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Pass It On
Written by: Ben Seal Total reading time: 8 minutes

Saint Joseph’s has a way of leaving its mark on those who come through campus. Conversations with alumni reveal that an education at the University goes well beyond the classroom, offering students an opportunity to orient their lives around the service of others. It’s a mindset — a way of being — that lingers long after graduation.

With that approach in mind, many alumni make it a point to contribute to the University that has meant so much to them. And with SOAR — a $300-million comprehensive campaign that seeks to improve the St. Joe’s campus, affirm the University’s commitment to financial aid and reinforce academic excellence — those contributions have a deep purpose.

From athletics to scholarships, capital giving to academics, alumni are following the Jesuit tradition by helping current and future Hawks pursue their dreams. These four individuals offer a glimpse of what it means to support the University that supported them.

A portrait of SJU alumni and donor Steve Ave

A Run to Remember

Steve Avé ’89

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Steve Avé’s feet have carried him all over the world.

Over the course of a collegiate career in track and field and a seven-year stint as a professional runner, he was able to travel the globe, represent the United States in international competition, and experience countries and cultures he might never have encountered if not for the scholarship that brought him to Saint Joseph's. Now, Avé ’89 wants to pay it forward.

“It was always my intent to give back to the program that supported me through my athletic endeavors,” Avé says. “I never forget that if it were not for coming to St. Joe’s and having that scholarship and the experience as a student and student-athlete that I had, in all likelihood I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Avé’s first impression of the University was meeting Kevin Quinn ’62, the longtime track coach who recruited him to SJU — and taught him some of the most meaningful lessons in his life. When he became captain of the men’s team in his junior year, Avé began to build the foundation that has carried him through a long and successful career in the sports and fitness industry.

“That’s where I first started to gain leadership qualities,” Avé, who primarily ran the 800- and 1,500-meter races, says. “Coach Quinn would ask me what it means to be a captain and to lead individuals, not through your athletic endeavors but through your personal and relationship skills. I learned to inspire discipline and commitment.”

After graduating with a marketing degree and running professionally with shoe sponsorships for years, Avé turned his attention toward helping other athletes find the best footwear possible. He has held leadership positions at industry-leading brands including Reebok, Under Armour and Brooks Sports. Currently, he is the director of performance footwear at Columbia Sportswear.

With every step, he’s kept in mind the place where it all started. His collegiate career was buoyed by the support of alumni donations to the Saint Joseph's track and field program, so he now gives back to the University to support today’s student-athletes and the development of the Maguire Athletic Center.

After gaining so much from the contributions of others, Avé says, “It’s important for me to be able to give back.”

A portrait of SJU alumni and donor Jed Calata, MD '06

A Physician with a Mission

Jed Calata, MD '06

Jed Calata, MD ’06 didn’t come to Saint Joseph’s seeking a Jesuit education, but he left with a newfound sense of service that has shaped his life ever since. 

As a biology major with plans to become a doctor, he thought he needed to spend his summers doing research in a lab if he wanted to get into a good medical school. After applying for several research opportunities during his sophomore year, however, he wasn’t accepted, leaving him unsure of his next steps. That’s when Peter Clark, S.J., PhD, professor, director of the Institute of Clinical Bioethics and John McShain Chair in Ethics, encouraged him to volunteer at nearby Keystone Hospice. The decision changed Calata’s life.

“Up to that point in my education, the only way I thought you could help someone who was ill was to try to cure them,” says Calata, who is now a colorectal surgeon at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “What you learn in hospice is that sometimes there are other ways to make people feel at peace and feel well. There’s a difference between trying to cure somebody and trying to help somebody.”

Calata spent the summer helping hospice patients create photo albums, write letters to their families and complete their own diaries — anything that could bring them peace in their last days.

“It changed my mind about what it means to be a doctor,” Calata says.

The experience taught Calata to not just look outward but also inward, and to find the intersection between having a good life and contributing to the world around him. 

“The world’s problems are not numbers on a page; they’re people’s lives,” Calata says. “It’s a lot easier to put value on those things because Saint Joseph's challenges you to engage in the community and not learn in a vacuum.”

The sense of service Calata inherited from SJU led him to become a surgeon, he says. It’s also led him to give back to the University by supporting scholarships for biology students from underrepresented backgrounds who he hopes will also learn to engage in a life of service. He’s also contributed to securing a spectrophotometer that can help St. Joe’s students learn about light transmission in the lab. For Calata, it’s a recognition of gratitude for a college experience that shaped his future.

“If I went to another school,” he says, “I wouldn’t have been challenged to be so person-centered, and I probably would have been a different physician because of it."

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A portrait of SJU alumni and donor Jennifer Stemple '02

The Significance of a Scholarship

Jennifer Stemple '02

In her junior year, Jennifer Stemple ’02 charted the course for her entire career. 

As an accounting and finance major, she took advantage of the University’s strong relationships by securing an internship with accounting firm KPMG. By the time she completed the internship that March, she had an offer for full-time employment upon graduation. More than 20 years later, she’s never left.

Stemple attributes much of her success to the guidance she received from faculty in the accounting department, as well as a liberal arts education that encouraged her to explore subjects that extended far beyond her major, including philosophy and theology

“People who can truly learn to think tend to be successful,” Stemple says. “There’s so much you have to learn on the job — adapting, problem-solving and doing it with compassion, which is a huge portion of what you get from a Jesuit education. That has been impactful to who I am as a leader at work and what I try to bring to the people I work with and my clients.”

Though she’s been at KPMG for her whole career, Stemple has moved across offices in Connecticut, Virginia, Philadelphia and New York City, where she is currently based as an audit partner in the financial services business unit, advising some of the firm’s largest and most complex institutional clients. In that time, she’s been able to give back to the community through the firm’s literacy program, which she says is a hallmark of the type of service integral to a St. Joe’s education. She’s also made it a point to give back to the University itself. 

When she was a student, Stemple received both a presidential scholarship and the Sutula scholarship for accounting majors. She still recalls the palpable sense of relief her parents shared when she got a scholarship letter alongside her acceptance letter. 

“That took a lot of pressure off of my family from the financial burden of education,” Stemple says.

Because she feels the accounting department contributed so significantly to her success, Stemple directs her giving toward the department so others can benefit as she did. And because KPMG matches employee donations, her contribution is able to make twice the impact.

“If my donation can help someone who wants to pursue a degree in accounting but couldn’t for financial constraint reasons, I would be honored,” Stemple says.

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A portrait of SJU alumni and donor John Kane '84

A Meaningful Memory

John Kane '84

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John Kane ’84 always looked up to his older brother Billy. He was responsible and devoted to their family, serving as a father figure for John and three other siblings after their father passed away shortly before John was born. 

When Billy was killed in a car accident at age 37, his death had an enormous impact on John and others who knew him. Billy had a long career in the food industry, and his good nature and sense of humor created a close bond with many of his colleagues — so close that five of them decided to set up a scholarship in his honor.

The William J. Kane Scholarship at the Academy of Food Marketing supports students building careers who might follow in Billy’s footsteps. For John, who went to night school to earn an MBA in finance at St. Joe’s, the scholarship brings a certain harmony to his brother’s story. The Jesuit tradition of serving others aligns with the way his brother lived, John says.

“He was very selfless and concerned about others,” says John, whose wife also went to SJU. “His life was cut short, but we wanted others to know that it had meaning. We think Saint Joseph's fits in nicely with that idea of helping others to be the best versions of themselves so they can in turn contribute to society.”

John and his wife, Janice, fund the scholarship to honor Billy’s memory. Janice was able to have her donations matched by her longtime employer, ExxonMobil. John, who spent the bulk of his career as an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, says he puts his trust in Saint Joseph's mission and is proud to support a scholarship that keeps his brother’s memory alive in a program with such a “sterling reputation.”

“We’re happy to honor his memory and we know this scholarship benefits others,” John says. “That was Billy’s character — always looking out for other people.”