In his brief remarks on the occasion of his acceptance of the first Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School (Utica, NY) Distinguished Alumni Award, John Zogby, Class of 1966, spoke about the importance of Catholic education in his life and in the lives of so many throughout the country.  He began his expression of gratitude with the admittance, “I am the product of Catholic Education.”

The founder, president and CEO of Zogby International (http://www.zogby.com), a major U.S. market research and opinion polling firm headquartered in (my hometown) Utica, NY, is a fellow alum of the Roman Catholic private high school — Notre Dame.  Having attended a Catholic elementary school in Utica and Notre Dame, Zogby went on to attend LeMoyne College — a Jesuit Catholic college in Syracuse, NY — where he earned a degree in history.  After college he taught history and political science for many years in another Private Catholic high school in Utica, St. Francis de Sales High School.

He founded Zogby International in 1984 and has since been at the center of U.S. and international politics.  Zogby International has consistently received high praise for its detailed analysis and precision in otherwise difficult elections and other polls.  Perhaps the most famous U.S. examples of Zogby’s success are the 1996 presidential election when his final poll came within a tenth of a point of the actual result and the famous 2000 presidential election when Zogby also correctly polled the cliffhanger result of the 2000 presidential election won narrowly by George W. Bush (when most other pollsters had expected Bush to win easily). John Zogby is regularly consulted for his expert analysis on every major news network in the United States as well as internationally (on the CBC and BBC especially).  Furthermore, he is the recipient of several honorary doctorates from institutions including the State University of New York, Union College and the College of St. Rose.

It was a delight to see Zogby recognized at the 50th anniversary celebration of Notre Dame.  What was even more edifying was his touching (and short, as contrasted with the long-winded keynote) words of gratitude that highlighted the importance of Catholic education at all levels.  Identifying his own success with the excellent education he received at Catholic schools throughout his life, Zogby spoke of the need for such educational institutions to continue long into the future.  He shared that, while in high school at Notre Dame, he was content to view himself as a mediocre student and had little aspiration to achieve anything beyond the average.  It was the combination of his mother’s challenging encouragement and the opportunities afforded by schools such as Notre Dame High School that allowed him to do all the things he has done to date.  In closing, he offered three ‘words’ of advice: first, trust in God; second, if you aim for the mediocre you will achieve it, so aim higher; and third, always listen to your mother!

All in all it was a wonderful evening of celebration and reunion.  All of my immediate family members who have graduated from Notre Dame (my father, mother, two brothers and myself — my youngest brother is still a student there) were in attendance.  Additionally, many past and present faculty members and graduates joined the very large crowd of supporters.  As a final note, I’ve included a photo taken by fellow Notre Dame, St. Bonaventure University and Washington Theological Union Alum (yeah, we’ve been educated in almost all the same institutions), Marc DelMonico.  It is a shot of me and Msgr. Willenburg, another ND alum and local priest of the Diocese of Syracuse.  Marc got a shot of us chatting shortly after arriving to the school for the celebration.

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