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Transforming Lives Dinner 2018

Remembering the Unforgettable Legacy of Steve Phelps

Former Bishop O’Dowd High School President Steve Phelps was remembered with gratitude and affection at O’Dowd’s signature fundraising event, the Transforming Lives Dinner, held on campus on October 25.

Attended by 320 people, the sold-out event raised over $450,000 for financial aid, a program near and dear to Phelps’ heart. Funds were raised from a combination of corporate and personal sponsorships, ticket sales, and paddle-raise donations.

A highlight of the evening occurred when Board of Regents member Kerwin Allen shared personal stories of his 50-year friendship with Phelps and talked about his mentor’s unwavering commitment to Catholic education.

“We are here tonight because Steve believed that money should not get in the way of receiving the benefit of a world-class education. He brought this event to O’Dowd seven years ago to ensure we support this vision with action,” Allen said. “It is my hope that when you share your time or resources for supporting O’Dowd, you’ll think of the aspirations Steve had for each of our students and for us as a community.”

The event was chaired by past parents Glen (a former Board of Regents member) and Mary Hentges. The committee included Tracey Borst and Robert Menicucci, Elaine and Patrick Connolly ’85, Kendall and Michael Connors, Laura, and Sebastian Grady, Heather Kuiper and Loren Rauch, Nikki Maguire and Alex Byron, and Monica and John Marcone.

The Transforming Lives Dinner drew current and past parents, Board members, alumni, friends and faculty, and staff. Phelps’ adult children, Amy and Chris, were also in attendance. Guests were treated to a reception in the small gym before enjoying a formal dinner in the large gym, with the O’Dowd string orchestra providing lovely background music.

President James Childs welcomed attendees, noting that O’Dowd is thriving due to the generosity of alumni, friends, parents, and benefactors “and the visionary leadership of Steve Phelps, who we honor here tonight.”

“This community’s investment in students who need a financial bridge to be at O’Dowd is unwavering. It is a significant expression of our Catholic values and our charism commitment,” Childs added.

Two eloquent student speakers, Layla Gafni-Kubukeli ’19 and Diego Madrigal ’20, shared remarks about the impact of financial aid on their lives.

Diego said he could hardly contain his excitement when he was accepted to O’Dowd. “I thought of O’Dowd as the land of opportunity – kind of the way lots of immigrants view the United States when they come here,” he said. “I knew O’Dowd would help me develop into a better person with a future filled with opportunity.”

Without financial assistance, however, Diego would not have benefited from a transformative O’Dowd education that has provided him with challenging academics, powerful faith experiences, and broad co-curricular opportunities.

Layla also expressed her gratitude for financial aid. “Like many of my classmates, I have benefited from the financial assistance program here at O’Dowd. I know many of you have supported it for a long time, and some of you are just finding out about the program. All I can tell you is that it’s a good investment. You are supporting a school that not only provides a quality education but also a community where students are welcomed, supported, and encouraged to grow. We work hard here and have fun and we all appreciate the fact that you are willing to invest in our futures,” Layla said.

“I walked onto campus four years ago as a timid, slightly lost, and overwhelmed girl, and I will leave O’Dowd this spring as a confident young woman, knowing where I want to go, and having what I need to get there,” she said.


Emcee and past parent Steve Burke led the paddle raise portion of the evening, noting that Elizabeth Cabraser ’70 had already pledged $50,000 to get things started. The featured speakers’ powerful testaments to the transformative power of an O’Dowd education inspired the community to raise $264,000 during the paddle raise. Every dollar raised at the event will go directly to tuition assistance, thanks to the generosity of event sponsors, who gave over $200,000 to underwrite the event.

If you couldn’t make it to the Transforming Lives Dinner, you can still support financial aid at O’Dowd. Give here

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