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St. Thomas Aquinas Arts Scholarship program leaves lasting legacy

A long-standing post-secondary scholarship program that promoted the arts has performed its swan song.

On June 22, the St. Thomas Aquinas Centre for the Arts Foundation gave out its final scholarship after a successful 30-year run.

The scholarship program was established by founding members Sandi Richardson, Mary Ann Demsar and David Cairnie to keep the legacy of the former St. Thomas Aquinas Centre for the Arts alive. The school was closed in 1992 but in its day provided a half day of arts instruction each week to children in the board’s elementary schools.

Richardson, Demsar and Cairnie, along with other arts-minded parents, created the scholarship fund to provide scholarships to graduating secondary students interested in pursuing the arts.

“We wanted to keep the arts in the foreground, we wanted to promote the arts, we wanted to encourage the children, we wanted to encourage adults,” said Richardson.

Over the past 30 years, the Foundation has interviewed over 340 students and given out 37 scholarships.

“This was due to a group of parents who, back in the day, did spaghetti dinners, did car washes, did silent auctions, did whatever it was,” said Richardson. “When the school was closing, we felt that we wanted to make a statement and I think after 30 years we have.”

Joined by Demsar and David’s wife Janice Cairnie, Richardson presented Chairperson Patrick Daly and Director of Education David Hansen with a commemorative plaque as a lasting memento of the arts scholarship program. The plaque includes the names of all 37 student scholarship recipients.

Calling them exemplary individuals who have given to Catholic education and more specifically, have promoted and protected the arts, Daly said not only have they provided an inspiring example to generations of students but if not for the scholarship, many students would likely not have gone on to post-secondary education and continued their studies in the arts.

The fund has since been depleted but, noted Daly, “I think we’d all agree that 30 years of supporting in the selfless way they have is really a sign of their commitment, their goodness, the difference they wanted to make in the lives of the young people in our community.”

In a final curtain call, the Foundation members presented their last cheque. This year’s recipient of the St. Thomas Aquinas Centre for the Arts Foundation scholarship was given to Michaela Tassone, a grade 12 student at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School.

Sharing a little secret “that I can now let out of the bag,” Richardson revealed that when they were going through the stacks of applicants, they tended to shy away from any that wanted to be a teacher.

“We wanted them to be on Yonge Street, we wanted them to be broadcasting, we wanted them to be local entertainers and bringing it back to us.”

This year’s recipient, she noted, sings, dances, is passionate about the arts, and contributes to her church and school.

And she wants to be a teacher.

“The reason that this really tugged at our heartstrings is because this is our swan song. We’re leaving but the arts are going to survive and Michaela is going to carry that on for us.”

With Demsar, a drama teacher at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School, set to retire this year, the presentation was a literal passing of the torch.

Congratulating Tassone on her arts achievements, Demsar added, “I know that I can pass the baton to you and it will go forward and the love of and the legacy of the arts will continue with you.”

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St. Thomas Aquinas Centre for the Arts Foundation
Scholarship recipients 1992-2022

1992

Robin L. Carrey
Alisa Belshaw

1993
David Braid

1994
Margaret-Rose Bàrdos
Domenica DiPietro

1995
James Kwiatkowski

1996
Tiffany Richardson

1997
Sonia Iwanek

1998
Marion Giesler

1999
Monica Andaya

2000
Sarah Pierroz

2001
Erin Pim

2002
Tadej Jesenik

2003
Josephine Biundo

2004
Joe Le

2005
Vanessa Tyrell

2006
Melanie Hrymak

2007
Daniel Cosentino

2008
Thomas Costie

2009
Megan Janssen

2010
Alexandria DiFazio

2011
Patrick Bowman
Emily Lukasik
Josh Thiessen

2012
Dean Irvine

2013
Madeleine Levesque
Miguel Seabra

2014
Michael Paolini

2015
Emily Alejandra Cornejo-Beltran

2016
Dorothea Silk-Barwell
Julian Mahovlich

2017
Briana-Lynn Brieiro

2018
Sophie Visca

2019
Louise Concepcion

2020
Morgan Luis

2021
Hannah Katherine
Nicole Martin

2022
Michaela Tassone





From left to right: HWCDSB Chairperson Patrick Daly; Sandi Richardson; Mary Ann Demsar; Janice Cairnie; Director of Education David Hansen.
From left to right: HWCDSB Chairperson Patrick Daly; Sandi Richardson; Mary Ann Demsar; Janice Cairnie; Director of Education David Hansen.

The 37th and final St. Thomas Aquinas Centre for the Arts Scholarship was presented to Michaela Tassone (second from left), a Grade 12 student at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School. “I know that I can pass the baton to you and it will go forward and the love of and the legacy of the arts will continue with you,
The 37th and final St. Thomas Aquinas Centre for the Arts Scholarship was presented to Michaela Tassone (second from left), a Grade 12 student at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School. “I know that I can pass the baton to you and it will go forward and the love of and the legacy of the arts will continue with you," said presenter Mary Ann Demsar (second from right).