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Saint Xavier embarks on Catholic school initiative

Driehaus donation funds program

Chicago (Dec. 7, 2006) – Saint Xavier University is partnering with St. Margaret of Scotland School to address the needs and concerns of inner-city Catholic elementary schools.

The collaboration is possible thanks to a $1 million donation from Chicago philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus, who asked that the money be used to further the University’s support of Catholic elementary education in southwest Chicago, where he grew up.

The donation prompted the formation of the Advisory Council for Catholic Elementary Schools, a group composed of representatives from both schools that began meeting last spring. The council is working to address concerns such as increasing parental involvement, decreasing teacher turnover and implementing best practice programs in reading, technology and classroom management – issues that affect many inner-city private and Catholic elementary schools. St. Margaret of Scotland School is located in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

“It’s very much a partnership where the expertise of faculty and staff of both schools will lead to exciting initiatives for St. Margaret’s and other schools,” said Mary Kean Coffey, advisory council chair and assistant to the dean of the School of Education at Saint Xavier.

Saint Xavier Provost Dominick Hart said, “While right now our efforts are focused on the St. Margaret of Scotland community, this will benefit other private and Catholic elementary schools in the city as well.”

St. Margaret of Scotland Principal Earl McKay said great things are possible from such a collaboration. “A university such as Saint Xavier brings a wealth of resources that would not normally be available to inner-city Catholic schools. This partnership demonstrates the mission of Catholic institutions – we are a community helping each other to make a definite impact on the world through faith and religion.”

The benefits of the partnership are already evident. “Many of our students took classes at Saint Xavier over the summer, and these students have shown considerable improvements both academically and socially,” McKay said.

Among the services available at Saint Xavier are the Merwick Academy, which provides educational tutoring services; STAR Learning Academy, which offers diagnostic services and teaching programs; and the Ludden Speech Language Clinic, which offers speech therapy.

St. Margaret teachers have asked for better ways to test students to determine where they stand academically and see if they have special needs that must be accommodated, McKay said. 

To address this concern, Saint Xavier’s School of Education is helping the school administer the Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy test to its students. Leslie Applegate, coordinator of field experiences at Saint Xavier, and Maureen Spelman, SOE faculty member, gave a workshop for St. Margaret faculty earlier this year on the topic, and Saint Xavier education students will help administer the test and assist St. Margaret faculty with the reading program.

“It’s an assessment tool that they didn’t have before. The test helps teachers measure where students are at and target areas for additional support,” Coffey said.

Saint Xavier also is helping St. Margaret teachers get acclimated to new technology as part of the school’s aggressive plan to infuse technology into its math and science curriculum. “Without this partnership, we would not have been able to address either of these issues,” McKay said.

Driehaus requested that proceeds from his donation be used to further the University’s support of Catholic primary education in the area, including St. Margaret of Scotland parish, where he grew up and attended school.

“I am hoping that Saint Xavier will be able to make available its expertise and mentoring in school finances, academic programs, fundraising and marketing to allow these schools to continue to become more effective in the important work they do,” Driehaus wrote when making the donation.

Saint Xavier University President Judith A. Dwyer, Ph.D., said Driehaus’ donation helps Saint Xavier serve the community.

“We are exceedingly grateful to Mr. Driehaus for his continuing extraordinary generosity to Saint Xavier University and the community. We welcome this opportunity to work with our school partners to address some of the challenging issues that face educators today. Mr.Driehaus’ kindheartedness helps Saint Xavier fulfill its Mercy mission and practice its core values of respect, excellence, compassion and service.”


Saint Xavier University, a Catholic institution inspired by the heritage of the Sisters of Mercy, educates men and women to search for truth, to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to serve wisely and compassionately in support of human dignity and the common good.

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