Distinguished Alumnae Award
The Distinguished Alumnae Awards are bestowed upon alumnae who have distinguished themselves by giving witness to the mission of The Academy of the Holy Cross and exhibiting the ideals of an alumna of the Academy in their daily lives.
Recipients of this award:
- Demonstrate the characteristics of a graduate of the Academy, by being women of courage, compassion, and scholarship.
- Demonstrate unusual professional or personal accomplishments that embrace the social, spiritual, and intellectual challenges of the world.
- Distinguish themselves as caring, Christian women.
All nominations, once submitted, are kept on file from year to year. The quality of the criteria, not the volume of nominating criteria submitted, is the priority consideration for award selection.
2018 Distinguished Alumnae Award Recipients
Sylvia Cole Mackey ’59
Nancy Morrison O'Connor ’69
Lisa Ridgway Slater ’82
Sylvia Cole Mackey ’59
Sylvia’s incredible life changed dramatically at Holy Cross as a seventh grader in September 1953, which she calls her “new beginning.” Learning to speak French was part of the mandatory curriculum, and she loved the French language so much that she majored in French at Syracuse University with a minor in Russian. After graduation from Syracuse, Sylvia took a position at the World Bank in Washington, DC, as a bilingual secretary in the department for French-speaking African countries. After this she became a linguist in French and Russian for the Defense Department.
Sylvia met her husband John Mackey at Syracuse University. John played football at Syracuse and then for 10 years in the National Football League for the Baltimore Colts as their starting tight end. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. Sylvia and John were married for 52 years. After having three children, Sylvia became a professional model, which took her to Paris to walk in the seasonal fashion shows. After 30 years working as a model, she saw an ad for bilingual flight attendants in the newspaper and again, here was another new beginning for Sylvia that started at Holy Cross.
Following the 9-11 attacks on the United States, Sylvia was furloughed from her job for 90 days. It was during this period that her husband was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), and Sylvia finally had answers about his escalating strange behavior. In 2006 Sylvia asked the NFL for help, knowing how this disease could lead her and many other NFL families in this same situation to financial ruin. Her plea turned into the 88 Plan, named after her husband’s jersey number during his entire collegiate and professional career. The 88 Plan provides retired players funds for medical and custodial care resulting from dementia, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and provides funding for dementia research.
Sylvia still works for United Airlines as a flight attendant. She is also an advisor and inspirational spokesperson. She has received numerous awards for her advocacy. The Sylvia Mackey Woman of the Year Award presented by Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund was established in Sylvia’s name and is given annually to another NFL caregiver/advocate who makes a mark in the community and in the sports world for work that she has done to raise awareness and funds. Sylvia continues to remain vigilant in her efforts to advocate for those who need help and to, as she says, “make sure that the right things are done for all.”
Nancy Morrison O’Connor ’69
After graduating from Holy Cross, Nancy received her undergraduate degree from Gettysburg College, where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science. She then earned her law degree from University of Notre Dame Law School, where she was the editor of the Notre Dame Lawyer. She was also a Rotary International Scholar from the University of Wales.
Nancy was sworn in as a lawyer in Houston, Texas just over 40 years ago. It was the first year that Texas feminized its licenses to practice law. This began a series of firsts for Nancy. She was the first woman to have a child at Leon Jaworski’s firm, then one of the largest in the US with just over 100 lawyers. She then had two more children. Six years after joining the firm, she was in the first class of women promoted to partner.
One move back home to DC, one federal appointment, one in-house counsel position and one more law firm partnership later, Nancy is now General Counsel at The Catholic University of America and an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Once again, as at the Academy, she is united with her colleagues in shared values and mission flowing from their Catholic foundations.
Nancy serves on the board of the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the DC Circuit Credentials Committee for the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. She has served as Chair of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Commission on Human Rights and its Case Review Board.
Every day she uses the skills and qualities instilled in her at the Academy. She takes special pride in her continued ability to diagram sentences—mentally. She continues to make and enjoy memories with her Holy Cross classmates. And she most loves spending time with her family, especially her mom and her grandchildren.
Lisa Ridgway Slater ’82
Lisa has long been an advocate for Catholic education in the DC metropolitan area, a quality she learned from her parents Dick and Jeanie Ridgway. She has served as a coach and volunteered in numerous capacities for a variety of organizations, all in the spirit of helping kids find success as part of the Catholic community.
After Holy Cross Lisa graduated from Boston College in 1986 and passed the CPA exam in 1987. She worked as a corporate auditor for a Big 8 accounting firm in Boston and New Orleans. Lisa married Bill Slater in 1988 and they settled in Kensington where they have raised their daughters Ellie ’08 and Katie ’10 and sons Jack and Ridge.
Lisa has been dedicated to the prosperity and growth of Holy Cross since the early 1990s when she began fundraising and volunteering for the alumnae board. She served on the board of trustees from 2002-2008 and was a member of the development committee. She has served on the past two capital campaign committees and was a motivating force for the construction of the artificial turf field named Ridgway Field in honor of her parents. Lisa was also among the first Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame inductees in tribute to the 1976-1982 basketball program’s record-setting winning streak.
Beyond Holy Cross, Lisa has generously supported other worthy organizations. She is a volunteer tutor at The Washington School for Girls and is an avid supporter of the school. She has been an active member of the Gonzaga College High School community, serving on the board of trustees, the development committee, and co-chairing the current parent committee for the capital campaign. One of Lisa’s proudest endeavors has been her commitment to the Shepherd Foundation, an organization co-founded by her father and raising over $10 million to provide Catholic school scholarships for families who can’t otherwise afford tuition.
When not wearing her organization hat, Lisa cheers on her children and nieces and nephews on the sports fields and in the theater. She is an avid fan of Gonzaga ice hockey where Bill is the head coach. Lisa lives by the Christian ideals of a Holy Cross alumna and it is her goal to instill these same ideals in her family and her community.