Stalwarts of Catholic Education Will Receive the 2018 NCEA Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards

The 2018 honorees exemplify the highest qualities among individuals and organizations who are ardent supporters of Catholic education.

Arlington, VA – The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) will honor the recipients of the 2018 NCEA Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards: James “Jim” and Molly Perry of Madison Dearborn Partners (MDP); Kevin Short with Clayton Capital Partners; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., from the Archdiocese of Louisville; Porto Charities, Inc., in Arlington, Virginia; and Women’s Education Alliance from Towson, Maryland. The Reverend Joseph O’Keefe, SJ, from Fordham University, will receive the prestigious 2018 NCEA President’s Award. The honorees will be recognized at the NCEA Seton Awards Gala on October 1, 2018 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

"As exemplary stewards of the Catholic faith and champions of Catholic education, the honorees are among the best models of faithful servants carrying out their ministry," said NCEA President/CEO Dr. Thomas Burnford. "That they choose to give back in such meaningful ways is truly living as Jesus would."

Jim Perry is a managing director and co-head of MDP Telecom, Media & Technology Services team in Chicago Illinois. He currently serves on the boards of directors of Asurion Corporation, Centennial Towers,, Inc. Molly is a founding member and active volunteer at Catholic Charities’ Mary’s Closet, a program that provides professional clothing and guidance for women preparing for job interviews. Jim and Molly Perry are longtime supporters of better education options for disadvantaged children. The Perrys, along with a group of generous donors and several seed funders, came together to form One Chance Illinois to push for a statewide tax credit for scholarships. Against strident opposition, One Chance Illinois managed to help pass the largest new program in the country to offer lower-income families scholarships to attend private schools.

Kevin Short, managing partner and CEO of Clayton Capital Partners in St. Louis, Missouri, is a leader in purchase and sale transactions of mid-size businesses. He serves as chairman of the board for the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation, as chairman of the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and vice-chairman of the Show-Me Institute. He is a board member of the Mercy Hospital System and the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF). Mr. Short devotes his free time to the education of children from low-income families by working to expand educational opportunities and to provide scholarships to families in need so their children can attend K – 8 schools that best meet their needs. His work with CSF, which has provided more than 166,000 children with $741 million in scholarships since 1998, includes helping to launch and counsel similar programs around the country.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz is the Archbishop of Louisville, appointed in 2007. Archbishop Kurtz has served on numerous boards, including the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, president of the board of directors of the Catholic Social Agency, president and vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and is a board member of Leadership Louisville and St. Charles Seminary. He is currently on the board of trustees of The Catholic University of America and also is a member of the National Catholic School of Social Service there. In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Kurtz to the Holy See’s Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Archbishop Kurtz is instrumental in expanding the message that religious freedom or religious liberty is a “precious gift” to young people throughout the world.

Porto Charities, Inc. (PCI) is an organization dedicated to actively assisting people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. PCI raises and provides funds, resources, assistance, education and residences to improve the quality of life for its clients by supporting inclusive education in Catholic schools, housing and work. In addition to inclusive education, PCI’s mission includes promoting awareness, friendship and social forums among members, their families and communities. Currently five diocesan schools successfully include comprehensive special education services, supported by PCI. PCI is working to add more Catholic schools in the next two years.

Women’s Education Alliance (WEA) raises funds for scholarships for economically challenged Baltimore area families. In addition to fundraising, WEA is a welcome presence in Catholic schools as volunteers and student sponsors. What began in 2006 as a generous grant from Mary Catherine Bunting, an advocate of equality in education, became the WEA in 2012. A group of dedicated women revamped the organizational structure of the initiative and clearly defined its support to the children of families who want an academically rigorous education and character formation at any of the four Catholic community schools. To date, more than $1.5 million in scholarships have been awarded to deserving students.

Fordham University’s Reverend Joseph O’Keefe, SJ, is the recipient of the 2018 NCEA President’s Award. As part of the Seton Awards Gala, the President’s Award is presented to honor a professional whose longstanding dedication to Catholic education has enhanced the wellbeing of our nation’s youth and American Catholic schools, in particular. Father O’Keefe is a fellow in the Center for Catholic School Leadership and Faith-Based Education, a scholar-in-residence in the graduate school of education at Fordham University, where he also serves as rector of Ciszek Hall and the community for young Jesuits in formation studies. Previously, he was a tenured professor at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, where he served as dean. Father O’Keefe is an internationally recognized expert on Catholic education and is the editor or co-editor of 12 books and author or co-author of more than 40 articles and book chapters on Catholic education and educational leadership. Father O’Keefe was reappointed by the United States Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr., to a second term on the National Assessment Governing Board, where he represents the private school community.

For more than a quarter century, NCEA has honored outstanding individuals and organizations who have given time, talent and treasure in support of Catholic education. NCEA’s Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award is named after Mother Seton in recognition of her lifelong dedication to teaching and children. She was the first native-born American saint and is also considered the patron of Catholic schools because of her pioneering work in this mission-driven ministry.

In addition to their recognition, each Seton honoree selects a Catholic school student from their city to be a Seton Scholar. Representing the 1.8 million students attending Catholic elementary and secondary schools nationwide, the Seton Scholars each receive a $2,000 scholarship, sent directly to the school and applied to tuition.

The 2018 Seton Scholars attend the following schools: Bethlehem High School, Archdiocese of Louisville; Bishop O’Connell High School, Archdiocese of Arlington; Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory, Archdiocese of St. Louis; St. James and John Catholic School, Archdiocese of Baltimore; and St. Mary of the Lake Catholic School, Archdiocese of Chicago.

More information about the 2018 NCEA Seton Awards and the inaugural Seton Philanthropy Symposium is available online.


In service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, NCEA strengthens Catholic school communities by providing professional development, formation, leadership and advocacy.