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What St. Mary’s Academy Food For Thought Brings to the Table

The annual luncheon that combines faith, inspiration and a cause all in one room.

Presented by St. Mary’s Academy October 5, 2018

Laura Phillips ’15, Debbie Spitznagel Ryan ’89, Christina Friedhoff, Melissa Strain Angeli ’86 and Brigid Schulte ’80

Image: Greg Kozawa

It takes a big name speaker to attract a standing-room only crowd to an event on a Thursday afternoon in November, but that’s just what St. Mary’s Academy does year after year with their annual Food For Thought luncheon. 

In fact, 2018 marks the 25th year for the fundraising event, which was born out of the school’s commitment to not let financial constraints limit a young woman’s access to a college-preparatory education.  The event raises over $500,000 annually for student financial aid, and in the 2018-2109 school year alone, St. Mary’s Academy will award nearly $2 million in tuition to 41% of its families.

Brandi Chastain

Image: Andie Petkus

So, who are these speakers that attract a sold-out crowd to the Portland Hilton Grand Ballroom every year?  It includes women like Brandi Chastain, former member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, two-time FIFA World Cup Champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist.  As author of the book “It’s Not About the Bra: Play Hard, Play Fair, and Put the Fun Back Into Competitive Sports,” Chastain’s message emphasizes the importance of developing leadership skills, finding (and becoming) role models, and giving back to one's team and community, all qualities on which the St. Mary’s experience is founded. 

Molly Mathews Bjorklund ’85, Brandi Chastain, Virginia Mathews and Mary Mathews Stevens ’80

Image: Andie Petkus

Food For Thought speakers have also included Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University Dean of Freshman and author of the New York Times best-selling book How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success as well as Brigid Schulte, St. Mary’s Academy alumna and award-winning journalist for the Washington Post and author of New York Times best seller, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time.

Whitney Swindells Flanagan ’91 and friends

Image: Andie Petkus

Emily Niedermeyer Becker ‘86, St. Mary’s Academy Vice President for Development, shares the secret for selecting the keynote speaker for this St. Mary’s annual event. “First and foremost we look for alignment with the St Mary’s mission of empowering and educating young women to be future leaders.  We look for speakers who are pushing boundaries, leading new ways of thinking and, at the core, serve as aspirational role models for our young women and their families.”

Max Williams, Gina Williams, Monica McQueen and Kimberly Cooper

Image: Greg Kozawa

The 2018 Food For Thought event will feature, Debbie Sterling, Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, an award-winning company on a mission to “disrupt the pink aisle” with toys, games and media for girls. Debbie is an engineer, entrepreneur and one of the leaders in the movement toward getting girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math.  Becker adds, “The latest research tells us that graduates of girls’ school are six times more likely to consider majoring in math, science and technology, and three times more likely to consider majoring in engineering compared to girls who attend coed schools.  With such a strong emphasis on STEM at St. Mary’s, we wanted to partner with someone who could speak to empowering women in fields so often dominated by men.  Debbie does just that.”

Mike Hagel, Shawn Hagel and Emily Niedermeyer Becker ’86

Image: Greg Kozawa

This year’s St. Mary’s Academy Food For Thought Luncheon will be held on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at the Portland Hilton Grant Ballroom.  For more information or to purchase tickets, please click here

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