In a series of three charity gala events, the Ukrainian Catholic University Foundation raised over $800,000 to support one of Ukraine’s most acclaimed institutions of higher learning. The flurry of fundraising events began with a charity luncheon at the University of San Francisco on October 22nd, followed by the 20th Anniversary banquet hosted by the New York Friends of UCU at the University Club in Manhattan and the 20th Anniversary banquet hosted by the Chicago Friends of UCU at Tully Hall on the campus of St. Ignatius College Prep. Each event featured an array of distinguished speakers, including Catholic Cardinals Timothy Dolan and Blaise Cupich, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, former U.S. Ambassador John Herbst and Canadian Ambassador Larissa Galadza and eminent scholars and community leaders.

From left to right: Yulia Bezvershenko from Economists for Ukraine; Mychailo Simbirsky from NOVA Ukraine, Yana Rathman, San Francisco Friends of UCU volunteer and Alex Kuzma.

From left to right:
Yulia Bezvershenko from Economists for Ukraine; Mychailo Simbirsky from NOVA Ukraine, Yana Rathman, San Francisco Friends of UCU volunteer and Alex Kuzma.

Fundraiser attendees

From left to right: Yulia Bezvershenko from Economists for Ukraine; Mychailo Simbirsky from NOVA Ukraine, Yana Rathman, San Francisco Friends of UCU volunteer and Alex Kuzma.

From left to right: Yulia Bezvershenko from Economists for Ukraine; Mychailo Simbirsky from NOVA Ukraine, Yana Rathman, San Francisco Friends of UCU volunteer and Alex Kuzma.

UCU Vice-President Fr. Bohdan Prach with Lana Yarymovych and Dr. Michael Yarymovych

UCU Vice-President Fr. Bohdan Prach with Lana Yarymovych and Dr. Michael Yarymovych

Yossi Feinberg from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Ignite speaking

Yossi Feinberg from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Ignite

In San Francisco, the Foundation introduced UCU’s new Rector, Dr. Taras Dobko and the Foundation’s new Chief Operating Officer – Annetta Hewko.  Among the guests were USF President Rev. Paul Fitzpatrick, and Professor Yossi Feinberg – a Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.   Professor Feinberg announced a new partnership with UCU entitled “Stanford Ignite Ukraine” that will provide advanced studies for some of Ukraine’s most accomplished and promising business leaders.  This new partnership was forged by Nataliya Anon, a member of UCU Foundation’s Board of Directors and CEO of Svitla Systems, a tech innovator that has been funding scholarships for students who lost one or both parents in the war against Russia. Other attendees included technology developers from Silicon Valley, and international development specialists from the University of California Berkeley and Economists for Ukraine.  This was the fourth major fundraiser initiated at the University of San Francisco by UCUF Board member Anne Chermak Dillen.

UCU Rector Dr. Taras Dobko speaking at the fundraiser

UCU Rector Dr. Taras Dobko

The New York banquet took place at the stately University Club on Sunday, November 5th.  Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was introduced by Archbishop Borys Gudziak who thanked him for his courage in becoming the first Catholic prelate to visit Ukraine and UCU just weeks after the Russians launched their full-scale invasion in February of 2022.  Over 250 guests had an opportunity to hear the new strategic framework for UCU presented by newly elected Rector – Dr. Taras Dobko.   After four months in his new position, Dr. Dobko assured the audience that he is very humbled, knowing that he is following a path blazed by moral giants like Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky and Patriarch Josyf Slipyj.  “Ukraine has been on a pilgrimage to freedom – a pilgrimage to dignity forged by the Revolution of Dignity of 2014.”  In this next phase of UCU’s development, Dr. Dobko outlined the four key goals that will guide the University through 2030:

  • Healing the wounds of war;
  • Rebuilding and renewing Ukraine;
  • Promoting Ukraine in the international arena; and
  • Creating an appealing Christian proposal for the human person of the 21st

Even with these ambitious new goals, UCU’s mission remains fundamentally the same:  Providing a world-class education based on essential moral values.

Later in the program, Bohdan Kurczak, President of the New York Self Reliance Federal Credit Union invited the former Rector – Fr. Bohdan Prach to the podium where he announced a $30,000 donation that will launch an endowed scholarship campaign in honor of the former Rector.  Fr. Prach served the University with great distinction through its most difficult and turbulent period from 2012 to 2023, as he guided the University during the Revolution of Dignity, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the beginnings of war with Russia in Donetsk, followed by the COVID pandemic and the full-fledged invasion in 2022.  Throughout his tenure, said Mr. Kurczak, Fr. Prach led the University with a steady hand and consummate management skills.  While he remains active as the University’s Vice-President, Fr. Prach has assumed a new role as development director for the pioneering veterans’ hospital “Unbroken”, established by Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyj and now led by alumni of UCU’s Health Sciences Program.

Former Canadian Ambassador Larisa Galadza spoke movingly about her experiences as a frequent visitor to Lviv. “This is an institution that is building the human capital” for Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction.  Galadza went on to say that “UCU is the embodiment of the values that Ukraine’s soldiers are willing to die for.”

Ambassador John Herbst provided a deeply insightful assessment of the challenges facing Ukraine as it struggles to preserve its freedom against Russian aggression.  He pointed out the remarkable battlefield successes Ukraine’s Armed Forces have achieved, despite the lack of air support and despite the uneven delivery of crucial armaments from the West.  He expressed confidence that Congress would approve the next military aid package proposed by President Biden, but urged the audience to remain engaged and to insist that their Congressional representatives stand with Ukraine and recognize the profound impact of Ukraine’s defense of Western values and European security.

At the Chicago gala on November 19th, Master of Ceremonies Lev Holubec invited Cardinal Blaise Cupich to deliver the opening prayer.  Having visited the UCU campus this year, the Cardinal told the audience of 200 guests: “This University is the best guarantee of democracy in Ukraine…, because it is supporting young minds that will know the value of freedom.”

In one of the most riveting moments during the dinner, Mr. Holubec asked the audience to draw its attention to a group of special attendees: “We have heroes among us today.  Please offer a round of applause and solemn gratitude to five wounded Ukrainian veterans who are in attendance through the impeccable work of Revive Soldiers Ukraine.”

In his sobering assessment of the current situation in Ukraine, Mr. Holubec reminded the audience that “promoting change for good often encounters resistance….and being a force for good is in UCU’s DNA.

“In the midst of worrisome news from Ukraine…, we are heartened by news of progress and promise.  Students from UCU are learning, winning international competitions, forming more civil society projects, learning how to be good and resourceful neighbors….They’re dreaming big again.”

The program included a highly successful “paddle auction” led by former Foundation President John Kurey, and a lively panel discussion led by John Hewko, the Secretary General of Rotary International.  Discussants included Ambassador Kurt Volker, Distinguished Fellow at the Center of European Policy Analysis (CEPA), former Canadian Ambassador Larisa Galadza and Sister Donna Markham, Ph.D., recently retired CEO of Catholic Charities USA.  All four speakers emphasized the vital importance of US military and humanitarian assistance.  As Ambassador Volker stated, “It would be absolutely crazy not to support Ukraine in this struggle.”

Chicago Cardinal Blaise Cupich, Ambassador Kurt Volker, and Archbishop Borys Gudziak

Chicago Cardinal Blaise Cupich, Ambassador Kurt Volker, and Archbishop Borys Gudziak

In his concluding remarks, the President of UCU, Archbishop Borys Gudziak reminded his listeners: “Ukraine is the epicenter of global change today.  It’s a culture.  It’s a love.  It’s a belief that we have a dignity given by God…. This is the difference represented by the University that you support.”

The Foundation expresses its deep gratitude to all the donors and devoted volunteers that enabled the Foundation to carry out these remarkably successful fundraisers.  Special acknowledgements were directed to the volunteer teams led by Anne Chermak Dillen in San Francisco, Irene Jarosewich in New York and Lev and Halyna Holubec in Chicago, and the Foundation’s national coordinator of UCU’s special events, Liubov Haluha.