Gerckens is 2013 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award Recipient

From left are the Most Reverend Henry J. Mansell, archbishop of Hartford, Art Gerckens, St. Mary – St. Michael School Principal Linda Coppola and Hartford Archdiocese Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dale R. Hoyt.

News Story: October 24, 2013

Arthur Gerckens, manager of Sacred Heart University’s Mail and Duplicating Center, is the 2013 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton award recipient. The Office of Catholic Schools (OCS) of the Archdiocese of Hartford awarded Gerckens with this honor for his hard work and dedication in fighting to keep St. Mary – St. Michael School in Derby open when it was at risk of closing due to dwindling finances and enrollment rates.

Gerckens’ twin daughters, Ashley and Brittany, were attending St. Mary – St. Michael back in 2010 when the school faced closure. Leading a group of parents, Gerckens created a strategic plan and implemented a number of fundraising initiatives to save the school. Dr. Daryl R. Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic schools, and the Most Reverend Henry J. Mansell, archbishop of Harford, presented the award.

“I received this award for demonstrating to others what can happen when people who believe in Catholic education volunteer their talents on behalf of their parish elementary schools,” Gerckens said.

Developing a financial and strategic plan to save the school was no easy feat. Gerckens and the rest of his team were given two weeks to come up with a plan. One night, Gerckens used Sacred Heart’s financial and strategic plans as a guide for the team’s plan to save St. Mary – St. Michael School.

“The SHU plans enabled me to focus on what was important,” explained Gerckens. “We made an enrollment section, a development section, a public relations section, a Catholic identity section and, finally, a financial section. I then created a professional presentation, shared it with the superintendent, and the Archbishop approved it.”

Once the plan was approved, Gerckens and his team sprang to action – tapping into the school’s alumni base and hosting various fundraising events, such as a 5k-road race and golf tournaments—many of which received media coverage. Three and a half years later, the school has gone from 65 to 144 students enrolled, and the school’s facilities have been improved with iPads for student use, a new playground, white board technology and the introduction of pre-k classes. The school has received many grants.

“I am truly humbled and honored to have received this award,” said Gerckens. “I had a great team of people supporting me and our mission of keeping the school open. It just goes to show that great things can be accomplished when you have a group of people working together toward a common goal.”