never forgets, and William “Bill” Kuntz still has fond memories of the journeys he made with his father near the end of summer vacations during his childhood.

At the time, William F. Kuntz was a teacher and coach at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis. As another school year neared, the elder Kuntz drove a school bus to Oldenburg to pick up the Sisters of St. Francis who taught at Scecina. At 5 and 6 years of age, the younger Bill Kuntz savored those rides.

“It was a fun trip,” he recalls. “You saw them [the religious sisters] in a different light.”

Knowing the dedication that the sisters had to Catholic education, Kuntz is humbled to be honored for his contributions—a reaction shared by all of this year’s recipients.

“When you think of all the people who could be honored, should be honored, have been honored, I’m not sure I deserve it,” he says. “But it’s not about the honorees. It’s about the cause—the kids who are in Catholic schools right now. It’s such a challenge these days to provide a quality Catholic education. We don’t want to leave anyone out in the cold. We want to continue this great tradition.”

Kuntz has done his part. In his career, he has taught, coached and served as athletic director at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

Members of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis, he and his wife, Martha, have been involved in Christ Renews His Parish, Christmas Gifts for the Needy, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Catholic Youth Organization. A businessman now, he is also a member and past president of the Archdiocesan Education Commission.

Sixteen years ago, Kuntz, his eight siblings and their spouses established an endowment in the Catholic Community Foundation to honor their parents, an endowment that provides scholarships for Catholic school students.

“I give thanks to all the archbishops and priests who have made Catholic education such a priority in the archdiocese,” Kuntz says. “We’re different now, but we’re better than ever.”

Dr. Michael “Mike” Welsh

As the recipient of this year’s Community Service Award, Dr. Michael “Mike” Welsh downplays his contributions, preferring to focus on the people who set an example for him.

He remembers his parents and his grandmother, a single mother who worked in the laundry at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis to provide for her family.

He recalls his eighth-grade teacher at Holy Spirit School in Indianapolis, Providence Sister David Therese Golding.

“She was a younger teacher at the time,” Welsh says. “She had taught in the

inner-city of Chicago. She related to the young kids, and talked about the responsibility of maximizing your gifts from God and using them to help others.”

Welsh has used his medical practice to pursue that goal. He does pro bono surgery on the uninsured at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis about once a week. He is also a referral physician for the Trinity Free Clinic sponsored by his parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

He has also coached and sponsored numerous teams in such leagues as the Indiana Youth Hockey Association and the Catholic Youth Organization.

A graduate of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, he serves on the school’s board of directors and sponsors a scholarship for students.

“I know for myself and my children how important a Catholic education is,” he says. “It provides a strong academic foundation, a spiritual foundation, and a foundation of family and friends. I’ve always appreciated that foundation in my life.” †

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