By Sherri Weil
The Sant’ Andrea Society of Scranton, PA, hosted “Tavern on the Green,” the society’s 73rd Gala, on Friday, April 15, 2016 at Glen Oak Country Club in Clarks Summit. The theme perfectly matched the crisp spring weather and beautiful setting, a short ride north of University of Scranton. This annual fundraiser benefited the Formation Fund of the Maryland Province Jesuits.
The cause is near to Society President Shanna Walker Williamson’s heart because of her Jesuit education and the impact it had on her life. Williamson, a graduate of St. Joseph’s University, spearheaded the event, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are alumni of Jesuit schools or parents of students in Jesuit schools.
“The feeling of community that the Jesuit priests have instilled in me is not just about learning,” she said. “Learning is a huge part, but it’s also about doing good for others. I would hate to have any man that has the calling to become a Jesuit priest not be able to do that.”
Close to 200 guests attended this year’s event, among them Jesuit fathers Bernard McIlhenny, SJ, a longstanding supporter of the SA Society; Daniel Sweeney, SJ; Leonard Martin, SJ; Richard Malloy, SJ; James Reddington, SJ; and Gene Nolan, SJ.
Mrs. J. Robert Gavin and her daughter, Maura Gavin, were honored with this year’s Mark McGrath Award. These women are both former presidents of the Sant’ Andrea Society.
Mrs. Williamson noted similarities in the women’s perspective on the society’s mission about doing good for the community and having fun while doing it.
Fr. McIlhenny, S.J., who has done so much for the Sant’ Andrea Society, arrived in Scranton in 1958 to serve as the fourth headmaster of Scranton Preparatory School, which at the time was owned by the University. Known to many as “Father Mac,” his tenure as dean of admissions spanned 31 years during which time he is credited with admitting more than two-thirds of the University’s living alumni.
In 1966, the University was all male and mainly comprised of commuting students with a small number of residential students. The campus was just beginning to develop. A special summer program that he attended at Harvard University in 1967 introduced Father Mac to the changing dynamic and future competition of higher education admissions to a “buyer’s market.” In his approach to promoting the University, beyond the academic programs, to prospective students, Father Mac highlighted the close community, family atmosphere where students could get personal attention and make friends for life, a fact that he witnesses presently during class reunions. He retired from admissions in 1997 and continued to serve the University as minister of the Scranton Jesuit Community.
A native of Philadelphia, Father Mac is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School and St. Joseph’s University. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 18 and celebrated his 70th anniversary as a Jesuit in 2014. He remains an avid golfer and maintains close friendships with those alumni whom he knew during their student days.