Gala & Gesu Spirit Medal

May 11, 2017
600 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
The Gesu Gala is an annual fundraiser that supports Gesu School in its mission to empower North Philadelphia’s children to break the cycle of poverty and violence through a quality education. The Gesu Gala supports forward-thinking academic and extracurricular programming that molds students’ skills and stretches their abilities. 
Please join us for a celebratory evening of cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, dinner, live and silent auctions, and presentation of Gesu's highest honor, the Spirit Medal, to James F. Higgins '45 and H. Chase Lenfest. The evening also includes inspiring stories, art, and performances from Gesu School students.  

For event information and sponsorship opportunties, visit


The Gesu Spirit Medal

The Gesu Spirit Medal honors individuals who have shown extraordinary commitment to Gesu School through their loyal advocacy and actions, and who have made a significant contribution to Gesu School’s success as a model inner-city elementary school.


James F. HIggins '45  

 Jim Higgins has been associated with Gesu School for more than 70 years. After transferring to Gesu in 1940, Jim thrived in a new educational environment that individualized learning and instruction. This was the start of a lifelong love for and dedication to the school. Jim fondly recalls the priests at the parish and the sisters at the school, who invested in him and taught him the value of hard work and generosity. After graduating from Gesu in 1945, Jim went on to attend Saint Joseph’s Prep and Saint Joseph’s University, where he earned a degree in accounting.

Following school, Jim served as a Marine, and later began working for Hillside Capital. Jim reconnected with the Church of the Gesu and Gesu School when he was asked to plan a parish reunion, which attracted more than 1,500 individuals. When he learned that Fr. Bur needed support to turn Gesu into an independent school, Jim reached out to assist. In 1993, he joined the new school’s board as its first treasurer. Today, Jim teaches at Holy Family University and continues to serve on Gesu’s board and committees, offering his unwavering support. Jim is one of Gesu’s biggest champions and is always spreading the word about the impact of the school on its students and the community.





H. Chase Lenfest 

 H. Chase Lenfest, a well-respected entrepreneur and philanthropist, has been supporting multiple programs at Gesu School for nearly two decades. The profound impact Chase has on Gesu’s children includes not only financial support through four annual Sponsor a Child scholarships and participation in Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, but also his active engagement in the lives and education of our students. “Dedication” aptly describes Chase’s relationship with Gesu. Despite his busy schedule at the helm of several companies, there is rarely a scholarship breakfast or luncheon where he cannot be found immersed in lively conversation or an intense game of Connect Four with students!

Gesu School fits within the mission of Chase’s varied and impactful philanthropic endeavors. He is the Founder and President of The H. Chase Lenfest Foundation, Inc., which provides financial support for programs that positively impact children’s lives in Philadelphia’s impoverished areas. In 2006, Chase also built The Lenfest Center, a 50,000 square foot facility in North Philadelphia, which offers a safe and enriching venue for youth and families. Chase’s commitment to making a better life for children in the inner city and his loyal dedication to Gesu School exemplify the true meaning of the Spirit Medal.



Thank you to our Gala Co-Chairs, Andrew & Michele Clayton, John & Jennifer Curry, Greg Rigdon & Molly Murphy, and Ted & Eileen Raven, as well as the 2017 Gala Committee for their tireless efforts on behalf of our children. 

Event Contact: Sarah Stirzel Cuzzolina, Director of Annual Giving, or 215-763-9077


Past Gesu Spirit Medal Recipients

2016    Peter G. Gould
2016    Rev. Stephen D. Thorne 
2015    Tad Decker 
2015    Keith Pension
2014    Ms. Elizabeth R. Moran
2014    Rev. Neil Ver'Schneider, S.J.
2013    Rev. William J. Byron, S.J.
2013    Vivienne Lambert Ehret
2012    Robert M. McAlaine
2011    Christine S. Beck
2011    George W. Bur, S.J.
2010    John J. DiIulio, Jr., Ph.D.
2009    Aline & Al Martinelli
2009    Susan & Bill Shea
2008    Ralph Saul
2008    John J.F. “Jay” Sherrerd, posthumously
2006    Mark Solomon