The 6th Annual Cabrini Visionaries Gala was held virtually on Friday, Nov. 6, honoring the University’s most spirited ambassadors of the Education of the Heart, past and present.
Proceeds from the Visionaries Gala were contributed to the Cabrini Fund, which enhances the student experience and helps fund the University’s core mission of a Catholic liberal arts education. The event was sponsored by Collegis Education and emceed by Steve Highsmith (ʼ88), Vice President of Institutional Advancement, and Jana Tidwell (ʼ96), Adjunct, Communication.
“To all the Cabrini family in attendance—Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners, sponsors, and friends—thank you for watching from home and wherever you may be, because this is truly a 21st century gala,” said President Donald B. Taylor, PhD. “Tonight we celebrate icons of Cabrini who worked for Cabrini’s mission and values, including alumni who are essential workers in health, public service, and other fields.”
Honoring those individuals whose life work embodies Cabrini’s core values of access to education and social justice, the 2020 Christopher Awards for Extraordinary Leadership were awarded posthumously to Shirley Walker Dixon (’84, MEd’89, EdD’18) and Antoinette “Toni” Iadarola, PhD, President Emerita.
Dixon, who championed diversity, equity, and inclusion at Cabrini and shared her passion and expertise with leaders around the globe, passed away in November 2019. She is the namesake for Cabrini’s Dixon Center for Urban Education, Equity, and Improvement (CUEEI).
“She was committed to Cabrini University,” said Ronald W. Whitaker II, EdD, Director of the CUEEI. “And she was committed to being a change agent. Dr. Shirley Dixon was always pushing the bar on issues related to equity and authentic notions of inclusivity.”
Of Iadarola, who led Cabrini as President from 1992-2008 before her death in May 2020, President Taylor said: “Her academic training was second to none and her service and humanitarian efforts spanned the globe. Together with the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they charted a new course in the journey of a growing Cabrini. She never stopped caring for her beloved Cabrini.”
2020’s Luminary Awards, which recognize those alumni who light the way for others, were given to Cabrini graduates who have worked tirelessly during the ongoing pandemic, including Hon. Jordan Harris (MEd’08), Kate Conahan Ponto PT, DPT (’10), Craig Vagell Jr. (’05), and Jeanne Venella, DNP, RN (MS’04).
Jennifer Specht, PhD, RN, Director of Cabrini’s new Nursing Program, said that the 2020 Luminary honorees “represent some of the essential workers” who have worked on the frontlines against COVID-19.
Whitaker, and the CUEEI which he leads, were recipients of this year’s Compass Awards, given to individuals whose extended, continuous service serves to promote and defend dignity for all. Whitaker works with underserved populations in schools, parishes, and prisons and he is an expert on race, trauma, diversity, equity, inclusion, systemic inequalities, and culturally responsive pedagogy.
“He’s very strong in his conviction about having these courageous conversations about race,” Zakia Y. Gates, PhD, Assistant Professor of Education, said about Whitaker during the Gala. “Because, if they’re not addressed then we’re going to continue to live in a world where people are somewhat afraid to even confront these inequities and inequalities that we have across all racial backgrounds.”
Sponsors for the 2020 Visionaries Gala include:
Cabrini University Board of Trustees
The Haverford Trust Company
Education of the Heart Sponsor
Joel (’89) and KellyAnn Zazyczny
Academic Excellence Sponsor
Barbara (HON’08) and John Jordan
West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc.
Student Champion Sponsor
Cabrini Mission Foundation
CSI International, Inc.
Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Guadalupe Province
R. Titter Roofing, LLC
Cavalier Community Sponsor
Cabrini University Dept. of Institutional Advancement
The Jara Family
Main Line Health
Mechanical Solutions Associates
NJM Insurance Group
Nicholas Renzi, Esq. (’85)
Penn Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine
Claire Roth (’69)
Stephen (’88) and Jayne Highsmith