Igniting the flames of excellence at the Cathedral Preparatory School Legacy Gala

By Melanie Sisinni with Cathedral Preparatory School

         Cathedral Preparatory School’s annual Legacy Gala was held on March 16 at Erie’s Bayfront Convention Center. It was an evening filled with warmth, camaraderie and a shared commitment to the enduring values of Cathedral Preparatory School. Flames and pyrotechnics were projected on the walls throughout the evening, in keeping with this year’s theme, “Igniting Excellence,” as students, alumni, donors and honorees gathered to celebrate the school’s rich legacy and raise funds to keep tuition affordable for future generations.

         Guests filled their plates with hors d’oeuvres and treats, browsing the silent auction items while they prepared for the live auction to begin. The combined efforts of the live and silent auctions resulted in over $50,000. However, the generosity didn’t stop there. At the end of the live auction, individuals had the opportunity to become “Tuition Angels.” These individuals pledged funds that directly contribute to student financial aid. Over 100 donors made pledges throughout the evening, ensuring that a Cathedral Preparatory School education remains accessible to all Erie families.

From left to right: Villa Maria Cathedral Preparatory Catholic
School System President Kevin Smith, Honoree Bridget Barber
and Honoree Joe Kloecker(both class of 1970 from Villa and Prep)
and board chairwoman Sara Kallner pose for a photo at the Cathedral
Preparatory Legacy Gala on March 16.
Photo/Rick Klein

         A highlight of the evening was the induction of two distinguished alumni, Bridget (Power) Barber, and Joseph E. Kloecker, into the prestigious President’s Hall of Fame. These remarkable individuals were recognized for their unwavering support and dedication to Villa Maria Academy and Cathedral Preparatory School over the years, embodying the now-combined school’s values of leadership and service.

Joe Kloecker, a proud graduate of the Cathedral Prep class of 1970, reflected on his journey from his days at Prep to his successful career and wide range of community service work. He expressed gratitude for the strong foundation he received at Cathedral Prep and emphasized the importance of supporting the school’s mission for generations to come.

         “I was fortunate to benefit directly from the vision of Archbishop John Mark Gannon to establish a school that provided a high-quality education to students of modest means,” said Kloecker. “Being one of eight children, a superior Catholic education was only possible due to that vision and the many priests and women religious that faithfully served Prep and Villa.”

         Bridget Barber, a member of the Villa Maria class of 1970, was honored for her dedication to philanthropy and volunteerism. Her commitment to serving adults and children with disabilities has left a lasting impact on the community, embodying the spirit of service instilled by Villa Maria Academy and Cathedral Preparatory School. Barber offered advice to current students of Cathedral Preparatory School.

         “Take advantage of the Villa Prep education: the athletic, educational, spiritual and cultural opportunities offered,” said Barber. “Enjoy everything this marvelous school has to offer, no matter your economic or cultural status. If you believe in yourselves, you can achieve. Suit up, show up and stand up for what is right and good.”

         As the evening drew to a close, there was a palpable sense of pride and unity among the attendees. Villa Maria Cathedral Preparatory Catholic School System President Kevin Smith closed the scripted portion of the program by expressing his heartfelt appreciation to all those who contributed to the gala’s success, emphasizing the importance of their support in shaping the future of Cathedral Prep. Through the contributions of 44 sponsors and over 130 donors, this year’s Legacy Gala raised over $300,000. Their generosity will enable Cathedral Prep to continue igniting the flames of excellence and light the path for future generations.