2021 Alma Mater Award Bios

Posted May 10, 2021 / Last updated May 10, 2021

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The honorees —(left to right) Wanda Montalbano, Lori Ryan, Jill Stoner, Vonda Rice, and Karen DeBlieux—with Jesuit president Fr. John Brown, S.J.

Karen DeBlieux

Karen DeBlieux brings a wealth of volunteerism both to Jesuit High School and the New Orleans community. She is the mother of two Blue Jays, Josh class of 2013 and Zach class of 2019, and continues to return to Carrollton and Banks to serve in various leadership roles. Karen is the first female member of the Board of Directors and has co-chaired the Food Ticket Booth at the Bazaar since 2011. 

Karen worked for seven years as the Celebration sponsorship chair securing new companies and individuals to support the event. She also maintained personal connections with sponsors who continue to support Celebration today. Karen was also a past Celebration restaurant chair. 

When Jesuit launched Minds & Hearts Enlightened, its most ambitious capital campaign in history, Karen and her husband, Peter, served the campaign team as operational leaders. Karen is also a past member of the President’s Advisory Council.

Karen’s involvement while Josh and Zach were students gave her the opportunity to work in the concession stand at Jesuit basketball games. She was also a supportive Football parent ensuring the team members had food and Gatorade. Karen also chaperoned the Junior class field trips.

Karen is a wonderful example of a mother whose volunteerism while her sons were students at Jesuit benefitted students, parents, and ensured the success of numerous events and organizations. Karen’s concurrent involvement at Jesuit and in the community allows her to share her gifts for the Greater Glory of God. 

Josh and Zach shared these kind words. “Our mother truly embodies a servant leader and is someone whose actions speak louder than words. She inspires us with her kindness, energy, and selflessness to be Men for Others.”

Wanda Montalbano

Wanda’s enthusiasm and attention to detail made every event she was involved with very special. If you were lucky enough to work on Celebration with Wanda, you know she cared for the committee members by opening her home for off-campus planning meetings and hosted a Celebration sponsorship thank you party. Ever a smiling face in the volunteer office, she always made everyone feel like they were the most important member of the committee. Wanda also helped with this year’s Celebration promoting custom-made Jesuit socks!

Wanda’s work with Jesuit Sodality included chaperoning students as they shopped for ingredients for meals that would be served at St. Jude and the monthly meal distribution. The Montalbano home was always open for Sodality gatherings and meetings where many breakfasts were assembled and distributed to those experiencing homelessness.

Wanda is a Blue Jay wife and mother. Her husband, Ron, is a graduate of the Class of 1983 and her sons Palmer and Carter graduated in 2017 and 2020, respectively.

When asked about the impact his mother’s volunteer work had on him, Palmer said, “My mom’s volunteering efforts within the community-made serving others a natural practice for me. Seeing my mom embody the Jesuit ideals of Men for Others and Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam translated those mantras into my own life while I attended Jesuit and afterward. I would not be the person I am today without my mother and her contributions to the Jesuit and New Orleans community.” 

Carter shared these thoughts. “My mother has always been the one to go out of her way to make someone else’s day better. My first knowledge of my mother’s will to volunteer came when I was young. We lived in Houston at the time, and she volunteered to manage the elementary school auction with some of the other parents. When she first told me that she would be volunteering with Jesuit’s auction, I knew she would do a fantastic job. I believe my mother’s creativity goes hand in hand with her inspiration to help others and I truly believe the world would be a much better and joyous place if there were more people like her. I hope she understands one day that her will to volunteer has motivated our family to work hard and to make others’ lives better.”

Vonda Rice

Vonda is the mother of two Blue Jays, Jordan class of 2013, and Charles III class of 2016.

Vonda began volunteering at Jesuit in 2008 as a member of the Used Book Sale Committee member, Bazaar Volunteer, Faculty/Staff Appreciation Luncheon Committee member, and worked in the concession stand during Jesuit basketball games.

Vonda was involved with Jesuit Soccer as a team parent, chaired the soccer team apparel sale, and served on the Soccer Alumni Homecoming Committee.

As the Used Book Sale Chair, Vonda managed the collection, storage, and sale of books to Jesuit students. She also volunteered with Celebration’s auction and Jesuit’s Golf Classic.

Vonda’s involvement at Jesuit continues today as she is a member of the President’s Advisory Council. She also serves as Bazaar ticket booth co-chair, and was on the school’s Presidential Search committee.

Her son Charles shared these thoughts.” From a young age even before Jesuit was a thought, my mother was always fiercely selfless, serving others was never something that was a question, and that continued to ring true during my time as a Blue Jay. She served the school by helping with the Bazaar and the Used Book Sale at the beginning of the year, and I was always expected to help. What is most important to me is the legacy she continues to set to this day by continuing to serve others happily, and still serve the Jesuit community, well after her two boys have graduated. Everyone always spoke so highly of her to me and as I continue to get older, I recognize your greatness more and more every day. I love you, mom, and thank you for everything that you do for the betterment of others.”

Jordan offered this reflection. “It is difficult to put into words the impact my mother has had and continues to have on my life. Even with two kids, a full-time job, and countless other obligations, she always finds time to serve others. When I think about all the time she has put in over the years to help and serve others, I am reminded of a quote from Maya Angelou that I believe her father would have loved, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” I view time as the most valuable resource in life, and I am so grateful to have been raised by a person who has used her time to touch the lives of so many people at Jesuit and in the City of New Orleans.”

Lori Ryan

Lori Ryan spent her sons’ years at Jesuit volunteering with events ranging from the Used Book Sale, Celebration, school mailings, to Jesuit’s tennis team, and the Jesuit Bazaar. Her duties with these events included assisting with the collection of used books at the end of the school year and the setup and sale of the books in August. Lori’s years on the Celebration committee included publicity for the event as well as pick-up and set up of auction items.

Lori assisted the volunteer office for many years with mailings throughout the school year. She also assisted with Jesuit’s tennis team’s apparel sales, and in-town and out-of-town tournaments.

Lori volunteers with a smile and calm disposition. She was involved with the Bazaar for many years as a booth volunteer, booth captain, Bazaar volunteer coordinator, and Bazaar co-chair. In the latter capacity, Lori worked tirelessly with the Bazaar committee to plan a wonderful fun-filled event. With many months of preparation completed, the Bazaar had to be moved from the regularly scheduled Sunday to a Saturday. Lori rallied the booth chairs and volunteers, made the changes, and co-chaired a successful event. 

Lori is the mother of three Blue Jays, Connor class of 2011, Patrick class of 2014, and Andrew class of 2018.  

Patrick said, “Our Mom has given a lot to us (her three boys), our community, and our school over the years – whether it’s driving meals to seniors in the community with Meals on Wheels, volunteering to lead the Jesuit Bazaar, or riding to restaurants all across town to pick up donated gift cards – we’re all proud of the impact she’s made.”

Andrew shared these words, “When I learned my mother would be receiving this award, I was very excited; however, I was not surprised. Since a very young age, I have seen my mother give back to our schools and community, whether it be playing the gumball booth with me for hours at the Bazaar while she works, or driving with her around town with Meals on Wheels. Anything she has done for Jesuit or other communities has been rooted in what she did for my brothers and me and set a wonderful example for us. As her son, I could not be more proud and I am truly lucky to have such a special mother.” 

Connor shared these thoughts, “While putting the three of us through both Jesuit and Stuart Hall, our mom has always realized that the feeling of community that makes places like these special is made possible by the extra effort and volunteerism of parents, and she has never hesitated to raise her hand to help. This enthusiasm for service was rooted in the same unwavering love and support that three of us are lucky to experience each day. I am very happy to see her being recognized for it today.”

Jill Stoner

As a member of the Jesuit Mothers’ Rosary Group since 2013, Jill continues to meet weekly with the group to pray for the intentions of the Jesuit community. She co-led the weekly Rosary for three years and helped coordinate the Mothers’ Day of Reflection. Jill was also a faithful adorer on Fridays in the Small Chapel.

Jill’s involvement at Jesuit over the years included recruiting volunteers to help at Book Day. As a Blue Jay Band mom, Jill helped fit the boys for their band uniforms. She also assisted with Open House preparations and warmly greeted prospective new Blue Jays and their parents. Jill prepared and served food for many Faculty and Staff appreciation luncheons and her volunteer days at the Bazaar were spent at the Gumball booth!

Jill helped with preparations for the Used Book Sale, collecting books for resale and rescuing novels that were still usable. She also returned in August to help with the Used Book Sale.

Throughout the years, Jill volunteered her time in the Blue Jay Bookstore, assisting with organizing and setting up merchandise for the bookstore portion of the Christmas boutique.

Jill was also invited by Jesuit’s administration to be a part of and attended the parents’ meeting for SACS accreditation.

Jill continues to work with Celebration and Bazaar as a member of the auction committee, picking up items from our Westbank donors.

Jill is the mother of two Jesuit valedictorians, Anthony class of 2016 and Dominic class of 2020.

Dominic shared these thoughts, “One of the few things I find unquestionable is my mother’s love and care for me and my siblings. She constantly invested all she could into our mental, physical, and spiritual growth, and I learned at an early age that one who truly and intensely cares about others translates that into action to benefit them. And as I grew up, I watched how she offered her time freely for others and volunteered in our community and at Jesuit to contribute to making the environment that had been so integral to my own growth and will be for many others after me. And while I may not often admit it, my mother has been perhaps the most influential figure in my life, teaching me how to care about others and to place their needs before my own. It is her example that has shown me how to put my faith into action in service to my community and to give back for all I have received.”