by Jill Ragar Esfeld
ROELAND PARK — There were five children in the Lacy family of St. Agnes Parish here.
All five went to St. Agnes Grade School and then on to Bishop Miege High School.
All five succeeded in college, in their careers and in their family lives.
The oldest, Steve Lacy, is now president and CEO of Meredith Corporation, which has publishing and broadcasting offices across the country.
He’s been married to Cathy for 33 years. The couple lives in Des Moines, Iowa, where Meredith Corporation is based.
Together, they’ve raised two accomplished children, Paul and Mary.
“I feel that I and my siblings got a really strong foundation that allowed us all to be successful,” said Lacy. “You’ve got to look back and figure out where that started.
“I think it started with our parochial school education where fundamental values are just in the culture.”
Because Lacy attributes much of his success to his education, that’s where he’s chosen to give back a portion of the reward that success has brought him.
To that end, Steve and Cathy Lacy have made a $500,000 donation in the name of The Lacy Family Fund to Bishop Miege.
“Steve and Cathy are so generous and giving throughout the [Des Moines] community,” said Bishop Miege president Dr. Joe Passantino. “And yet, he’s also given to every single one of our annual appeals. And he’s contributed to all four capital campaigns.
“We’ve been very blessed to be the beneficiaries of his generosity.”
The Lacy Family Fund will be earmarked for Bridge to the Future, a drive aimed at keeping tuition affordable for all Catholic students who want to attend Bishop Miege.
“This is where I got the confidence that would allow me to believe I could do something,” said Lacy. “Enabling other young people to get that chance gives us tremendous gratification.
“We get a lot of reward from that giving.”
Bridge to the Future scholarships bridge the gap between what a family can afford to pay in tuition and the limited financial assistance the school can offer.
“His money was designated for the endowment,” said Passantino. “And our long-term goal is to establish an endowment large enough to sustain the program.”
The Lacys’ generous donation was announced at the Bishop Miege Foundation dinner, an annual event celebrating stewardship and recognizing the high school’s benefactors.
“I’m a tremendous believer in educational choices,” said Lacy. “I think the parochial school system fits a critical position in that it gets students ready to be successful, but gives them a pretty wide range of how to measure success.”
When Lacy returns to his alma mater, he’s impressed with all the improvements and updates throughout the campus, but he’s also happy to see some things haven’t changed.
“They have kept that faith-based respectful culture while the whole world around them has evolved,” he said.
“Today, teens especially are bombarded with all kinds of messages that pull them away from their Christian values and the Gospel message,” he said. “The benefit of having those values reinforced throughout the day and in all their activities is so important.
“They’re not just well-prepared academically, but also prepared to defend their values and beliefs so they can continue on their faith journey.”
Lacy still remembers the tight community that defined his Bishop Miege experience.
“It was a very caring faith community,” he said, “where you were taught at a young age respect for your fellow students — regardless of where they came from or what they were good at.”
Lacy has continued that practice throughout his life.
“That underpinning of treating the other person with respect — even though they might come from another place or might be headed to a different direction — that really came from Miege 100 percent.”
What has changed about his high school said Lacy, like all Catholic schools, is the cost.
When Lacy attended Bishop Miege in the early ’70s, he remembers all Catholic students having access to a Catholic education — and tuition being less than $250 per year.
Passantino remembers that, too.
“Catholic schools were initiated with the idea to serve all Catholic families,” he said. “But with tuition rising so much, Catholic high schools especially are in danger of becoming schools that only those of means can afford.”
That’s why the Bridge to the Future is so important.
Bishop Miege currently has 120 students benefiting from the scholarships. It hopes eventually to build an endowment large enough to serve 200 students a year.
“I think Miege is a special place,” said Lacy. “I think it’s worth some financial investment.
“I hope that, as the result of this program I’m just a small part of, there are some kids that just get a chance — the chance I had.”