NCEA President's Awards

The President’s Awards are presented in the names of past NCEA presidents to individuals and organizations who model the characteristics that advance the mission of Catholic school education and display the significant virtues of faith, support, leadership and development that impact Catholic school education in the United States.

The Lifetime Commitment to Catholic Education Awards are new in 2023 to recognize individuals who over a career have advanced the mission of Catholic education.

Be a witness to the celebration of these remarkable people and organizations by nominating a worthy recipient who has inspired those around them to achieve more and strived to be the living Jesus in word and deed in Catholic school education. December 8, 2023, is the deadline for nominations. The five recipients will be honored in April at NCEA 2024 in Pittsburgh, PA.


School administrators (principals, presidents, and heads of school), pastors, teachers, diocesan leaders, organizations and supporters of Catholic education may be nominated for these awards. Self-nomination is not permitted and nominators can only nominate one person for one award. Students and parents may nominate an individual. Nominator may not be related or in a relationship with the nominee.

For more information, contact Karen Barreras.

C. Albert Koob Merit Award

This award is given to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to Catholic education at any level – early childhood, elementary, secondary, higher education – or in any educational setting, in one or more of these areas: teaching, administration, parish religious education, research, publication or educational leadership.  The awardee’s service and contribution should be recognized as having current significance at the national level.

Msgr. John F. Meyers Award

This award is presented to an individual who has provided substantial support for Catholic education through contributions in the areas of development, public relations, scholarship programs, financial management, or government relations.

Catherine T. McNamee, CSJ Award

This award is presented to an individual or institution that offers exceptional leadership in promoting a vision of Catholic education that welcomes and serves cultural and economic diversity or serves students with diverse needs.

Leonard F. DeFiore Parental Choice Advocate Award

This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting full and fair parental choice in education.

Dr. Karen M. Ristau Innovations Award

This award is presented annually to an individual, school or program that has furthered the mission of Catholic education through an innovative program or approach.

Meet the 2023 President's Award Winners

C. Albert Koob Merit Award
Elizabeth Stewart Goettl was named president of Cristo Rey Network in 2017.  She is a career educator with extensive academic and administrative leadership experience. From 2014 - 2017, she served as chief academic officer of the LEARN Charter School Network in Chicago. She previously held two critical leadership positions within the Cristo Rey Network. She was the Network's founding chief academic officer, from 2009 -2014. In that position, Ms. Goettl elevated the academic rigor across the Network through the design and implementation of the organization's proprietary college-ready curriculum.

Working in close collaboration with Cristo Rey school principals, she established the framework for and delivered targeted school support in the areas of curriculum and assessment, teacher effectiveness and principal leadership to ensure every Cristo Rey student graduates from high school prepared for success in college. Prior to that, she served as president of San Miguel High School (Cristo Rey school in Tucson) from 2006 - 2009. During her 25 years in the Catalina Foothills School District, Ms. Goettl led two schools to become USDE Blue Ribbon Schools and was named National Distinguished Principal for Arizona.

Ms. Goettl earned her Bachelor of Education from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Education from the University of Arizona. She is a licensed school principal and superintendent.

Msgr. John F. Meyers Award
Aad de Lange is the CFO for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Originally from The Netherlands, he worked as controller for a Dutch glass recycling company after leaving Price Waterhouse Coopers.  He then began a career with ABB (Asea Brown Boveri), first in The Netherlands and then Switzerland, New Jersey, Ireland and Mississippi. He then became he became CFO of the Diocese of Jackson, MS. In his position he most notably promoted growth for Catholic schools in the areas of development, scholarships and tuition assistance for students and for various capital improvements.

His support of Catholic education requires attention to teamwork, innovation and connection with his coworkers and the community.   Mr. de Lange describes himself as mission-driven and is a member of several groups and is a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus. He is a permanent United States citizen.

Mr. de Lange holds a Dutch CPA degree and a marketing degree and is a firm believer in lifetime learning.

Catherine T. McNamee, CSJ Award
Erika Gallardo is the Hispanic engagement and outreach manager for the Archdiocese of Chicago, where she has worked for more than 20 years most recently in the Office of Catholic Schools as part of the School Specialist Team. Before working in the school's office, Gallardo was a human resources manager overseeing 101 parishes and 53 schools. As Hispanic engagement and outreach manager, she has created a monthly newsletter, "Somos Comunidad," to promote cultural awareness and best practices in schools.

Ms. Gallardo works closely with the University of Notre Dame ACE and ENL programs to bring the Chicago English Language Learners Outreach Program (CELLO) to the diocese. Also, in collaboration with ENL, she has brought the Early Childhood Language Intensive Program (ECLIP) to 14 schools in Spanish and supported Polish and Chinese-Mandarin, respectively, in a preschool for the 2021- 2023 school years. Another area of support that Erika provides is ELL best practices through securing continuing education for diocesan educators by promoting over 24 well-attended professional development sessions since her role began in OCS. She was a co-presenter at the 2022 Adelante Conference and has presented for other dioceses with Partners in Mission on Hispanic Engagement.

Erika Gallardo is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago and an English as New Language Hernandez Fellow.

Leonard F. DeFiore Parental Choice Advocate Award
John Schoenig is the senior director of teacher formation and education policy for the University of Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). In this role, he leads the ACE Teaching Fellows Program - the largest provider of Catholic school teaching talent in the United States - and its Program for Educational Access (PEA), an advocacy and leadership formation enterprise that helps develop and implement policy that expands financial access to faith-based schools. In addition, he serves as a faculty member and Fellow of Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI).

From 1998 to 2000, he served as a middle school English teacher at Holy Rosary School in Shreveport, LA, through ACE Teaching Fellows. He later served on the pastoral and administrative team for ACE and as the director of development for the Alliance for School Choice. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame and his Juris Doctor from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Dr. Karen M. Ristau Innovations Award
Assumption thrives as the college preparatory school of choice for young women by providing a wide range of educational and co-curricular programs that are complemented by spiritual and physical development opportunities. This unique experience educates the whole person in a caring, Christian environment that is permeated with the charism of Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. Assumption graduates are socially responsible women, committed to gospel living, lifelong learning, and a life of leadership and service in society. Assumption cultivates the investment and involvement of the community so that the legacy of this Catholic Mercy-sponsored school lives on for generations.

As a Catholic school in the Mercy tradition, Assumption assists students in developing as Christian leaders centered in faith, service and social responsibility.


Meet the 2023 Lifetime Commitment to Catholic Education Award Winners

Gwendolyn P. Byrd
Gwendolyn P. Byrd began her professional career as an elementary teacher in St. Louis. She later taught at Cathedral School in Natchez, MS, and served as principal there for four years. St. Francis de Sales Catholic School in Lake Zurich, IL, also benefitted from her leadership as principal before bringing her skills and experience back to her hometown of Mobile.

Joining the staff of the Office of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Miss Byrd began as curriculum coordinator.  Six years later, she was named superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese. Since that time, she has successfully led the schools in the archdiocese through a time of great change.  In 2009, she was named executive director of Catholic education in addition to her role as superintendent.  The Offices of Religious Education, Family Life, and Youth Ministry are under her supervision, along with the Office of Catholic Schools.

After graduation from Convent of Mercy High School, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts at Marillac College in St. Louis and a Master of Education in school administration from DePaul University in Chicago.

Michael J. Deegan
Michael J. Deegan has served the Church in the ministry of Catholic education for over forty years. He has taught at every level from elementary school through college and was a Catholic school principal for twenty years. He began his teaching career at Iona Grammar School in New Rochelle in 1975 and also taught at Power Memorial Academy and Sacred Heart School in Manhattan. Mr. Deegan transitioned into leadership roles serving as principal of both St. Francis Xavier School and St. Jude School in Manhattan and headmaster of Iona Grammar School. In 2004, Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, appointed Mr. Deegan director of inner-city schools to work with the 122 elementary and secondary inner-city schools of the Archdiocese with specific responsibilities in the areas of finance, institutional advancement, curriculum development and strategic planning.
In 2013, Mr. Deegan was appointed deputy superintendent of schools. He also served as the interim superintendent April – September 2019. On September 17, 2019, Mr. Deegan was appointed the superintendent of schools by Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

Mr. Deegan has shared his years of educational expertise and knowledge by lecturing at institutions across the country including Einstein Medical College, the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Convention, Fordham University and Harvard University. 
A graduate of St. Philip Neri School, Bronx and Rice High School in Harlem; Mr. Deegan holds a bachelor’s degree in English and theology from Iona University, a Master of Science in education from the College of New Rochelle, and has completed his postgraduate studies in educational administration at Manhattan College and Fordham University. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Compassionate Educator Award, the John J. Bruno Catholic Service Award, the Saint Dominic Legacy Award and is the Brother Edmund Rice-Christian Brothers of North America Centenary Partner Honoree. In May 2020, Mr. Deegan received Iona University's Brother Arthur A. Loftus Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Despite his numerous awards and accomplishments, Mr. Deegan simply refers to himself as a Catholic school teacher which according to him is the most important ministry in the Church.


Past President's Award Winners

View Past President's Award Winners

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