In 1979, Mary Lee Cox, a Jesuit mom, recognized a need for a support service group to help the Jesuit College Preparatory School alumni. Mary Lee organized the Jesuit Alumni Association Women's Auxiliary (JAAWA) and served as president for four years. It was decided that the mission of JAAWA would be to support the Jesuit Alumni in all their endeavors and to aid young men in need of financial assistance to attend Jesuit.
In 1984, Jesuit Dallas President Clyde LeBlanc, S.J. asked JAAWA President Kay Neuhoff and her board to assist in implementing an auction to help finance a scholarship/endowment fund for Jesuit. JAAWA members researched other Jesuit school auctions and helped to organize the first Celebration Auction in 1984, with many of JAAWA's board members assuming leadership roles.
In 1984, the scope of membership eligibility was expanded to include all mothers of current students, mothers and wives of alumni as well as friends of Jesuit Dallas. Thus JWA, the Jesuit Women's Auxiliary, was born! JWA's purpose changed from supporting the Jesuit alumni to "supporting Jesuit College Preparatory School in all of its endeavors."
From 1984 through the 1990s, JWA continued to grow and expand its programs. In 1986, under President Mary Kay O'Brien, the first prayer network was organized with Marjorie Coufal as chair. In 1988, under President Judy Troy, Susan Harris chaired the first poinsettia sale. The funds raised were used to purchase a television which was donated to the Celebration Auction (no longer a JWA function, but an entity all its own). That same year gave birth to the first Day of Recollection, held in the Jesuit chapel. Chair Tony Parigi arranged for Fr. John Payne, S.J., the director of faculty and community development, to provide spiritual enrichment. In 1998, under chairs Joan Applewhite and Nancy Vuckovich, the Day of Recollection became the Day of Reflection, and in 1999 the venue moved to the Montserrat Retreat Center at Lake Lewisville. Father Philip Postell, S.J., served as the presenter for the memorable and enriching gatherings during his tenure in Dallas.
Under President Elaine Henrion in 1989, there were many firsts including the ambitious Jesuit Dallas Museum (JDM) Docents Program with Chair Judy Troy. In the mid-1990s, the group evolved into the JDM Art League under the expert guidance of Kathryn McGill, then the director of the JDM. In 1989, Ellen Grimes assisted Fr. S. Joseph Rivoire, S.J., a former teacher, assistant principal and alumni director, in organizing the Jesuit Archives. Under Ellen's devoted leadership, JWA continued to care for the archives until 2003. Dede Furlong designed the JWA's first logo, which debuted on the group's directory cover in 1989. In 1992, President Silvia Tillotson and her board developed the idea of a Woman of the Year Award.
When Rev. Philip Postell, S.J. arrived at Jesuit Dallas as the new president in 1992, he perceived the value of an increased JWA visibility within the Jesuit community. His vision included combining the poinsettia sale with a school-wide Christmas party, a mother-son brunch, and a JWA-sponsored Alumni Midnight Mass. JWA assumed a larger role and expanded its mission to include "fostering a sense of community among its members and the Jesuit family."
In 1993, under President Patricia Dunne, the first community Christmas celebration was held. Chair Silvia Tillotson and her committee arranged a fun-filled day to include breakfast with Santa, an arts and crafts sale, poinsettia sale, Jesuit/Ursuline Ranger Band (JURB) Christmas greenery sale, booster club clothing sale and a concert by the JURB. This successful event, which in time became the Christmas Bazaar, was sponsored by the Celebration Auction for the next two years. In 1996, JWA again assumed the responsibility for the Bazaar, and Silvia Tillotson returned to the helm with co-chair Marcia Hayes at her side. The first sons of alumni lunch was also held in 1993, with Helen Roberts serving as chair. In 1996, under the leadership of President Julie Redmond, JWA hosted the Jesuit Alumni Christmas Midnight Mass, led by chairs Joan Applewhite and Nancy Vuckovich. JWA also assisted alumni with the Christmas Adopt-a-Family program for the first time, under the leadership of chairs Ann Clancy and Jeri Wakefield.
In 1999, Spiritual Enrichment chairs Joan Applewhite and Nancy Vuckovich organized Spirituality 101, a round table discussion of the works of selected authors. In 2004, an exploration began for a new direction that included talks from the Jesuits and monthly Adorations, both of which became possible due to the credit and generosity of Rev. Raymond Fitzgerald, S.J., the rector of the Jesuit community at the time. Fr. Fitzgerald coined the term "rest stop" in his first presentation on prayer, and the moniker has stuck to this day. Rest Stops and Eucharistic Adorations are given at Jesuit throughout the year.
In 2000, in order to continue to fulfill the mission of assisting young men in need of financial aid to attend Jesuit, the board of President Susan Genevese established three JWA Men for Others Scholarship awards to be given to underclassmen at the end of each school year. These scholarships honor the memory of three much beloved Jesuits: Fr. Pat Phillips (past rector of the Jesuit community), Brother Burt Rivette (founder of Jesuit's art department), and Fr. Jerry Armstrong (who spent his last five years as a member of the Jesuit Dallas community). In 2001-02, the JWA board started the JWA Scholarship Fund under the leadership of Lynn Adamic and Jim Walsh, the president of the Jesuit Foundation.
JWA's first appearance on the Jesuit Dallas website came in 2000 under President Cheryl Kluft with the help of Alumni Director Chuck Rothermel and Jesuit alumnus Ed Pellegrini ’74.
In the years ahead, JWA will continue to grow and evolve under the guidance of its many gifted members. The members of JWA say it all... we are challenged daily to be "Women for Others"... and we will continue to enlarge upon the mission of the JWA through our faithful presence in the community.