Jerry Klein, Murphys receive Peoria Notre Dame awards

Jerry Klein was given a standing ovation by the student body of Peoria Notre Dame High School when he accepted the school’s 2010 Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award Sept. 24. But the longtime writer with the Peoria Journal Star who is now a columnist with The Catholic Post told the students that Catholic education invites all to seek a higher prize: “the applause of heaven.”

Klein, a 1945 graduate of Spalding Institute, said his Catholic education not only taught him math, history, English and Latin, but “I also learned who I was, why I was here and where I was going.”

“The secular world has lost sight of these truths,” he told the assembled students following an all-school Mass opening homecoming weekend. “What it covets rather is fame, wealth, power and something called self-fulfillment.” Klein said he is grateful that Catholic schools continue to emphasize the lasting virtues of love, sacrifice, and doing for others.

Klein, who was a member of the school’s undefeated football team in 1944, missed his last semester of high school — and graduation ceremonies — because of service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. “But I had already received the benefits of a good Catholic education,” he said, noting he received his Spalding diploma upon his return.

Klein is the school’s 17th recipient of the Alumnus of the Year Award named for Archbishop Sheen, who was Spalding valedictorian in 1913. It is presented to those alumni “who stand out because of their exceptional service and dedication to the principles and values of Peoria Notre Dame,” according to Dr. Susie Cicciarelli, executive assistant to the president.

In introductory remarks, Dr. Cicciarelli noted Klein’s support of the pro-life cause and his reception of the Diocese of Peoria’s Pere Marquette Award in 2003 for outstanding service to the church. Residents of Germantown Hills and members of St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish, Klein and his wife, Mary, are the parents of seven children.

Also at the ceremonies, Dr. John and Connie Murphy received Peoria Notre Dame’s Foundation Award.

The Murphys “have never wavered in their support for Catholic education,” said Msgr. William Watson, president of Peoria Notre Dame.

The parents of six, the Murphys have been “a constant part of the family here” for decades, said Msgr. Watson. Lauding their “great generosity of heart, mind, and soul,” Msgr. Watson noted the Murphys have said “yes” to everything from selling raffle tickets to chaperoning bus trips.

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