Memorial to Ralph S. Saul, November 25, 2016
Thank you, Jane and Bob, for giving me an opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation for Ralph and his Spirit that surrounds us this evening. As the relationships developed that propelled the Gesu School’s successes, I marveled as they happened at the beautiful straight line of encouragement that started with a member of the Jesuit parish of Old St. Joseph’s, ran then to Patricia and Gordon Cooney, then to our dear Ralph and Bette, then to John DiIulio and then on to the Symposium idea that still features so many regional and national figures, Tim Russert and Bill Bennett as examples.
Patricia and Gordon Cooney introduced Ralph and Bette to Gesu School at the earliest of our fundraising events, one held at St. Joseph’s University. It was 1992, I believe. It was a dinner. Ellen and I were nervous about the choir and about how everything would turn out. We were seated at table with Ralph, Bette, Patricia and Gordon. Patricia in her marvelous way made us all feel comfortable, a sign of the fruitful friendship already among the four guests and the encouragement that would flow out of those four hearts in the direction of Gesu’s children. We enjoyed the evening.
Then Ralph and Bette took so much initiative, visiting the school and encouraging us. They perceived Gesu School as doing something unique. In some troubled areas of Philadelphia this was an accurate perception. From then on propelled by his and Bette’s kindness to the children and support for the teachers and administrators Ralph introduced the school to a far wider audience: John and Rosalie DiIulio and the honorable symposium guests. There were strategy meetings at Ralph’s office with our first chair and great friend Win Churchill and others. Ralph’s assistant, Mary Shields, always generous and kind. There were tours of the school with persons whom Ralph was sure would help us.
Encouraged by Ralph we grew at the school developing our own talents and becoming more ambitious to secure its future. All of the elements of stability came together: the place of the school in the region, the financial resources, the talent devoted to the classroom.
Ralph kept up to date with the marvelous work that Chris Beck and Bryan Carter brought to the office of president since 2003. Right down to recent months. Our current chair Gordon and, of course, Sister Ellen represent a marvelous continuity. Today amazing things at Gesu: for example, the students in the older grades all do their school work on tablets! They had them operating even before the Prep introduced them as a requirement.
There is a beautiful hymn of worship with these words about the just man: We proclaim the words in Ralph’s memory: “In your strength, O Lord God, the just man rejoices and in your victory he greatly exults.” Thank you, Ralph, for drawing us into this spirit of praise for the God that blessed us, thousands of work colleagues, friends, the children at Gesu and, of course, your wonderful family with your gifts.
(See Ralph's obituary in the Inquirer (October, 2016) with details of his extraordinary life.)