Two loyal Gilmour alumni were feted at the annual Christmas at the Academy holiday party. During a special presentation, Neal Lavelle ’53 and Mary Kate Farrar Vega ’93 were awarded the 2017 Alumni Man and Woman of the Year Awards.
Head of School Kathy Kenny spoke about the impact that both of these devoted alumni have had on Gilmour. She described Neal as a steadfast supporter of Gilmour, noting that he was one of the founding members of the Blue & Gray Society and has been a loyal supporter since its inception.
Lavelle’s son, David Lavelle ’89, accepted the award for his father and said that “Gilmour signiﬁcantly impacted his intellect as well as his life and empowered him to develop his writing.” He explained that his father is passionate about supporting the schools that impacted him as he believes it is important to “give back a little of what he received.” He closed by thanking Gilmour for recognizing this “extraordinary, gentle and unassuming man” and shared that he hopes to instill his father’s lessons about generosity, loyalty, hard work and love of family in his own children.
In describing Mary Kate’s tenure at Gilmour, Kenny discussed the deep ties of the Farrar family. Mary Kate’s father, Jim Farrar ’59, and her three siblings - JP ’91, Dan ’94 and Amy ’96 - all graduated from Gilmour, and Jim served as director of development before passing the torch to Mary Kate. In fact, Mary Kate joins Jim and Amy as Alumni of the Year winners. Jim won the award in 1979 and Amy was honored in 2011.
During her nine years at Gilmour, from 2007-2016, Mary Kate served as the Director of Annual Fund and Constituent Relations and then as the Assistant Head of School for Advancement. Under her leadership, the department grew the Annual Fund from $500,000 annually to $850,000 during her last year at the helm. They increased membership in the Blue & Gray Society, built a new Athletic Center, hosted large school fundraising events, and worked to create a strong parent and alumni presence.
In accepting her award, Mary Kate thanked her parents for the many sacriﬁces they made to send her siblings and her to Gilmour and shared the impact of the classes, clubs and organizations in which she was involved during her school years at Gilmour. She explained that it was her love for the school that made her want to return there to work, which required a commute from Rocky River each day. She said she loved the “classy, dedicated, wonderful people” with whom she got to work each day at Gilmour. She concluded by thanking her husband and her two young daughters for supporting her passion for Gilmour during her nine years there.