New Orleans Saints Owner Tom Benson will receive the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) during the 20th annual Seton Awards ceremony Monday, Oct. 4 at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.
The Seton Award is the highest honor given by Catholic educators, presented in recognition of significant contributions to Catholic education in particular and to our nation's youth in general. The award is named in honor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), the first native-born American saint.
As a reflection of Benson's faith and dedication to Catholic education, the Saints organization has been involved in many ways with the Catholic community. Players have been involved in programs and school visits and have donated generously to Catholic schools.
Beyond football, Mr. Benson is a major donor to the PACE Center, a program for all-inclusive care for the elderly, operated by Catholic Charities.
A $14 million challenge gift from the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation was a major boost to San Antonio Oblate School of Theology's capital campaign. The money will provide endowment support for academic programs and fund a new auditorium and classroom building.
In 2008, contributions from the Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation enabled the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio to institute an intercollegiate football program, the first for any college in San Antonio. The team began playing in 2009 in the new Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium. Tom previously endowed the Benson Chair in banking and finance in the university's school of business and administration.
Mr. Benson is a long-time supporter of Central Catholic High School in San Antonio. A recent $4 million gift to the school enabled Central Catholic to upgrade the football stadium and to build a new athletic and convocation facility.
In September 2010, Tom announced an $8 million gift to Loyola University of New Orleans to establish the Tom Benson Jesuit Center. The Jesuit Center will strengthen Loyola's Ignatian and Catholic identity, keeping the core Jesuit values of service and educating the whole person at the center of campus life.
Other 2010 Seton Award recipients are:
- Donald and Michele D'Amour, Somers, Conn., major supporters of public and private education in Connecticut and Massachusetts and of Assumption College, Worcester, Mass.;
- Lee and Penny Anderson, New Brighton, Minn., major donors to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.;
- Robert A. Smith, La Canada Flintridge, Calif.; for his support of Loyola High School and Delores Mission Parish in Los Angles and his management of the Catholic Educational Foundation;
- Frank and Judy Sunberg, Lilydale, Minn., for support of Cretin-Durham Hall High School and the University of St. Thomas.
The organization's annual President's Award will be given to the Archdiocese of New Orleans for its efforts to reopen schools quickly to maintain Catholic education in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
* *NCEA, founded in 1904, is a professional membership organization that provides leadership, direction and service to fulfill the evangelizing, catechizing and teaching mission of the church. NCEA members include elementary schools, high schools, parish religious education programs and seminaries.