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Decades of achievers honored at VMA

The Villa Maria Academy family celebrated the lives of a diverse group of alumni whose stories of achievement were lauded at a dinner and silent auction.  

On Saturday, April 26, VMA presented the Decades of Achievers event, where principal Sr. Teresa Barton presented eight honorees with plaques of recognition at the school’s Visitation Center.

“In the proud history of Villa Maria Academy, we have been blessed with countless wonderful students,” Barton said.  “These alumnae have brought honor and pride to their school and their families.”

The honorees included:

Maryanne Burns, who graduated from VMA high school in 1954.  She retired in 2000, after serving as manager of office services at the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball for 28 years.  A VMA trustee, she divides her time between New York and Florida. 

“I am most thankful for the education and training I received and the wonderful friends I made during my Villa years,” Burns said.

Sr. Maria Cassano, CND, was honored for decades of service to Catholic education.  While the 1961 graduate didn’t teach at the school, her mother was a beloved librarian and she served the Bronx Catholic schools as assistant principal at St. Catherine’s Academy.

Villa Maria second grade teacher Bernadette Kilgen introduced her friend, classmate and the third honoree of the evening, Joannie Verini Borgatti, ‘78.  Once a second grade teacher like her friend, Borgatti is now the computer teacher at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and works at Borgatti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles, her husband’s family business. 

“This is an amazing night,” Borgatti said.  “This place always brings out the best in people.”

Also introduced by a Villa teacher, 1978 graduate Anthony Cristiano, a Citi Smith Barney financial planning specialist, received warm remarks from his former teacher Debbie Trerotola McManus, a ’67 graduate who taught at the school in the 1970’s. 

Jennifer Bascelice Johnson, class of 1988, was the only alumnus Villa Maria faculty member honored.  A former IBM programmer with an MBA from Pace University, Johnson decided to give up her high paying job in business to take on the computer teacher role at her alma mater.  She is expecting her second child this summer, while her son Ryan will attend Pre-K at the Villa this fall. 

Legendary former VMA English teacher Sr. Anne Walsh introduced Andre McFarlane, class of 1987. She recalled a stirring moment from his performance as Jud Fry in the Broadway show Oklahoma over 20 years ago.  The Regis High School and Yale University alum is director of youth care services at the Evangelical Children’s Home in St. Louis, Missouri.

Introduced by Physical Education teacher Michael Bernard, Tommy Frawley, a St. Raymond’s High School alumnus, graduated from the Villa in 1999 and recently returned from a tour in Iraq.  Frawley was one of the head maintenance workers on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corp Achievement medal and the Surface and Aviation Warfare specialist pins.

Sister of Villa students Billy and Bobby, Kristina Gilbert graduated in 1997, before attending Preston High School and Adelphi University.  A former union stagehand, Gilbert serves in the NYPD as a Bronx police officer.

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