Merion Mercy Academy Hall of Fame Inducts Inaugural Class

On May 9, 2024, 320 guests were in attendance as Merion Mercy Academy celebrated its inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which recognized those individuals who have exemplified the sportsmanship, teamwork, and excellence that defines our school. These athletes and athletic leaders not only excelled in their pursuits but have embodied the timeless values of dedication, leadership, and unwavering commitment. Their extraordinary talent and exemplary character have left an indelible mark on MMA’s athletic legacy. 

The 2024 inductees are Mary Ellen Ryan ‘58 (posthumous), Barbara Clarke, Bethanne Devine ‘88, the State Championship Basketball Team of 1995, and the Henley Winning Boat of 2011. 

Ellen Ryan

Ellen Ryan

Introducing Mary Ellen Ryan was Don DiJulia, a revered administrator at Saint Joseph’s University whose career spans an impressive half-century. DiJulia collaborated with Ryan at the University for 33 years. Beyond being recognized as a great student-athlete and student council member at MMA, DiJulia described Ryan as a “a person of high moral character, respectful, and respected who carried herself with dignity, class, and a caring, family-focused, collaborative spirit.” 

After excelling at Merion as a three sport athlete—basketball, tennis, and field hockey—Ryan spent 16 years as a teacher, coach of three sports, and administrator at Sacred Heart Academy. She then became the “first lady” of Saint Joseph’s where she spent 37 years, coaching the women’s basketball, tennis and field hockey teams and eventually becoming the University’s first full time women’s athletic administrator. DiJulia said, “Three schools, three sports, three halls of fame.” In addition to being inducted into the St. Joseph’s Athletics Hall of Fame, she (and her brother Joe) are also in the Big 5 Hall of Fame. Today, Saint Joseph's field hockey field bears Ryan’s name. 

 

Her sister Sally Ryan received Ryan’s award on her family’s behalf, noting that “tonight is the one [honor] that would mean the most to Ellen.”

Barbara Clarke

Barbara Clark

Under the leadership of Shannon Fisher, Merion Mercy’s Athletic Director since 2020, MMA athletics has achieved remarkable milestones, including a state championship and the construction of the school’s new turf fields. Fisher had the pleasure of introducing her predecessor Barbara Clarke, whom she described as “a trendsetter, explorer, guide, and trailblazer for MMA athletics.”

Clarke began her career at MMA in 1975 as a physical education and health teacher. At that time, only field hockey, basketball and tennis were offered. During her tenure, the school moved into the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) and other sports were added until the 12 that we have today were in place. 

During her four and a half decades of service to Merion Mercy as a teacher, coach and mentor, Clarke also garnered respect and recognition through her efforts within many athletic organizations, including serving as president of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA). In 2010, she completed her CMAA—Certified Master of Athletic Administration—the highest certification within the national organization. In 2014, she was honored with the state award for merit by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. 

In accepting her award, Clarke remarked how quickly 45 years went and how many wonderful memories she has from that time. 

Beth Devine

Beth Devine

Introducing Beth Devine was “cherished alumna, devoted parent, and dedicated staff member” Sally Bevlock McGovern, whose “connection to our community runs deep.” Having served as manager of all sports teams during her time at MMA, McGovern reflected on her personal memories of Beth Devine who played field hockey, basketball, and softball. Devine was described as an “unwavering leader” on the field and court, and on all three teams she earned All-Star status. 

Devine’s athletic journey continued at Lafayette College where she played basketball and softball, earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology before pursuing a master’s in Clinical Counseling Psychology at LaSalle University. In 2010, she founded Philly Girls in Motion, and today, serves as the executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Youth Collaborative, bringing high-quality sports-based programs to youth across the city. 

In writing her opening remarks, McGovern asked friends and fellow alumnae to describe Devine and was inundated with words like “talented, funny, fun, smart, humble, and a role model.” She said, “These words paint a picture of a truly exceptional individual, one whose presence has left an indelible mark on all who had the pleasure of knowing her.” 

In accepting her award, Devine said, “I truly got every positive thing that sports has to offer.”

1995 State Championship Basketball Team

basketball team

Described as an “honorary alumna,” Patti McAleer was welcomed as the Hall of Fame award presenter for the 1995 State Championship Basketball Team. A past parent, McAleer worked on campus for more than 40 years and spent 30 of those in MMA’s Advancement Office. “The legacy of the Merion Mercy Academy basketball team,” she said, “extends beyond the court…shaping character in the spirit of Mercy.” Before heading to states the team had a 29-2 record. 

McAleer added, “The phrase ‘there is no i in team,’ perfectly describes all of these young ladies as they were a unified group, accepting all, encouraging one another and always acting as a team first, sharing so much talent.” 

She described the late coach Joseph D’Antonio as having “a big voice, but an even bigger heart” and noted that he saw gifted athletes and led them to a higher level.

Coach Bo Babiarz filled in the spaces for calm, quiet confidence, and as a player parent knew how to smooth over any disappointments or hardships in a personal but professional way.

Coach Cathy Johnson “not only knew and loved basketball but knew and lived the Mercy mission.” She was described as an “always approachable good listener” who met every challenge with grace and Mercy. 

Each member of the team was called on stage to accept her award:

Jamie Porter Bechtold ’98

Kathleen Fry Campbell ’96

Meredith McMahon Caprio ’97

Megan McGoldrick Collins ’96

Diane Johnson DiCicco ’97

Michelle Bucci Frey ’97

Kathryn Dougherty Hanson ’95

Anne Fitzpatrick Havinear ’97

Jennifer Hawley ’95

Jennifer Mahoney Hoffman ’95

Colleen Kearns ’96

Sarah Weston Johnston ’98

Shanette Lee ’95

Courtney Discher McLaughlin ’97

Maureen McNesby Evans ’98

Alicia Keenan Melinson ’95

Pamela Canfield Myer ’96

Leslie Papada ’96

Tyl DiJulia Sadoff ’95

Ayeshia Smith ’97

Carolyn Tascione ’97

Ashley Brown ’97, Manager

Sadiqa Lucas ’95, Manager

Elizabeth Hughes McDermott ’97, Manager

Christine Brisbin Schuck ’95, Manager

Speaking on the team’s behalf was Coach Johnson who described the players as “talented athletes and great people.” 

Henley Winning Boat of 2011 

Henley winning rowing team

Sister Barbara Buckley, head of school from 2007-2018, had the pleasure of presenting the awards to the rowers and coaches of the Henley winning boat of 2011. Sister Barbara’s passion for sports—she played Division 1 field hockey and basketball at the University of Dayton—made her a natural advocate for Merion Mercy’s athletic programs, including rowing. 

In describing the team members she said, “Good teams have terrific erg scores and plenty of muscle. Great teams have those attributes and something more, the heart and determination of Emily Bounjourno, the steadiness and stamina of Elyssa Jensen, the muscle and strength of Amanda Lorei, the sheer will power and tenacity of Sara Romano, and the rowing brains of Maddi Ratfield. Coaches Mike Brown and Tom French set the course. Four rowers and a coxswain took to the course and brought home the Groton Cup.”

It has been 13 years and no American high school team—male or female—has won the Groton Cup since. 

The entire team went on to row in college with four of its graduates being selected to D1 schools: Amanda Lorei ‘11, Stanford University; Sara Romano ‘11, Columbia University; Emily Buongiorno ‘12, Georgetown University; and Elissa Jensen ‘12, UCLA. Lorei also won a Henley while at Stanford. 

As a result of its many accomplishments, Coach Brown—who had helped form the team six years earlier—was named “Coach of the Year” by the Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia, the oldest amateur athletic governing body in the United States. 

Team members:

Emily Buongiorno ‘12

Elissa Jensen ‘12

Amanda Lorei ‘11

Maddi Ratfield ‘12

Sara Romano ‘11

Coach Mike Brown 

Coach Tom French

Speaking for the rowing team, Amanda Lorei noted what an incredible experience it had been to travel internationally and compete as a high school athlete. She said of her MMA experience, “Merion held us to such a high standard. They believed in our intellect, strength and courage. The biggest gift Merion gave me was that they believed in my ability to succeed.”

To learn more about all of our Hall of Fame recipients, visit www.merion-mercy.com/alumnae/halloffame. Photos from the event can be found here



 

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