At the St. Joseph's Day celebration and prayer service on March 21, the Alumnae Association recognized three outstanding alumnae. They serve as an inspiration for our community and beyond by being strong female leaders with a spirit of empathy and excellence in their professional field and in their service to others.
From left: Mary Fichtenkort McFarland '77; Julie Reid Duncan '87; Michelle Missaggia Daly '88, Alumnae Association President; Mary Beth Kulaweic Dittrich '79.
2018 Alumna of the Year: Julie Reid Duncan '87
Julie Reid Duncan '87 has a distinguished career in education, leading by example and inspiring others to give back to their community. Julie has held a number of teaching and leadership positions. Her nominator stated, "Julie inspires others and exemplifies excellence by her actions, faith, and spirit."
Julie is the Superintendent of the Tri-Valley Regional Occupational Program, which serves thousands of students in the Pleasanton, Dublin, and Livermore school districts. She is an advocate for underserved populations and an innovator in developing programs that empower girls to dream big. She has developed several public-private partnership programs, including Middle College High School with Las Positas College, GETSET (Girls Exploring Technology, Science, and Engineering Together), and much more.
"Even though my career has been primarily in public education it has been my goal to create that sense of community and belonging that Carondelet gave to me that can sometimes be lost on a high school campus of over 2,500 students," Julie said in her acceptance speech.
Julie has been a mentor to girls and young women outside of work as well. She has given her time as team manager for the Mustang Soccer Elite Club National League team, serves on the Board of Governors for the North Coast Section, and has volunteered more than 200 hours to local charities for the National Charity League Vista Oak chapter.
"For over 50 years, this school has inspired young women to speak up for themselves, instilling confidence that they can achieve whatever they set their goals to," Julie told students. "Trust me, that every school rally, liturgy, or retreat you spend with your sisters, women uplifting women will transcend to your adult life and at times you will miss those moments when it was just 'us girls'!"
Julie has stayed connected to Carondelet with her involvement in her class reunion activities and supporting her legacy daughter, Maddie Duncan '16, while in school and beyond. She was also on the search committee that resulted in the hiring of Principal Kevin Cushing.
2019 Alumna of the Year: Mary Fichtenkort McFarland '77
Mary Fichtenkort McFarland '77 is a dedicated teacher whose compassion transcends her personal and professional life. Mary is a elementary school intervention teacher within the Mt. Diablo Unified School District where she works with students who are at risk of falling behind. She patiently devotes her time to these students in order to make sure they are cared for, listened to, and understood. Her nominator states, "She's been a teacher for the past 25 years, and her heart is with her students and her school community."
In her acceptance speech, Mary said, "there are opportunities all around us, in our daily lives, to serve and to be the light. I think it starts with just showing up, with taking the time to be there for your family, your friends, or the stranger in need."
Mary says she's always tried to find the ways to serve and show that all are welcome. When her parish adopted a refugee family from Afghanistan, she spent countless hours helping them acclimate to their new life in America. Over the course of two years, Mary spent a significant amount of her personal time helping the father obtain his driver's license and find a job, while teaching the mother and children English.
"Instead of thinking about all the great things you need to do, start with the one small, simple thing, that Jesus told us to do: love. Love God and love your neighbor. Start with this as your foundation, and all else will fall into place, and you will be well on your way to fulfilling our Carondelet mission: to be women of heart, faith, and courage."
Mary has been actively involved with Carondelet in the decades since graduation, being involved in her daughter Laura's experience in high school, holding a position on the Alumnae Board, and participating in school events.
2019 Inspirational Mentor: Mary Beth Kulaweic Dittrich '79
The Alumnae Association is proud to announce its inaugural "Inspirational Mentor Award" which recognizes a woman or man who made a significant impact on Carondelet students' lives beyond the classroom. Alumnae were asked to nominate the Carondelet educators who touched their lives by inspiring them to reach beyond what they ever thought possible; helping mold them into the women they are today. Our first Inspirational Mentor honoree is Mary Beth Kulaweic Dittrich '79.
Mary Beth has dedicated more than 40 years to teaching here at Carondelet. Every day, she brings enthusiasm, energy and optimism to her students through her innovative teaching style - because she believes in the unique potential and promise of a Carondelet education and because she is witness to the life-changing value of the Carondelet experience borne out in her students.
Her nominators praised her ability to "make each individual feel welcomed and capable of anything."
Another nominator said: "She teaches because she strives to walk in Christ's footsteps, she gives to the community because she acts in kindness of the dear neighbor and she lives life to the fullest because she aims to embrace the joy of life that the Divine has laid before her... Thanks to (her), I gained the desire to love God in a way I have never experienced before. I am forever grateful to have stumbled upon such an incredible, humble teacher that I am lucky enough to call a mentor."
In front of the entire student body, Mary Beth said, "We all can love in small, simple, and beautiful ways... I challenge you to look every day for small things that you can do out of great love – small things that the world may see as unreasonable, but things that show your love of God and your love of the dear neighbor."