ROCHESTER — Hundreds of Catholic elementary-school students — along with their parents, teachers and principals — gathered for a service in Sacred Heart Cathedral May 11 to express gratitude to Peggy Wegman for the support she and her late husband, Robert B. Wegman, provided to six inner-city schools known as the WIN Schools in honor of the couple.
Along with Bishop Matthew H. Clark, diocesan officials and Catholic school administrators, representatives of the six schools — Cathedral School at Holy Rosary, Corpus Christi at Blessed Sacrament, Holy Family, St. Andrew, St. Boniface and St. Monica — praised the Wegmans for the $42.8 million they have given since 1993 in support of the schools. Mr. Wegman, who died April 20, 2006, was chairman of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
During the service, Peggy Wegman received a standing ovation from the congregation, and noted that her late husband would have been happy to have attended the service.
“He is above there, smiling away at us,” she said to the crowd.
She added that she and her husband were happy to know so many children had benefited from the financial aid the couple had provided.
“Bob would be thrilled, and I am, too, to know that all of you are on your way to a wonderful, God-given life for which we will all be forever grateful.”
Before and after the service, several parents and students noted their thankfulness for the Wegmans’ help. Luke Azatassou, a second-grader at St. Boniface, said he wished he could have attended Mr. Wegman’s funeral, but that he was glad he was able to come to the Sacred Heart service.
“He sent a lot of money to our school, and I want to support him,” Luke said.
Jomara Gracia, who has two children attending Corpus Christi at Blessed Sacrament, noted she is a single mother and would have found it difficult to send her children to a Catholic school without the Wegmans’ financial assistance. She added that her children have learned to value respect and prayer by attending Corpus Christi
“The education is priceless,” she said.
Andrea Fien, whose three children attend Cathedral School at Holy Rosary, said she had written Peggy Wegman to express her gratitude for her financial support.
“I just think it’s wonderful (the Wegmans) can help the parents out to send their children to Catholic schools,” she said.
While the money the Wegmans donated was important, the example they set through their own lives was even more crucial, noted Ray Diehl, vice chairman of the Monroe County Catholic Schools Board.
“The central message of Christianity is to care for one another, and in that sense, Bob and Peggy Wegman are giants,” he said.
Sister Elizabeth Meegan, OP, superintendent of diocesan schools, said that more than 90 percent of the WIN school students received financial aid made possible by the Wegmans’ support. Patricia Jones, the diocese’s assistant superintendent for the WIN schools, added that most of the students’ parents could not have sent their children to the schools without the Wegmans’ assistance.
“The schools would cease to exist, at least a few of them, if the Wegmans’ money didn’t exist,” she said.