Mission Dolores Academy | The education of tomorrow rooted in tradition.

Honoring Father Charlie at the Top Chefs Benefit Luncheon

April 26, 2018

On April 19th the Mission Dolores Academy community gathered for a very special occasion at the Four Seasons. This year’s annual Top Chefs Benefit Luncheon honored Father Charles Gagan, S.J. on the 50th Jubilee of his ordination into the priesthood.

Father Charles Gagan

Over 450 of MDA’s donors gathered to celebrate Father Charlie and to find out more about the great work being done at the school to help our students reach their full potential. Attended by over 450 of the City’s top business, civic, and philanthropic leaders including Mayor Willie Brown, members of the Board of Supervisors – President London Breed, and Aaron Peskin, and Mark Leno, former member of the California State Senate. 

Eighth Grade student Nicolas with guests

The event began with a reception with some of our young scholars. Our 6th, 7th and 8th Grades greeted our guests and presented their school projects, our String Program students provided the music, and new this year our Tiger TV crew were on hand to interview guests. 

Tiger TV Reporters Khaleesa and Primavera

The luncheon’s emcee was once again our good friend Kate Kelly. A Bay Area native, Kate enjoyed a nearly three-decade career as an Emmy Award-winning reporter and anchor at KPIX.  Kate has graciously volunteered as emcee for all 16 of the school’s previous luncheons! 

Head of School, Paul Recktenwald

The luncheon opened with an introduction from Mr. Paul Recktenwald the Head of School on all the great programs and initiatives that have been running at MDA over the past year thanks to the help of the generous donors in the room. Spearheaded by our Principal Ms. Meredith Essalat we’ve had a phenomenal year at MDA with highlights such as excellent high school admissions, the launch of our new Latin program, expansion of the literacy program to include a Math specialist, new Fresh Growth Garden Program, SSAT/HSPT tutoring for 7th and 8th Grade students and our first field trip to Yosemite for our 8th Grade graduating class.

Class of 2014 alum, Starneisia Hooper

Mr. Recktenwald was followed on-stage by Starneisia Hooper, Class of 2014 who spoke about her experience at Mission Dolores and how it prepared her for high school at Convent of the Sacred Heart. Starr is excited to be starting at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island in the fall.

Kindergarten performing "It's a Wonderful World"

The highlight of the luncheon every year are the little stars of the show – our Kindergarten class! This year our Kindergarteners preformed Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World” with sign language which they practiced so hard to learn.

Board Member Bob Lalanne with MDA students ordaining "Father Charlie Chaplain"

A special moment this year occurred when member of the Board of Directors, Bob Lalanne and some of our MDA students presented Fr. Charlie with a surprise gift of a bowler hat and a cane and ordained him “Father Charlie Chaplain”. Fr. Charlie kept the bowler hat on for the remainder of the luncheon.

To complete the on-stage program, Fr.Charlie took to the stage to thank his friends, both old and new for their ongoing support of the school.

Live Auction

The event concluded with our annual live auction and fund-a-need. The great prizes on offer this year included a Porsche Experience, a Caribbean Cruise, a VIP weekend in Healdsburg, a private dinner at Mourad and the top prize, a private dinner with the Jubilarian himself which sold twice!

Our celebrity chefs with Fr. Charles Gagan and MDA Board members Sara Duryea and Michele Meany

As always the food was prepared by our incredible team of celebrity chefs including Charles Phan (Slanted Door), Mourad Lahlou (Mourad), Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen), Craig Stoll (Delfina), Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade) and Cyrille Pannier (Four Seasons).

The event was a huge success for MDA and will ensure that essential programs such as tuition assistance, school counseling, after-school care, free breakfast, field trips and so much more can continue and thrive. 


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