By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Even though Dick Vitale says he can’t run, jump or shoot and “has a body by linguine,” he is in 10 Hall of Fames.
“Why? Because I came from a great home where they taught me, in life, if you have energy, enthusiasm and an excitement for life, a lot of beautiful things can happen,” said the man who has been working for ESPN for 33 years as a college basketball analyst. Before this he was a high school, college and pro basketball coach.
Vitale delivered the keynote presentation at the 15th Annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools held Oct. 9 at the Sioux City Convention Center.
“I have been blessed in my life,” said Vitale. “If you have passion about what you do, if you have a great work ethic and you combine it with great decision-making in your personal life, it usually equals a win in the game of life.”
Although he has been inducted into 10 Hall of Fames, Vitale said he has been around hall-a-famers his whole life – his wife of 40 years, his daughters and his parents.
“I miss my mom and dad so much because I would love for them to see what is happening in my life,” he said.
He thanked his wife, Lorraine, his daughters, Terri and Sherri, and his parents for their support. He credits his parents with giving him the drive and determination to follow his dreams.
“I came from a great home. My mother and father were the great influences of my life,” said Vitale. “My parents were uneducated, but they had a doctorate in love. They always instilled in my brother and I and my sister to believe that you can be what you want to be, chase your dreams. If you treat people with respect, they will treat you with respect.”
Vitale told stories about his daughters going to Notre Dame, where they met their spouses. Despite that, he had one rule for them, thou shall not date jocks. One of his daughters married a Notre Dame football player.
“My sons-in-laws are terrific young guys,” he said. “If anyone has a daughter, you are a nervous wreck as to who your daughter is going to bring into your life.”
When Vitale asked one of his son-in-laws what they were planning to do, the son-in-law said he planned to be a surgeon. His other son-in-law, the football player, is now a federal circuit court judge in Florida.
He said that Notre Dame is a tough school to get into. He told a story about being asked by Lou Holtz to speak at a pep rally.
“I told all the students, ‘I don’t understand something. They said you have to have a 1400 to get into this place on the SATs. I have a bone to pick with the university. They accepted my daughters but they didn’t accept me, and I was better than my daughters,’” said Vitale. “I really resent that. I had 1500 on my SATs. I took it three times – 500, 500, 500.”
“When we are looking at our Catholic schools, we need to be thinking how do we nurture our Catholic schools, how do we move them forward and what do they need to be strong for the next five, ten and 15 years,” said Ryan. He talked about the plans for the future of Catholic schools and how parts of the process will happen on the diocesan and local levels.
Ryan announced this year’s winners of the Excellence in Education Teacher Awards. The winners were Tom Brunkan, a math teacher at Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City; Diane Frank, a math teacher at St. Mary School in Storm Lake; Doris Riesselman, a fourth grade teacher at Sacred Heart in Boone; and Steve Shea, a grade school computer teacher and physical education instructor and high school health teacher at Gehlen Catholic School in Le Mars.
The Good Shepherd Award, which honors staff members of Catholic schools, was presented to William Richter, a custodian at Sacred Heart Grade School in Boone.
The award recipients each talked about teaching and working at Catholic schools and what it has meant to them.
“I am grateful and humbled by this honor,” said Frank. “Over the years, I have been blessed daily to work with staff and teachers who are witnesses of their faith and dedicated to the welfare of their students.”
Brunkan, who has been teaching at Heelan for over 45 years, said that being a Catholic teacher means “I have the opportunity to affect the lives of many students on a daily basis.”
Teaching in a Catholic school, said Shea, has been “a blessing. My personal faith has grown deeper than I could have ever imagined.”
“I think Catholic education is special because it has all the elements of a really great story,” said Riesselman, who proceeded to explain how Catholic education has many characters and other elements of a story. “God is the author of everything that happens in Catholic education.”
Even though he doesn’t get to teach the students in the classroom every day, Richter said he and the other janitor strive to give the students and staff a “clean, healthy and safe environment to work in. I have learned a lot through my life and in my career, so that is what I try to translate to the students each day.”
Supporting Catholic schools
Bishop Walker Nickless commented that this is the sixth dinner he has attended and each one has been “a wonderful experience and a testimony from all of you about how important you think Catholic education is. Thank you all for your support.”
“I am so proud to be your bishop and to see the fine teachers and custodian we have here and so many of you who care so much for Catholic education,” said the bishop. “I want to thank in a special way all of our award winners. I know they are just five of so many in all of our schools. I am so grateful to all of you.”
He thanked Vitale for his inspiration. He said he could see an exchange between Vitale and his wife that “is just beautiful. You give us a great example of what it means to be a family and husband and wife who care about one another and have shared that with your children. You have used the talents and abilities God has given you in such a wonderful way.”
The bishop summed up what Catholic education is all about. He said it is “basically about a future where Christ is important and where our Catholic beliefs make a difference in the lives of so many people.”
The bishop thanked the chaircouple of this year’s dinner, Mike and Janet Flanagan of Sioux City, for all they have said and done for Catholic education over the years.
The Flanagans are parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church and are the parents of three daughters: Kelly, Maggie and Caitlin, who attended Blessed Sacrament School (now Holy Cross) and Bishop Heelan High School.
“When Bishop Nickless suggested that Janet and I chair tonight’s celebration, it was with very little hesitation to accept,” said Mike Flanagan. “Blessed John Paul II once said, ‘Catholic education is one of the best tools the church has to offer in an age when mankind is seeking certainty and wisdom.’”
Catholics, he said, have a “great” story to tell and at the dinner, standing with the bishop and those supporting Catholic education the story would be told.
“At these dinners over the years, we have loved seeing hundreds of people come together to support our teachers, our principals, our staff members, our coaches, our priests and our religious,” said Janet Flanagan. “We love hearing from all of the award winners, present and past, on why you teach at Catholic schools and how it has enriched your life. You have enriched our lives.”
Kristie Arlt, diocesan director of communications and stewardship, pointed out that the schools could expect to receive nearly $200,000 thanks to the generosity of sponsors and all those who purchased tickets for the dinner.
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