SHEEPSHEAD BAY — When you think about those who contribute funds for college scholarships and grants, alumni, charitable organizations, and even celebrities often come to mind.
Children from St. Mark Catholic Academy, however, went against the grain by coming together to support an endowed scholarship that will benefit a future St. Joseph’s College student.
They collected nearly $900 through a dress-down fundraiser, held on the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19), that will go towards the Joseph M. Lewinger ’00 Endowed Scholarship for Future Educators at St. Joseph College’s Brooklyn campus. To date, $26,500 has been raised for the scholarship.
Lewinger’s family established the endowed scholarship after Joseph — the former assistant principal of The Mary Louis Academy — passed away due to COVID-19 complications at the height of the pandemic, at the age of 42. He was passionate about educating and empowering future generations, and the scholarship will help to continue Lewinger’s legacy of supporting dreams of higher education for aspiring teachers.
Upon hearing the news of Lewinger’s passing, Mark Wilson, principal of St. Mark Catholic Academy and 2008 alumnus of St. Joseph’s College, felt the urge to help. Though he never knew Lewinger directly, Wilson had worked alongside Lewinger’s mother, Rosemarie, in St. Joseph’s College’s office of institutional advancement from 2009 to 2013.
“Always kind and supportive, Roe encouraged me to pursue a career in education,” Wilson explained in a letter to his alma mater. “When I heard of Joseph’s passing, I knew I had to do something to support Roe, her son, and their family — and I knew my Saint Mark family would rise to the occasion to champion this cause.”
So, Wilson decided to designate March 19 as a schoolwide dress-down day, in which 100% of the proceeds would financially support the college’s scholarship and honor Lewinger’s memory.
“We usually have our dress-downs on Fridays for various causes and, when I saw that St. Joseph’s Day fell on a Friday, I felt that the connection was overwhelming,” Wilson said. “It was like the stars aligned perfectly.”
“The fact that Joseph is the name of the college, that it was his first name, and that St. Joseph’s Day happened to fall on a Friday could not have been any better,” he continued.
St. Mark faculty, and staff members — including seven St. Joseph alumni and current students of the college — participated in the dress-down fundraiser as well, which raised a total of $877.
Rosemarie Lewinger was shocked and overwhelmed when she heard about St. Mark’s donation.
“It makes me very happy to know that Joseph has touched so many people and made a difference,” Rosemarie said. “It warms my heart, it really does.”
The endowed scholarship’s first recipient will be named in the fall of 2022.