Nearly 800 people gathered recently at the Hotel Irvine for the Annual Conference on Business & Ethics sponsored by the Orange Catholic Foundation (OCF) to support tuition assistance for local Catholic schools. This year’s event raised more than $570,000, up nearly $100,000 from last year. The Student Program earned a record $165,000.
The conference began with awards honoring business leaders and philanthropists who, by their example, show faith through works.
OCF Board Chair Steve Muzzy opened the conference explaining that Orange County’s Catholic Schools are financially independent from the Diocese. Funds from the conference support scholarships so every student who wants to benefit from Catholic education is able to attend.
This year’s conference was dedicated in honor of the late Thomas E. Larkin, Jr., a leader in the investment community and also a leader in philanthropy, particularly education. Rand Sperry, vice chair of the Orange Catholic Foundation presented a special commendation to the Larkin family, longtime supporters of the Church in Orange County. The Larkin Family Trust recently gifted the foundation $1 million. Accepting the award on behalf of the Larkin Family, was his son Tom Larkin.
Bishop Vann’s Award for Exemplary Business Integrity was presented to Tanya Domier, CEO of Advantage Solutions and Joe Perricone, patriarch of Perricone Farms and Perricone Juices, a family owned business spanning three generations. Both executives exemplify the best of Catholic values by creating a successful company that is grounded in Christ’s message to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” LK 6:31
Henry Walker, president of Farmers and Merchants Bank presented the Farmers and Merchants Bank Lifetime Achievement Award to the Segerstrom Family for their countless contributions to Orange County business, arts and philanthropy. The Segerstroms were honored for their vision, not just for their family business, but for all of Orange County. Anton Segerstrom accepted the award on behalf of his family.
Dr. Erin Barisano, Ed.D, superintendent of Orange Catholic Schools, described how Catholic education creates ethical leaders who are grounded both in academics and faith. Catholic schools serve 18,000 students in grades K-12, or about 3.6% of the total student population in Orange County. But Catholic education has an impact far greater than its size would indicate. A scan through the leadership of Orange County reveals that Catholic school alumni are at the helm of many of our most important businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.
Dr. Barisano introduced Marvella Figueroa, a bright young scholar from St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Santa Ana. Marvella spoke eloquently on the importance of her education and her goals for the future. Following her inspiring words, guests were asked to participate in the “Sponsor our Students” program. The effort resulted in $165,000 raised, a record for the conference.
“God will always carry you through your toughest times,” veteran actor Neal McDonough (“Project Blue Book,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Suits” and many others) told guests. McDonough’s keynote speech centered on his remarkable true-life story about being a faithful Catholic in faithless Hollywood.
The actor was blacklisted for a time for refusing to do kissing or sex scenes that his children might see. He despaired of being able to pursue the profession he loved and remain faithful to his Catholic moral values. He fell into a time of self-pity and alcohol abuse – asking God why he was doing this to him when his intention was to live up to his moral values. For a time, he lost his Mercedes and most of the trappings of a successful actor moving up in Hollywood.
The married father of five recalls he was at a point where he realized he couldn’t lead his family by example with alcohol in his life. With the support of his wife, he was able to recover. The hardest part was finding a way to pursue his acting career, while refusing roles that were in conflict with his beliefs. He decided to carry his cross, and have faith.
Today, he is sober and has leading roles on four television shows on four different networks. “Keep the faith, staying on the path, as hard as it is, and you will receive God’s favor,” believes McDonough. He also encouraged the audience, “Don’t be afraid to say you’re great at a God-given talent. We are all here because God allows us to be here.”