May is the month in which the Church traditionally honors the Blessed Mother, mothers in particular and women in general. It is also the month in which we usually celebrate Pentecost, the Feast of the Spirit. With this in mind we have set aside these next few pages to pay tribute to some outstanding women of action and spirit whose profiles are presented here.
These women have made outstanding contributions to their families and communities, and through their commitment to principled action they have influenced the wider world in which they live for the betterment of all. The Catholic League’s mission of ensuring the constitutional guarantees of the First Amendment for all citizens by fighting for religious freedom, parental choice in education and protection of the unborn, has been translated into a living testament by the dedicated lives of the women we honor this month.
Wanda Franz, Ph.D., an expert in adolescent development and abortion decision-making, is a developmental psychologist and a professor of child development in the Division of Family Resources at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. For over two decades, Dr. Franz has devoted untold hours to furthering the cause of right to life on the national and state level.
In 1971, Dr. Franz began speaking to student groups on fetal development. Currently, she is president of the National Right to Life Committee. Dr. Franz has served as president of West Virginians for Life for the past 15 years; she has been a member of the National Right to Life Executive Committee for the past eight years; she has served as vice-president of the NRLC for the past seven years. Dr. Franz is also a trustee of the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund.
Dr. Franz is married to Gunter Franz, Ph.D. and lives in Morgantown, West Virginia with her husband and three children.
Linda Cross, a recent candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was born in Clinton, Iowa. She received a B.A. in History, English and Secondary Education from Marquette University and began her teaching career in Rhode Island the same year.
In 1974 Ms. Cross accepted a position as English teacher at Hortonville High School in Wisconsin and in 1976 she was promoted to Chair of the English Department, an administrative leadership post she still holds. Ms. Cross is also an adjunct professor to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where she completed her Master’s Degree.
Running this spring on a platform which embraced parental choice in education, Ms. Cross waged a stunningly successful primary campaign and was defeated by a narrow margin by a candidate who enjoyed all of the considerable financial and philosophical support of the powerful educational establishment (see story on pg.1).
Ms. Cross and her husband, Roger Cross, live in Waupaca, Wisconsin where they are partners at the Chain O’Lakes Marine and owner/operators of a clothing and gift shop.
New York City Board of Education member Ninfa Segarra was instrumental in rescuing New York City’s school children from former School Chancellor Joseph Fernandez’ attempt to present the homosexual life style to first and second grade children as a viable alternative to heterosexuality as part of his proposed “Rainbow Curriculum.” The children were spared exposure to this aberrant educational experiment in large measure because of the efforts of Ms. Segarra.
During her tenure as a member of the New York City Board of Education, Ms. Segarra has served on a number of subcommittees including: Chairman of Special Education, Chairman of Early Retirement and member of the Capital Plan and Governance subcommittee. Ms. Segarra’s civic involvement includes serving as a board member of the Fund for Public Schools; Trustee of the New York City Board of Education Retirement System and Trustee of the fashion Institute of Technology. Ms. Segarra is currently employed as an associate in the public relations firm, The Dilenschneider Group.
Ms. Segarra has held a variety of executive and legal positions in city government and in the not-for-profit sector. She has served as legal consultant for the Hispanic Federation of New York City; director of the Center for Latino Leadership and Organizational Excellence; executive director of the New York City Voter Assistance Commission and legal counsel in the Mayor’s Office for the Handicapped and others.
Ms. Segarra attended New York University and received her law degree from the New York Law School.
Ms. Segarra is the mother of two young children.
Since October of 1990, Helen Alvare has traveled the country as the national spokeswoman on abortion for the American Catholic Bishops in television, radio, print media and public lectures. In her position as Director of Planning and Information for Pro-Life Activities at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), Ms. Alvare also has financial, programming and policy responsibilities as she manages the NCCB’s contracts with outside communications consultants.
Speaking recently at a Respect Life banquet in Marquette, Michigan, Ms. Alvare reminded her audience that the United States has the most extreme abortion policy of any Western nation, reflecting political and legal systems which are out of touch with the American public. Citing Gallup polls which indicate 75 to 78 percent of Americans morally disapprove of abortion, Ms. Alvare called for renewed efforts to educate people about the basic fact that abortion is the taking of human life.
Prior to assuming her current position, Ms. Alvare served for three years as an attorney in the Office of General Counsel for the United States Catholic Conference (USCC), the public policy arm of the NCCB. While there, Ms. Alvare co-authored amicus briefs filed by the USCC in the Supreme Court and other federal courts in major abortion and euthanasia cases, as well as in those cases addressing other First Amendment concerns. For three years prior to joining the USCC, Ms. Alvare was a litigation associate in a Philadelphia law firm.
Ms. Alvare graduated summa cum laude from Villanova University, and she received her J.D. from Cornell University. Currently, Ms. Alvare is on leave from the doctoral program in Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of America, where she received her M.A. in the same subject in 1989.
Ms. Alvare is married and lives in the District of Columbia with her husband.
Paige Comstock Cunningham is an attorney who has made and continues to make an outstanding contribution to the cause of justice for the unborn, particularly in the legislative arena.
Ms. Cunningham has been president of Americans United For Life since January of 1993. She brings to this position the expertise she has developed through the years while serving Americans United for Life in various capacities; Ms. Cunningham has been staff attorney, executive director/general counsel and associate general counsel for legislation.
Ms. Cunningham graduated Summa Cum Laude from Taylor University in 1977; she received a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 1983, where she served on the editorial board of the Northwestern University Law Review. She was chosen in 1990 as one of 20 Young Lawyers Making A Difference.
Ms. Cunningham is an articulate spokesperson for life whose written and spoken communications on the issue of abortion have reached a wide audience. She has testified before legislative committees in North Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota and South Carolina, and before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. Ms. Cunningham has also appeared on radio and television to spread the message of support for unborn children.
Ms. Cunningham lives in Wheaton, Illinois with her husband and three children.
For the past five years Sandi Zobrest has been in the middle of a legal battle on behalf of her profoundly deaf son, Jim. The struggle to obtain federally-mandated assistance in the form of a sign language interpreter for Jim at his Catholic high school has reached the Supreme Court, where oral arguments were presented in February.
When Ms. Zobrest’s older son, Jim, was born with a profound hearing loss, she became active in local organizations for the deaf in Erie, Pennsylvania where the family lived. Ms. Zobrest was president of the Erie Speech and Hearing Association and founding president of the Erie County Council for the Deaf. Convinced that the quality of education for the deaf in Erie was inadequate, the family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where Jim was enrolled in the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind.
Jim enrolled at Salpointe Catholic High School and the family requested the school district to provide the services of a sign language interpreter. The district refused, saying that the establishment clause of the Constitution barred provision of a sign language interpreter at Jim’s Catholic school. The Zobrests sued, claiming the refusal was a violation of their free exercise rights. The district court and a federal appeals court agreed with the school district; the Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling at the end of its term this summer.
The decision may change the framework used by the Court for over twenty years in deciding establishment clause cases; if this occurs, the Zobrest case will be one of the most significant cases of the decade for church/state relations and will have wide-ranging consequences for the handicapped.
Ms. Zobrest received a B.A. in Elementary Education from Mercyhurst College and a Masters Degree in Education from Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. In 1979 she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Mercyhurst College for her service to the deaf and the community.
Ms. Zobrest lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and two sons.
The usually peaceful village of Scarsdale, New Yark was the setting in the early 1980’s for a two-year struggle over a Christmas creche that was customarily displayed in a village park. Led by Kathleen McCreary, a group of citizens who valued the traditional Christ-centered celebration of the holiday fought an order by the Board of Trustees denying a petition to erect the creche. Although the creche had been displayed for twenty-four years and was owned, erected and paid for by a private group, in 1981 the village board of trustees declared that the creche was unconstitutional because it violated the supposed wall of separation between church and state.
Ms. McCreary, who “had had enough” of inaccurate constitutional interpretation and misapplied constitutional principles, rallied Scarsdale residents to form “Citizens Group for the Creche” and file suit to compel the village to allow the crech. McCreary v. the Village of Scarsdale evolved from an establishment clause case to one based on free speech and was argued successfully up to the United States Supreme Court.
Since the fall of 1992, Ms. Creary has been administrator of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights where she oversees the day to day operations of the organization. For eighteen years, prior to coming to the Catholic League, Ms. McCreary served as senior tax counsel to the ITT Corporation, and before that as senior tax counsel to Siemens Capital Corporation.
Ms. McCreary received a B.A. from W ellesley College, a J.D. from George Washington University School of Law and an LL.M. from New York University School of Law. Ms. McCreary lives in Scarsdale, New York with her husband and two children where she participates in a wide range of community activities.
Dr. Irene Impellizzeri
During her long and distinguished professional career, Dr. Irene Impellizzeri has been teacher, researcher, administrator, psychologist and community worker. Dr. Impellizzeri has taught children and youth at all levels of skill and proficiency, from elementary school to university graduate work.
She has been adjunct professor at Fordham University, Professor at Brooklyn College where she became department chairman, and, in 1971, dean of the School of Education. In January, 1987, Dr. Impellizzeri was appointed as University Dean for teacher education by the board of trustees of the City University of New York, a position from which she retired in July, 1991.
In February 1980, Dr. Impellizzeri was appointed to the Board of Education of the city of New York; she was reappointed to the board in 1982, 1986 and 1990. In July 1992, Dr. Impellizzeri was reelected to serve as vice-president of the Board for a seventh consecutive term.
Dr. Impellizzeri has been a powerful voice consistently championing the authority of parents and the sanctity of families against the insidious encroachment of the educational establishment. She opposed the distribution of condoms to school children and spoke out against the proposal by former Chancellor Joseph Fernandez to place books advocating homosexuality as equivalent to a heterosexual life style on a reading list for young children.
Dr. Impellizzeri attended New York University, Columbia University Teacher’s College and Fordham University. Her doctorate is in educational psychology and her research specialty is the learning patterns of children and adolescents, both gifted and handicapped. Dr. Impellizzeri is a licensed psychologist in New York State, and she has engaged in research on the developmental levels of auditory perception and the etiology of scholastic achievement.