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Philanthropists inducted into Fr. Medaille Society

Eight benefactors recognized and celebrated for generous support


October 8, 2012

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KANSAS CITY, Mo., October 8, 2012 – Avila University recognized and thanked several of its largest benefactors, honoring them as inaugural members of the Father Jean Pierre Medaille Society during a President’s Circle reception Sept. 27 on the Jeanne Hamilton Olofson Plaza. The distinguished group – the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Tom and Jeanne Olofson ’92, ’94, ‘11, Bob Hartsook/Hartsook Companies Inc., The Goppert Foundation, Vita M. Goppert ’72, ‘09, The Kresge Foundation and The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation – became the first induction class into the Fr. Medaille Society as contributors of $1 million or more to Avila.The society was named after Father Jean Pierre Medaille, the Jesuit priest who founded the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1646 in France. Two centuries later, six Sisters came to the U.S. and settled in Carondelet, near St. Louis. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet founded Avila in 1916.

poster A group of seven supporters of Avila University were honored as inaugural members of the Fr. Jean Pierre Medaille Society during a President’s Circle reception Sept. 27. They are, L to R: Robert Hartsook, JD, EdD; President and CEO of Hartsook Companies Matthew Beem, MPA, CFRE; Tom Olofson, Jeanne Hamilton Olofson ’92, ’94, ’11; Avila University President Ron Slepitza, Ph.D., CSJA; Vita Goppert ’72, ’09; Goppert Foundation Executive Director Tom Goppert; and Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Province Leader S. Helen Flemington, CSJ.

“These leaders in philanthropy support Avila’s initiatives and understand that a great university can have a great impact on our community – and our world,” said Avila President Ron Slepitza, Ph.D., CSJA. “Their support helps Avila provide more than $10 million in financial aid to students who might not otherwise be able to pursue their dreams of a higher education. This inspires excellence in students, faculty and staff as seen throughout our campus, in our classroom and woven into our plans for the future.”

  • The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are the founders of Avila University, and their values guide the University as it prepares our students to go out and make lasting contributions in the world.
  • The Goppert Foundation has a long tradition of investing in our community and provides a financial safety net for low-income students, helping them gain access to higher education.
  • Vita Goppert, the first female layperson on Avila’s Board of Trustees, was heavily involved in supporting the performing arts at Avila, including the Goppert Theatre, which bears her family name.
  • Bob Hartsook and Hartsook Companies, Inc. created the Hartsook Institute for Fundraising, which is changing the landscape of fundraising. It created the Masters in Management with an emphasis in Fundraising degree, one of Avila’s premier programs and only one of three such programs in the country (the others are on the East Coast, including Columbia University in New York City).
  • Tom and Jeanne Olofson ’92, ’94, ’11 not only support scholarships, but supported campus improvement projects including the Jeanne Hamilton Olofson Plaza, dedicated in 2008. Jeanne is the only person to receive three degrees from Avila.
  • The Kresge Foundation helped Avila improve student life on campus by supporting the construction of Thompson Hall, allowing students to live in a contemporary suite-style environment.
  • The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation made possible the construction of the Mabee Fieldhouse and athletic pavilion, science lab renovations and Whitfield lobby renovations that allows students access to the most up-to-date equipment and technologies.

Each member of the Medaille Society was recognized by President Slepitza and bestowed a Medal of Honor and a purple (Avila’s signature color) crystal vase filled with white lilies, symbolic of St. Joseph.

“All of these donors recognize Avila not just for what it is,” Slepitza said, “but also for what it can be, and are supportive of our quest for ongoing improvement and excellence. They have and continue to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Avila students.”



Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.