Sold-Out Crowd Fills Every Seat in Every Tier of the Waldorf Astoria's Grand Ballroom to Pay Tribute to Alma Mater Regis.
Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. '67 Delivers Emotional Kenynote Address, Expressing Deep Admiration For "An Unearned Gift of Pure Grace From a Woman Whom We Only Knew As The Foundress."
The sold-out Centennial Gala hosted approximately 1,200 guests for an evening filled with fond memories, emotional reflections, and an overall sense of profound appreciation for the unparalleled influence Regis High School has had on the lives of its graduates and their families.
The night began with a cocktail reception sponsored by Amanda and Kevin Kavanagh '86 that spread across the Jade, Astor, and Basildon rooms on the third floor of the Waldorf. Before entering, guests were invited to pose for a photograph in front of a Regis step-and-repeat board.
Then, following the cocktail reception, guests were ushered into the Grand Ballroom across the hall where they joined Rev. Philip G. Juidge, S.J. ’80, President of Regis High School, and a group of current students in the singing of the Regis alma mater.
Following the alma mater, Very Rev. John J. Cecero, S.J., Provincial of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, offered grace for the evening. In his prayer, Cecero offered that "this evening we ask that this same gracious God continue to bless this treasured school for the next hundred years in the Jesuit mission of forming men of competence, conscience, and compassion."
Arthur T. Minson, Jr. ’88, chair of the Regis Centennial Gala Committee, then took to the stage to formally begin the evening’s program. Minson began his address by acknowledging the presence of Rev. Kenneth J. Gavin, S.J. ’62 and Rev. Thomas McClain, S.J., two former presidents of Regis High School. He then acknowledged the fact that the evening boasted alumni representing every class from 1949 through this year’s freshman class of 2018.
Minson also paid tribute to one particular attendee, Mr. Ovid DiFiore, from the class of 1935. At 96 years of age, DiFiore was the oldest Regis alum in attendance at the Gala.
"Ovid enrolled in Regis in the Fall of 1931 and commuted from Ft. Lee, New Jersey which is difficult enough today," remarked Minson. "But let me remind you of the fact that when Ovid started at Regis, the George Washington Bridge had not yet been opened."
(News story continues below photographs)
Pictured: (top left) Guests at the Regis Centennial Gala enjoy cocktails in the Waldorf Astoria's Astor Room, one of three spaces hosting the cocktail reception; (top right) Ovid DiFiore '35 (left), the oldest Regis alum in attendance, and his grandson, Austin (right), chat with Gala Chair Arthur T. Minson, Jr. '88; (bottom left) Very Rev. John J. Cecero, S,J., Provincial of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, offers grace; (bottom right) Rev. Philip G. Judge, S.J. '80, President of Regis High School, leads a group of current students in the singing of the alma mater. View full Centennial Gala photo gallery.
After a standing ovation for Mr. DiFiore, Minson continued his welcome, thanking the Centennial Gala Committee, the Regis Office of Development, and the leaders of Regis High School for their support and commitment towards making the Gala a reality. Before concluding, Minson took a moment to thank the current and former faculty and staff of Regis High School.
"We received so many gifts from attending Regis," Minson stated. "We had doors opened to opportunities we never could have imagined. We made lifelong friends. We became experts in navigation the New York City subway system. But perhaps the greatest gift we received was from the faculty who taught us much more than Latin, Calculus, or Physics… in my case particularly physics. From the faculty, during perhaps our most formative years, we learned incredible life lessons such as the importance of trying our best to live our lives according to Regis’s motto of being men for others. We don’t always get this right but thanks to them we are still trying."
Watch: Mr. Arthur T. Minson, Jr. '88's opening remarks at the Regis Centennial Gala. (Story continues below video)
Following Minson’s remarks, two toasts were offered. The first was presented by Rev. Philip G. Judge, S.J. ’80.
"There is one esteemed guest whom we both miss and especially celebrate tonight," stated Fr. Judge, referring to Julia Grant, the Foundress of Regis High School. "Founder. What a short term for such enormous care and giving. Tonight we can only stand in awe at the generosity that has brought us together and that continues to provide the gift of education for leadership for new generations of young men."
Watch: Rev. Philip G. Judge, S.J. '80's toast at the Regis Centennial Gala. (Story continues below video)
The second toast was presented by Mr. Peter Labbat '83, Chair of the Regis Board of Trustees.
Speaking of Regis, Labbat stated, "The truly beautiful part of all of this [is that] Regis always has been and continues to be a gift, freely given: from our Foundress to all of us and, in turn, through your generosity, to future generations of Regians. For a century now (and counting), men and women of good will have supported an institution whose mission is to inspire young Jesuit Catholic witnesses to make a difference in the world, to be men for others. Regis is quite literally the gift that keeps on giving."
"Sometimes," Labbat observed, "it’s easy to miss the miracles that are happening right before our very eyes."
Watch: Pete Labbat '83's toast at the Regis Centennial Gala. (Story continues below video)
Mr. Minson then welcomed U.S. Senator Charles Schumer to the stage for one final, surprise toast. Senator Schumer, who helped usher in Regis's second century at a September 15 landmark dedication ceremony, was enthusiastic to have the opportunity to toast Regis on its centenary celebration.
"I, too, would like to raise my glass," said the Senator. "And hope and pray that God gives Regis 100 more years of creating great New Yorkers, great Americans, and great Catholics."
Following the Senator's remarks, guest were served dinner. The program then continued with Craig M. DiFolco ’95 and Michael X. Izquierdo ’96 introducing An Alum’s Guide to Regis, a short film they produced for the Gala.
Watch: DiFolco '95 and Izquierdo '96's An Alum's Guide to Regis (Story continues below video)
Following the film, Mr. Minson introduced Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. ’67, President of Fordham University, to deliver the Gala keynote address.
"The problem with Regis is that its hype never lived up to the reality of the Regis experience," began McShane. "Now that's saying something."
In an incredibly moving and emotional speech, Fr. McShane’s address far exceeded the what would have seemed to have been an unreachable goal of putting into words what so many generations of alumni feel when reflecting on alma mater Regis.
"Every Regian is haunted by the realization that his life was transformed by an unearned gift of pure grace from a woman whom we only knew as The Foundress. We were not the children of privilege. Far from it. We were and are, however, the adopted sons of generosity. And what boundless and inexplicable generosity it was. Although the Foundress never met us, she loved us. Although she never knew us, she believed in us. Although she never saw us, she nurtured high hopes for us. Ultimately, she and her family gave us all that they had so that we might have and lead lives filled with meaning and purpose."
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night came when Fr. McShane detailed a visit earlier in the week to the Foundress’s grave:
"And there I saw it: her name. I trembled. Then, I stepped back and prayed. To be honest, I was not sure if I was praying to her or for her. But I can tell you this: I spoke to her from the heart—but not from my own heart alone. No. No. I told her that I spoke for every boy whose life had been forever changed and transformed by the unmerited gift that she had given to him. I spoke for every Noble Heart who ever walked through the Tunnel and discovered an entirely new world in and through the school that she had founded in memory of the husband who awaits the Resurrection just next to her. On your behalf, I thanked her. I assured her that even though we had never known her name, we tried to live lives worthy of the love that she had for us, the faith that she had in us and the hopes that she nurtured for all of us. I also asked her to pray that we might always be sons of fair Regis in deed and not only in name. That is to say, I asked her to pray that like herself, we might know how to give and not to count the cost, to labor and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do God’s will—and do it for His greater glory."
"My friends, with TS Eliot, my end is my beginning," concluded McShane. "Of those to whom much is given, much is expected. As Regians and therefore as the sons of a great generosity, our response to these words must always be: Teach me. Teach me to be generous."
A rousing, standing ovation ensued for Fr. McShane in appreciation for remarks that very clearly resonated loudly in the hearts and minds of all present.
Watch: Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. '67 delivers the keynote address at the Regis Centennial Gala. (Story continues below video)
Following the conclusion of the program, guests were served dessert and invited to attend the Gala After-Party held in the 18th floor’s Starlight Roof Ballroom and sponsored by Time Warner Cable. At the after-party reception, guests received their commemorative hard-cover Gala Journal that included text and photographs honoring 100 years of lasting memories. Guests were also able to collect prints of their cocktail hour photographs, mounted in commemorative 8"x10" centennial frames. The after-party reception offered a DJ, dance floor, and refreshments well into the night.
Pictured: (top left) U.S. Senator Charles Schumer raises a glass to toast Regis at the Centennial Gala; (top right) Craig DiFolco '95 and Mike Izquierdo '96 present their film, An Alum's Guide to Regis; (bottom left) Guests enjoy DiFolco and Izquierdo's entertaining and sentimental video; (bottom right) Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. '67 captivates attendees with his keynote address at the Regis Centennial Gala. View full Centennial Gala photo gallery.