At Marymount University’s second-ever Halo Awards dinner and ceremony last month at the Washington Golf and Country Club, the institution honored six distinguished individuals that included alumni, faculty and community members for their professional achievements and service to others. And with the generosity and support of sponsors and donors, $160,000 was raised to benefit scholarships for Marymount students now and in the future.
This was made possible through sponsorships, ticket sales and the University’s first-ever auction that accompanied the awards program. It consisted of a two-week online silent auction as well as an online and live in-person auction at the gala itself, conducted by nationally recognized expert appraiser Colleene Fesko of the hit PBS TV series, Antiques Roadshow.
“We are delighted with the outpouring of support by Marymount family and friends for this year’s Halo auction,” said Dennis Slon, Vice President for Advancement at Marymount University. “We are also thankful to our generous sponsors, auction donors and bidders, the tireless efforts of auction co-chairs and Marymount trustees Courtney Spaeth and Terry Thompson, and the hard work of Marymount staff.”
The Halo Awards ceremony, hosted by ABC7/WJLA-TV anchor Jonathan Elias, included three Distinguished Alumni Awards, the Distinguished Faculty Award for Faculty Member of the Year, the Saint of Service Award for Outstanding Community Member, and the Mother Gerard Phelan Gold Medal.
For the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Sciences and Humanities, Marymount honored 2001 graduate Michael D. Smith, the current CEO of AmeriCorps. He has a long history of dedication to service, highlighted by his roles as Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and Director of Youth Opportunity Programs at the Obama Foundation.
“I’ve tried to build a career that’s about serving others, because I think that is our job on this time while we have on this planet – to leave it better than the way we found it,” Smith reflected. “I’m proud to be a part of this tradition and I’m proud of the work that Marymount continues to do to make young people’s dreams come true.”
David Evinger of the Class of 1994 and 1998 was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership and Technology (BILT). He is currently the President, Chief Credit Officer, Director and Secretary of Chain Bridge Bank, N.A., and has over 25 years of commercial banking and risk management experience. He serves on the Advisory Board at Marymount, and also gives back as a volunteer coach for the Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams.
“My overall Marymount experience was filled with so many positive aspects, from learning to developing personal relationships with faculty and administrators,” Evinger explained. “What I take away the most are those personal relationships. Those really allowed me to grow as an individual and prosper professionally.”
From the College of Health and Education, Dr. Joseph Vorbach, III received the Distinguished Alumni Award at the 2023 Halo Awards. Currently the Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, he previously was Head of School at Bishop O’Connell High School. He retired from the Coast Guard as a Commander in 2008, and earned his M.A. in Education from Marymount in 2013.
“I think we’re at a critical moment in Catholic education, and we need partnerships with Catholic institutions like Marymount to find the teachers who are going to be the next generation of teachers for our Catholic schools,” Dr. Vorbach said. “So to be affiliated with Marymount, to have those connections and those opportunities to reach back to folks you have a network with…very valuable and not taken for granted.”
The Associate Vice President for Research at Marymount, Dr. Rita Wong was selected as Faculty Member of the Year with the Distinguished Faculty Award. She oversees both external and internal research funding, strategic initiatives related to research and faculty growth and development as researchers. She also led recent efforts to establish three interdisciplinary research centers on campus.
“At the University, there’s many people to thank…but a real thank you for all the support and mentorship of our current Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, Dr. Hesham El-Rewini,” Dr. Wong said. “He has really been a major support structure, I think, for all of Academic Affairs and the faculty in the University.”
For the Saint of Service Award, Marymount honored the current Board of Trustees Chairman, Dr. Edward Bersoff. A retired military officer who previously worked at NASA, he has been a leader in the government contracting world for more than 50 years. He was named a Laureate of the Washington Business Hall of Fame and inducted into the Greater Washington Government Contractor Hall of Fame.
“No one ever succeeds in life, I don’t think, in a smooth fashion. People always encounter adversity. The trick is to, when encountering adversity, to pick yourself up and get going again and to overcome that adversity,” Dr. Bersoff said. “That’s what makes a difference, and that’s, to me, how you can excel and succeed.”
For full bio information on the above winners of the Halo Awards, click here.
At the Halo Awards ceremony, Marymount also bestowed the Mother Gerard Phelan Gold Medal to Jeannie Lindsay, who received it on behalf of her late husband, Charles “Terry” Lindsay, who passed away in July 2022. He was a longtime member of Marymount’s Board of Trustees and a devoted donor to the University. Well known for building the Lindsay Automotive Group into a thriving business, he served as president of the Automotive Trade Association National Capital Area, the Northern Virginia Dealer Association and the Virginia Automotive Trade Association. He also was selected for a Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award. Outside of the auto industry, he pledged himself to service at Marymount, Catholic Charities, Children’s Hospital, Hospice of Northern Virginia, Autism Speaks and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, just to name a few.
“He worked hard and he did very well, and I think he wanted to share that with others,” Jeannie Lindsay said. “I think he believed that because he had been given so much through work, he really felt that he should give back. He was a big believer in that.”
During the Halo Awards program, Marymount University President Irma Becerra announced the recipients of the institution’s Halo Scholarship. They consisted of current students Erin Cannon, Sadaf Ehsanyar, Amira Holland, Samuel Lopez and Symantha Shackelford.
In addition, she expressed her generosity to the Halo Awards Gold sponsors, which included David Evinger and Chain Bridge Bank, Dominion Energy, Jim Dyke and McGuireWoods Consulting, Lindsay Automotive Group, John Shooshan and the Shooshan Company, and Andy Steele and the Steele Family Foundation.
“Without their generosity, this night wouldn’t have been so successful. I would also like to thank the members of our Board of Trustees, who always show up and step up to support our Saints,” President Becerra said. “The generosity of everyone in attendance tonight ensures a bright present and future for Marymount and our students.”
President Becerra also delivered a special announcement at the Halo Awards, sharing to the audience that the University received $2.8 million from the Reinsch Pierce Family Foundation to renovate and repurpose the existing Ireton Hall into a new Campus Hub in the center of campus, featuring a Barnes & Noble bookstore, spirit shop, Lola’s Café and terrace. Click here for more details.