Niagara Catholic Announces 2016 Recipients Of Distinguished Alumni Award

WELLAND – Niagara Catholic is pleased to announce the 2016 recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Niagara Catholic created the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012 to recognize its graduates whose life journeys are visibly rooted in the Niagara Catholic education they received while attending our schools and who are described as distinguished, notable or acclaimed.

Graduates selected for the annual Niagara Catholic Distinguished Alumni Award continually fulfill the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations through their personal or professional involvement in our local or global community.

The following are the 2016 recipients of the Niagara Catholic Distinguished Alumni Award:

Dr. Jennifer Frendo

Dr. Jennifer Frendo is a graduate of Denis Morris Catholic High School.  Through her vocation as a family physician in Niagara, she actively lives the Catholic Graduate Expectations. She is actively involved in the St. Vincent de Paul Parish, and in her own community and is beloved by her patients as a caring, compassionate doctor. Dr. Frendo is an outstanding model of global citizenship and Catholic social teachings. She travels to Guyana 4-6 a year in partnership with a colleague, donating her medical expertise, surgical assistance and medical supplies to hospitals there. While in Guyana, she assists her surgical partners in procedures that allow patients with end-stage renal failure to receive dialysis treatment to improve or extend their lives. All of this is done on her own time and at her own expense. For her outstanding commitment to her local and global community, we are proud to include Dr. Jennifer Frendo as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

Anthony Lacavera

Anthony Lacavera studied computer engineering after graduating from Notre Dame College School, but he is most readily identified as an entrepreneur as the creator of WIND Mobile. He was named CEO of the Year in 2010 by the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine, and also listed as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2006. Eager to share the wealth he accumulated through his endeavours, he created the SHAMBA Foundation, a charity which has raised more than $1 million to assist Canadian charities to increase their efficiency and capacity, helping them do more for the areas they serve. He donates a scholarship to his alma mater, and mentors and financially supports up-and-coming entrepreneurs and seeks to be an agent of positive change in society.  He was a founding supporter of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Gallery Italia, and was honoured as a Commodore in the Order of the Star of Italy for his contribution to the Italian community abroad.
For his outstanding commitment to science, technology, the arts, business, education and philanthropy, we are proud to include Anthony Lacavera as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

Catherine Lacavera

Catherine Lacavera’s resume is an impressive list of career successes and mentorship. A graduate of Notre Dame College School and Ms. Lacavara has a degree in computer engineering. She was called to the bar as a lawyer and also holds an MBA. She has had an illustrious career as an intellectual property lawyer, and is currently Director of Litigation at Google, where she leads a team of 20 patent and intellectual properly litigators and technical advisors. She remains passionate about computer engineering and continues to speak to girls and young women about the many opportunities in the STEM fields available to them. Ms. Lacavera views the world as an interdependent community and is committed to giving back to others. She urges students that they should not put off trying for fear of failure, or wait until later to create, innovate and explore opportunities. She is a mentor at the University of Toronto’s The Hatchery entrepreneurship centre, and a builder with the California Women Lawyers’ In-House Counsel Network. She has been named one of Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40, and one of the 50 Most Influential People in Intellectual Property. For her outstanding commitment to science, law, education and entrepreneurship, we are proud to include Catherine Lacavera as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

Dr. Christina Le Rose

Dr. Christina Le Rose is an award-winning classical pianist who has performed in venues across North America and Europe.  A graduate of Saint Paul Catholic High School, she received more than 60 scholarships, including four full scholarships, which allowed her to continue her musical education from her undergraduate degree through her Doctor of Music.  Dr. Le Rose believes that music plays a fundamental role in a vibrant Catholic community, and shares her gift by volunteering as a cantor, pianist and accompanist at parishes. She also mentors young musicians, and has been a motivational speaker, speaking passionately about the importance of the arts in higher education.

Father James T. Mulligan, C.S.C.

Father James T. Mulligan CSC needs very little introduction within the Niagara Catholic family. A graduate of Notre Dame College School where he was both an athlete and a coach, Father Mulligan CSC became a member of the Holy Cross Fathers, and then returned to Notre Dame College as a teacher and head of the school’s Religion Department. As a priest, Father Mulligan has served the Church locally and abroad, including as the Assistant General of the Holy Cross in Rome. During one trip to Europe, Father Mulligan participated in a pilgrimage and was so moved by the experience, he decided to replicate it at Niagara Catholic. He spearheaded the Notre Dame Pilgrimage, which began in 1975 has been adopted across Niagara Catholic and has raised millions of dollars to support development projects around the world. Father Mulligan is the author of four books on Catholic education, and is widely recognized throughout North America as an expert and impactful speaker on the subject, and for his commitment to Catholic education. He was recognized with a Niagara Catholic Award of Distinction in 2010. For his commitment to faith and education, and for being the vision behind one of Niagara Catholic’s most visible displays of our faith, we are proud to include Father James T. Mulligan C.S.C. as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

Joseph Pillitteri

Joseph Pillitteri grew up on a farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and is a graduate of Denis Morris Catholic High School in St. Catharines. He his family and his education laid the foundation for two very important parts of his life, which he now shares with others.  As the owner of Lakeview Vineyard, he knows the value of hard work. He also knows the importance of commitment to family and of having a good sense of humour.  Today, Mr. Pillitteri brings these experiences together to as a basis for his stand-up comedy. He has performed more than 50 times and donated the proceeds from his shows to charities and causes he supports. Several times a year, he and fellow comedians come together to raise money for charities and support local causes, donating all of the proceeds to the causes he supports, including minor hockey and lacrosse teams, the Terry Fox Foundation, and Red Roof Retreat, among others.  He is an active member of his faith community, and of the Niagara-on-the-Lake community, where he was named Citizen of the Year in 2014. For his commitment to business, philanthropy and community, we are proud to include Joseph Pillitteri as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

Hector Pothier

Hector Pothier was a talented multi-sport athlete during his years at Denis Morris Catholic High School, but it was on the gridiron that he really excelled. Mr. Pothier was awarded a scholarship to St. Mary’s University in Halifax and McGill University upon his graduation from Denis Morris, and completed a combined degree in Education and History. In 1978, Mr. Pothier joined the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos as an offensive lineman, and played his entire 12-year career with the team. He is a two-time CFL All-Star, has six Grey Cup rings and has a place on the Edmonton Eskimos’ Wall of Honour.  During his playing years, Mr. Pothier dedicated many weekends to play hockey and basketball with teams around town, and was actively involved in the Carnival of Champions, which raised funds for a variety of causes in Edmonton. An example of servant-leadership, he often donated his time to accompany children in the community to events such as Klondike Days. In 1988’s off-season, Mr. Pothier became an educator in Edmonton, and he is currently and elementary school principal. He has donated his time to many youth-related causes and remains active with a number of organizations in his adopted hometown, including the St. John Bosco Knights of Columbus, the YMCA, the Eskimo Alumni Association and the CFL Alumni Association. For his commitment to business, philanthropy and community, we are proud to include Hector Pothier as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

Rob Robbins

Rob Robbins had a busy career as a sound engineer following his graduation from Saint Paul Catholic High School, when he was critically injured in a head-on car crash caused by a drunk driver. Critically injured by the devastating crash, doctors advised he would never walk again. But God had other plans.  Three months later, he was back at work, providing the communications system for evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. Through the Billy Graham Crusades, Mr. Robbins has travelled to some of the most dangerous places in Africa, including Tanzania, where he reached more than half a million refugees. On one trip, he was mugged and whipped with bamboo strands and left stranded on the side of the road, with only God at his side. Miraculously, his identification was turned in to the Canadian Embassy, and he was able to return home. Mr. Robbins is also an active philanthropist at home, giving of his time to the Rankin Cancer Run, and the MS Society. He has also played an integral role in live-streaming several community events. He is well-known for his expertise, work ethic, positive attitude, commitment to teamwork and his leadership, and is highly regarded by Niagara Catholic for the way in which he elevates special events such as the annual Graduation Celebration to beyond extraordinary. For his commitment to faith, social justice and the community, we are proud to include Rob Robbins as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

 Lydia Tomek

Lydia Tomek has been heralded as the youngest female winemaker in Niagara, but life is about more than the grape for the graduate of Notre Dame College School. Ms. Tomek grew up in East Welland, the daughter of immigrants who grew whatever they could in their backyard. The lessons she learned at home and at school taught her about the value of hard work and about the importance of giving back to others. She is equally at home in muddy boots on a vineyard at Hernder Estate Winery where she is winemaker, or in a gown at a gala. Heralded as the youngest winemaker in Niagara, Ms. Tomek is a recipient of Brock University’s Award of Distinction, as well as a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence for Ontario Wine.  She is best known for her creations Pink and Pink 2.0, rose wines created in memory of two friends whom she lost to cancer. These wines have led to a pledge of $250,000 for the Walker Family Cancer Centre in St. Catharines. Most recently, Ms. Tomek created the LocaLove Garden Project. Through this, she joined students from St. Andrew Catholic Elementary School in Welland, her former Catholic elementary school, in creating a community garden. She built the plots from old wine pallets and broken hockey sticks, donated the earth for the garden and helped cultivate the young plants which the students harvest and enjoy in the autumn – truly a labour of love born of her yearning to introduce the students to the same love of gardening and wonder of watching things grow her parents instilled in her as a child. For her commitment to her local community and for teaching students about the value of getting their hands dirty while they work, we are proud to include Lydia Tomek as one of Niagara Catholic’s Distinguished Alumni.

(Source: Niagara Catholic news release)


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