NEW CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY HOLDS INAUGURAL GALA AT HYATT REGENCY LA JOLLA Successful dinner fundraiser draws over 170 supporters and volunteers

October 12, 2004 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
SAN DIEGO Following months of careful preparation and increasing media attention, New Catholic University (NCU) held its inaugural gala Sept. 25 at the lavish Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine.

Over 170 supporters and volunteers attended the event, joining NCU founders Derry Connolly, Philippe Dardaine, Wes Fach, Scott McKenna and Ed Snow for an evening of dinner and speeches. The evening's profits benefit the new university.

"Building a private university is such a huge undertaking that any rational person would be initially suspect of its chances for success,' said Connolly, "but the gala has shown that almost 200 people both Catholic and non-Catholic are willing to make a public show of support for what we're doing.'

"We're still in the infancy stage, but people are already getting behind our effort,' he added, pointing with pride to recent coverage in local newspapers and national Catholic and education publications.

Gala attendees were treated to a dinner of filet mignon and salmon with a choice of wines. The evening also included impassioned speeches by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone; Fr. Darrin Merlino, C.M.F.; and NCU co-founder Connolly, slated to be the university's first president. Jerry Usher, program director for Catholic Answers Radio and host of the Catholic Answers Live radio show, served as the evening's master of ceremonies. Fr. Leo Celano concluded the evening with a closing prayer and blessing.

An auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of San Diego, Cordileone has been a strong NCU supporter since the diocese granted consent for the founders to include the word "Catholic' in the university's name. Representing the diocese at the gala, Cordileone commended the gathering of NCU supporters, leading them in a pre-dinner prayer of thanks.

Following dinner, Claretian missionary Merlino took the stage to praise NCU's proposed mass media curriculum, designed to prepare students for careers in film and journalism, while providing them with a firm grounding in Catholic ethics. Merlino has been associated with the mass media since his historic ordination ceremony, the first one broadcast live over the Internet. For 15 years, he has used radio, television and print media to spread the Catholic faith. He has hosted two television shows, "Sacred Heart Outreach' and "Yesterday, Today and Forever.'

In his closing speech, Connolly detailed the progress NCU has made since its inception and highlighted the characteristics that distinguish it from other American universities. He promised NCU would expand upon the entrepreneurial focus of research universities, such as UCSD, while recreating the deep Catholic spirituality of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio and Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, Calif.

NCU, a North County San Diego-based institution of higher education, is scheduled to open in Fall 2005. The university will offer degree programs in technology, business and mass media communications. In all academic disciplines, it hopes to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and encourage leadership and innovation, guided by Catholic ethical teachings.

The university's Senior Business Plan, a two-year business planning and implementation exercise, will require all students, regardless of major, to actively participate in the conception, development and creation of a viable business enterprise before their graduation. The ultimate goal, Connolly said, is for at least 50 percent of each graduating class to commercialize their business plans after graduation.

"NCU's academic model is very novel,' Connolly said. "It's a niche school and it's not for everyone. You have to like the idea of working in a business.'

Founded by five friends and currently staffed solely by volunteers, NCU has evolved quickly from an idea in Connolly's mind into an extended family of faithful Catholics, committed to the university's success. But no matter how many people pledge their time, money and prayers, Connolly said, the university's ultimate success rests in the hands of a higher power.

"NCU has no hope of succeeding without God,' Connolly said. "It's just too big for simple humans to do on their own.'

For more information on New Catholic University, visit the university's website at or call (858) 672-9080.