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Notre Dame Honors Women of Impact

Notre Dame High School in downtown San Jose recently held its 4th annual Women of Impact Luncheon at the Fairmont's 4th Street Summit Center.  This annual celebration honors successful women who have played a role in our region's history, acting on behalf of peace and justice, embracing diversity and leadership, and forging new paths.  Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, Supervisor Dave Cortese and several past honorees joined Notre Dame Principal Mary Beth Riley and emcee Janice Edwards of CreaTV in welcoming this year's honorees, Founder and General Director of Opera San Jose Irene Dalis and Executive Director of The Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara Mary Quilici '75 Aumack.

Mary Quilici '75 Aumack, a graduate of Notre Dame High School, credits her commitment to education and community to her parents, who believed strongly in Catholic education, and in Notre Dame.  Following her retirement from the corporate world as Vice President of Enterprise Distribution at Hewlett Packard, she devoted her time and energy to philanthropy, serving on the board of Catholic Charities and with the Caritas Society before joining The Catholic Community Foundation and forming her own charitable group, ThirtyOne Women.  "The Notre Dame experience, both back when I was there and now, is at once an incubator and a cyclone," said Aumack in addressing more than 400 attendees.  "It is a safe and nurturing place that challenges you to make your mark.  Perhaps most importantly, we learn at Notre Dame that our impact should be targeted, channeled in ways that reflect the Gospel values on which St. Julie built the great footprint of the Sisters of Notre Dame.  It's not just a great school, it's a great Catholic girls' school and the girls leave with the stamp of our Catholic values."

Irene Dalis, like Mary, was raised by parents who placed a high value on education.  After graduating from San Jose State with honors and a double major in voice and piano, she packed her bags for New York where she would ultimately embark on an opera career that would span continents and cultures.  Upon retiring from her performing career, Irene returned to her native San Jose and a professorship at San Jose State.  She would ultimately found Opera San Jose and be instrumental in the restoration of the historic California Theater.  Accepting her award, Dalis shared stories of growing up in San Jose and the strong women who influenced her life including her sister, Margaret, a graduate of Notre Dame's Class of 1928.  Margaret was among the first to recognize what Dalis refers to as her "gift from God," a unique mezzo soprano voice, and pay for the lessons that would launch her career.  "My sister was really the one responsible for my career," said Dalis.  "This one is for you, Marge."

Both women were presented with a commemorative plaque and a place setting created by Notre Dame students in their honor. Additional place settings served as centerpieces throughout the room and graced the lobby.  The settings, which represent the lives and accomplishments of influential women in history, are part of Notre Dame's Woman's Place Project, the first step each student takes on the journey to becoming her own woman of impact.  

It is said that each journey begins with a single step.  For more than fifteen years, the Woman's Place Project has been the first step for Notre Dame freshman. Through the Woman's Place Project they are introduced to many women, some famous and others virtually unknown, who have left an indelible mark on the world.  Led by the Religious Studies Department, this interdisciplinary project begins in September with each student being assigned a woman to study.  As they get to know the women presented in their projects, they begin their own journey of self-discovery and learn of the monumental changes that women can effect through courage, ability and the power of conviction.  The full impact of the project is realized in March, when the entire freshman class comes together to 'set the table' for their chosen women. 

"Notre Dame is honored to be part of the legacy of San Jose since 1851," shared Mary Beth Riley.  "Today's event celebrates the core of the education of our students.  Each and every year our newest class learns about women who have used their life force to care passionately, to serve others, and to build community.  Through our Woman's Place Project, we celebrate those women from across time and cultures and invite them to their place of distinction at the table.  We bring the celebration outside of our school walls to the greater community and invite you into the celebration of women among us who make a contribution with their life work - women like Irene Dalis and Mary Aumack."


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