“We are trying to provide for our young people a hope-filled future,” the honoree said
Vincent D. Rougeau, president of College of the Holy Cross, received the Pierre Toussaint Medallion from Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the annual scholarship dinner named for the Venerable Toussaint in Manhattan on Monday, November 6.
More than 300 people gathered to fete the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund’s (PTSF) scholars, with the theme “Celebrating Diversity in Leadership,” and honored the legacy of the program’s namesake – the Venerable Pierre Toussaint.
A portrait of Toussaint by Brooklyn-based artist Hunt Slonem was unveiled at the event. The painting will be displayed in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Rougeau was chosen as this year’s medal recipient for “his extraordinary leadership and commitment to Catholic higher education and the highest principles of Catholic social justice.” He joined Holy Cross, a Jesuit liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts, as president in 2021. The college was founded in 1843 by educators Benedict Joseph Fenwick and Thomas F. Mulledy under the auspices of the Society of Jesus.
“We are trying to provide for our young people a hope-filled future,” Rougeau said during a Q&A with the evening’s master of ceremonies Carla Harris, a vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, in discussing the mission of Catholic higher education. “We are asking young people to step outside of themselves,” he added, citing the importance of academic and occupational achievers seeking ways to give back to their communities – to be “other-focused.”
Rougeau noted the significance of faith, family, and hard work, as well as serving others, such as being involved in social justice projects and advocating for diversity.
“Diversity is the way the world is; it’s the way the world should be; and so we need to embrace it,” Rougeau said, expressing dismay over the current state of “hostility and anger” among many of today’s societal leaders “who are not demonstrating the ability to exchange ideas, to learn from one another.”
Dinner guests included college presidents, superiors of religious congregations, and Pierre Toussaint scholar alumni, including Junelle Addei, 25, and David Le, 26.
“The Pierre Toussaint program helps scholars to grow and deepen in their faith,” Addei told The Good Newsroom during the event. “It allows scholars to connect with each other, [and it helps them] to bolster their academic achievements, their personal growth, and their career journeys.” Addei is a program associate at the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation in Manhattan and a parishioner of Immaculate Conception on East 149th Street in the Bronx.
The Pierre Toussaint program “brings together youth leaders within the Catholic community; and that empowers the entire community through faith, culture and diverse backgrounds,” said Le, an assistant vice president for distribution and marketing at a Manhattan financial services company, and a parishioner of St. Nicholas of Tolentine on University Avenue in the Bronx.
Brother Tyrone Davis, CFC, executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry, gave closing words of gratitude. Cardinal Dolan offered a closing blessing.
Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) was born a slave in Haiti and died a freeman in New York City. He is credited by many with being the father of Catholic Charities in New York. Toussaint was instrumental in raising funds for the first Catholic orphanage and began the city’s first school for black children. He also helped to provide funds for the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a religious community of black nuns founded in Baltimore, and played a vital role in providing resources to erect Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan.