The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 5, 2013

St. Francis alum presents $1M endowment

LORETTO — St. Francis University administrators are using a $1 million endowment from alumnus Lou DiCerbo to implement several new programs.

The endowment is named after the Rev. Gabriel Zeis, the university’s president, and was given with hopes of furthering support for the school’s Franciscan Catholic mission, said Robert Crusciel, vice president for advancement.

“We are also going to be using the proceeds from the account to attract outstanding scholars in the Franciscan and Roman Catholic tradition,” he said.

The money will enable the scholars to visit the campus to give instruction about their faith, Crusciel said.

“That would be for the scholars to come to campus and teach for a short period of time – maybe a week or two,” he said.

Though St. Francis is a Roman Catholic university, visiting scholars may not all be Catholics.

“One of the things the donor wants to mention is that this is not set up to bring only Catholic scholars,” Crusciel said, adding that scholars from other religions will be welcome.

“He wants us to really open up to what he calls ‘all people of good will,’ ” Crusciel said.

In addition to attracting religious scholars, endowment money will be used to develop workshops and symposiums, Crusciel said. “These would be on Franciscan life and Roman Catholic theology.”

Crusciel said endowment funds may also allow university students, faculty and staff to travel to St. Francis’s birthplace, Assisi, Italy. Crusciel said he believes the trips will allow visitors to better understand what the university is trying to do.

DiCerbo is a financial planning and insurance executive who graduated from the university in 1959 and remains a Financial Services Management Hall of Fame member. He now lives in Manhasset, Long Island, N.Y.

DiCerbo said his respect for the university’s president and his strong faith made it easy for him to present the endowment.

“Father Gabe has been an outstanding leader to the university, and he encourages alumni to give back to their alma mater in a way that has personal meaning for them,” DiCerbo said. “For me, the message of St. Francis … has carried with me throughout my life and career.”

DiCerbo said that when he attended the university, Franciscans had a more prominent role on campus, even teaching and coaching students.

“When I went there, they did it by example,” he said.

DiCerbo said he felt it was his duty to give the endowment, and he hopes it will help to enhance the university.

“This endowment is a way for me to help the university share the Franciscan teachings through various initiatives.”

DiCerbo said it is important for him to spread the Peace Prayer, a Franciscan prayer promoting goodwill.

“It reaches out to families, individuals and youths and asks them to become instruments of peace,” DiCerbo said.

He said the endowment also will be used to create an online forum, the St. Francis Forum, to spread the Peace Prayer’s message.

The forum will be used to compile the teachings that the endowment-funded scholars and seminars bring to the campus.

“More people will get to experience the teachings – not just St. Francis students,” DiCerbo said.

A religiously outstanding male and female student will be recognized through the forum each year, he said.

University Provost Wayne Powel said he believes the funds generated by the endowment will be a great benefit for the campus community.

“We are extremely excited about the possibility of using this endowment to be able to support ongoing development of a solid foundation in Roman Catholic theology,” Powel said.

Crusciel said university administrators are thankful for DiCerbo’s generous gift.

“We are thrilled that an alumnus would have this much faith in the university that he would make a gift of this size,” Crusciel said.

“St. Francis is truly appreciative of alumni like Lou DiCerbo.”

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