Support The Academy » 2018 Annual Appeal

2018 Annual Appeal

A dynamo who could do it all, my mother, Marie McKenna Bigley, graduated from the Academy of Saint Elizabeth in 1939.


She was passionate about education, so she applied to the Teacher’s College in Newark and there she met her beloved husband, my father, Francis V. Bigley. Together they raised me and my 12 siblings, a total of 7 daughters and 6 sons. All the while, they both worked as educators until retirement. The Academy also sparked a lifelong love of music in my mother and she would teach countless piano lessons to children in our home, passing along one of her many passions to future generations. Today my niece has our family piano in her home where it is enjoyed by her young children.


In 1959, I was blessed to attend the Academy on a 4-year full academic scholarship including room and board. My mother had applied for the scholarship on my behalf and I remember my time at the Academy with such fondness, as I know so many of my SEAsters do too. Those were some of the best years of my life where I made lifelong friendships that I cherish to this day.


It turns out that my parents were creating a 3-generation legacy in their family by sending 4 of their 7 daughters to the all-girls Catholic high school at Convent Station.  I graduated with the Class of 1963, my sisters, Joan Gantz graduated in 1974, Ellen Carissimo graduated in 1977, and Dorothy Biondi graduated in 1979. Several of my sisters also went on to the College of Saint Elizabeth for our undergraduate studies. 


Like you, my husband and I are firm believers in the many benefits of a single gender, Catholic education. Our daughter, Kristen, graduated from the Academy with the Class of 1993. Not only is Kristen a third-generation alumnae in our family, but she also continues our family’s legacy in education by teaching second grade at a local grammar school. We have nine women in our family who all graduated from the Academy over the years.


Founded in 1860, under the vision of Mother Xavier and the mission of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, the Academy is the oldest all-girl Catholic high school in New Jersey.


Today nearly 160 years later, the mission remains. To promote the disciplines of academic excellence and moral responsibility within our young women by sustaining a scholarly environment and a nurturing community of faith.


Please join me in making a gift to the Academy today. Together we can preserve our rich history, empower today’s generation of young women and sustain this opportunity for countless future generations. Every gift is a meaningful contribution which is vital to the future of the Academy.


In loving memory of my mother, lifelong educator and alumna,

Patricia Bigley Thelander

Class of 1963


P.S. Did you ever wish you could do more? Please consider remembering The Academy in your will or estate plan by joining the 1860 Legacy Society. For more information please contact Megan Knight (973) 290-5226.