Caritas 2014 raises record level of support for scholarships

University of St. Francis President Arvid Johnson welcomes guests to the 2014 Caritas Scholarship Ball, the most successful in the event’s 57-year-history.

University of St. Francis President Arvid Johnson welcomes guests to the 2014 Caritas Scholarship Ball, the most successful in the event’s 57-year-history.

The 2014 Caritas Scholarship Ball, a major fundraiser for the University of St. Francis (USF), was the most successful in the event’s 57-year-history, according to USF President Arvid Johnson.

More than $260,000 was raised for student scholarships, said Johnson. “We are so grateful and moved that our community cares so much about quality higher education. This unprecedented support is confirmation that our area leaders recognize the value that our graduates bring to the workplace and their communities,” added Johnson, who was host to the event with his wife, Anne.

The ball, on Jan. 25 with more than 350 guests, was chaired by Mike and Kathy LaRocco. LaRocco retired from USF after serving for 34 years as a business professor and then dean. He was named a professor emeritus upon his retirement. Mrs. LaRocco is a USF alumna who taught in Chicago Catholic Schools. “We are dedicated to Catholic education, and so excited, pleased and grateful to see how appreciated the University of St. Francis is in our greater community—by sponsors, alumni and so many other friends to USF,” said LaRocco, who has also worked for years to raise funds for student scholarships.

About 98 percent of USF students receive some form of financial assistance, according to Johnson, who added that the university provides more than $16 million annually in institutional funds to assist students. Also, about 68 percent of this year’s freshman class is comprised of students who are the first in their families to attend college, added Johnson. “Our students greatly appreciate their scholarships, which for many of them may mean the difference between attending college or not.”

The event was supported by Wintrust Commercial Banking, Joliet Bank and Trust as the gold-level sponsor. “We are a community-based bank and impressed by the sense of community that surrounds the University of St. Francis. We’re excited to share the university’s goal in making higher education attainable through financial assistance to students,” said Paul Slade, chairman and CEO of Old Plank Trail Community Bank.

Longtime supporters of USF and founders of the Caritas event, Dorothy and the late LaVerne Brown provided a silver-level sponsorship.

Support was also received from Barnes & Noble Booksellers, BMO Harris Bank, Burla Construction, Crowther Roofing & Sheet Metal and Joliet Slammers Baseball. Additional support was provided by many other companies and individuals.

The 2014 Caritas event featured a live auction of one-of-a-kind experiences, including a game of H-O-R-S-E with Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade; a day as a Joliet Slammers player; a golf package with play at nine of the most prestigious courses in the area; and a Chicago Bulls basketball suite with an appearance by a special Bulls guest.

A paddle raise to provide direct scholarship funds was supported at leadership levels by Dorothy and the late LaVerne Brown; Board of Trustees member Joseph Mallof and his wife, Virginia; Caritas Committee members Terry and Sue D’Arcy; Board of Trustees member Diane Habiger and her husband, Bill; new Board of Trustees members Brian Giegerich and his wife, Sally, Mike Turk and his wife, Gigi, and Tom Vana and his wife, Michele; along with members of the President’s Executive Council and President Arvid Johnson and his wife, Anne.

For the second year, the Caritas Scholarship Ball was held at the historic Patrick Haley Mansion, which provided an elegant winter setting and “fantastic gourmet cuisine and wonderful service,” said Mrs. LaRocco.

“We are grateful to a wonderful Caritas Committee and to our co-chairs, Diane and Bill Habiger, who worked so hard to make the silent and live auctions exciting and to bring the expected elegance to this beautiful winter wonderland event,” said Mrs. LaRocco.

Along with the LaRoccos of Chicago and the Habigers of Joliet, the Caritas Scholarship Ball Committee includes Duffy & Rachel Blackburn of Joliet; Cesar & Rose Cardenas of Joliet; Scott & Debra Crowther of Shorewood; Terry & Sue D’Arcy of Shorewood; Ani Johnson of Chicago; Jim & Maryellen Klang of Wheaton; Pat & Lora McGuire of Joliet; Mike Mikuska of Joliet; Sam & Cindy Panayotovich of Palos Park; Jesse & Phavinee Park or Burr Ridge; Tyler & Stephanie Qualio of Shorewood; Steve & Ann Randich of Joliet; Jay & Willie Vidmar of Plainfield; and Denise Winfrey of Joliet.

“The success of the Caritas Scholarship Ball depends on the commitment of many individuals and businesses, who believe, as we do, that our students have amazing potential to contribute to bettering our world through service and leadership,” said Johnson. “We are already looking forward to the 2015 Caritas Scholarship Ball.”

The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit


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