Mr. Michael O’Toole
Principal Emeritus, Faculty Member
La Salle College High School – Wyndmoor, PA
Michael O’Toole’s stellar educational career has included forty years of service at La Salle College HS. As teacher, department chair, curriculum director, vice-president, and for the last nine years as principal, his guiding principles have been rooted in Lasallian pedagogy and spirituality. Some of his major accomplishments have included: the establishment of a Lasallian Mission and Ministry office; numerous initiatives in academic and technology areas; and, progressive work with multiple faith-based and social justice–oriented organizations. However, his most important contribution has been as a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion long before the contemporary movements in educational institutions have arisen.
Twenty years ago Michael O’Toole founded the Northwest Scholars Program that evolved later into the Saint Katherine Drexel Program. Identifying middle school-aged students with academic and personal potential, these youth, from challenging socio-economic conditions, were offered opportunities to develop their skills and talents in order to be successful at the high school level and beyond. As one of his former African-American students stated, “He was with us from the beginning as our greatest champion and mentor and assured us that we had the ability to be excellent in all that we did.” Mike built a foundation of trust that over the years enabled young men to attend and succeed at La Salle College HS, thus enriching the educational community with greater diversity and inclusivity. This program is but one dimension of his steadfast and passionate belief in diversity, equity, and inclusion over his long career. Creating an Office of DEI and a DEI Council a number of years ago, has allowed the community to better address and respond to the challenges of today. His own involvement in northwest neighborhoods, speaks volumes to his personal commitment to social justice and equity that also has inspired other DEI enhancements and initiatives at La Salle College. Living out Gospel values, Mike’s legacy is one of learning, inclusion, and justice.
Mr. Travis Wiggins
Community Outreach Liaison
Tides Family Services – West Warwick, RI
Travis Wiggins has served at Tides Family Services for the past twenty-two years, primarily as a Community Outreach Liaison and Caseworker. His work, his vocation, at Tides has been dedicated to promoting social justice and inclusion for the most disadvantaged and marginalized youth of Rhode Island. Much like the Founder’s work at St. Yon, Travis has made it his life’s work to accompany young men and women, who are in the juvenile justice system, from a path of despair and near hopelessness to one full of promise and potential. He has inspired countless youth and has made a profound difference in their lives.
Growing up in the same community he was raised in, Travis Wiggins has chosen to give back and serve today’s youth who, in the words of De La Salle, are far from salvation. As a Tides Family Services Community Outreach Liaison for the past twenty-two years, Travis’ day is filled with meetings with parents, school officials, and the youth themselves, all dedicated to keeping the young men and women from falling deeper into the juvenile justice system and to raise them up out of it. His mentoring, his passionate advocacy for the rights of children and families, and his inspiring messages of hope, have made an incalculable difference in the lives of many young people. His ability to connect with youth through cultural humility and competence, makes him accessible to youth from all backgrounds. And his personal music ministry has touched the hearts of young people who, surrounded by violence, have been inspired to courageously choose a future of non-violence and one filled with possibilities. In the words of Beth Bixby, Chief Executive Officer of Tides Family Services, “Travis Wiggins is the epitome of living the Lasallian Mission.”
Dr. Mary Wilby
Associate Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing and Health Services
La Salle University – Philadelphia, PA
Dr. Mary Wilby’ distinguished clinical and academic career is only outshone by her passionate commitment to the heritage and mission of Lasallian education. She has served the needs of her university community and beyond, meeting people where they are with their health needs. She has volunteered her time and expertise to serve a Lasallian educational community in Haiti. She has supported the Institute’s Lasallian Women of Hope project to address pressing personal health necessities of women. And, recently she has been a leader in addressing the COVID challenges of the La Salle University community. Her compassionate contributions simply have made an immeasurable difference.
Certainly Mary Wilby’s professional career has been one of significant accomplishments. And while academic excellence and professional achievement are important, it is not what has inspired her nomination for this award. Rather it is her zeal, humility, generosity, and compassion, intersecting with her teaching and scholarship, that truly exemplify who she is as a distinguished Lasallian educator. Soon after DENA’s collaboration with the new Lasallian school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti began in 2012, she was among the first to volunteer to serve a community ravaged by earthquake and overwhelming poverty. She continued her service to the school and women’s health center whenever possible, leading a number of service immersion trips of La Salle University student nurses. In the last several years she also has become engaged in the Lasallian Women of Hope project that helps women from extreme poverty access basic health and hygiene necessities. Her nomination this year was particularly inspired by her work at La Salle in response to the COVID pandemic. While her critical contributions were vital to the overall effort, it was rather her approach to meeting every student and employee where they were, with all of their individual concerns, frustrations, and anxieties that distinguished her compassionate and humble service.
To learn more about all of the Distinguished Lasallian Educators from around the Region, and for more photos and news from the Huether Lasallian Conference, visit the Region’s website after 11/21/21
Congratulations to all of the nominees for the Distinguished Lasallian Educators Award throughout DENA!
Mr. Mark Amatucci
Calvert Hall College High School, Towson, MD
Br. Brian Carty
De La Salle Academy, New York, NY
Ms. Jacquelin Croft
San Miguel School, Providence, RI
Mr. Chris Dean
De La Salle Collegiate High School, Warren, MI
Mr. Michael Folts
St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, Buffalo, NY
Ms. Rosanna Grillo
De La Salle Middle School, Providence, RI
Dr. Lynn lnfanti
Christian Brothers Academy, Syracuse, NY
Mr. Matthew Reagan
Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, NJ