LATROBE, PA – Father Philip M. Kanfush, O.S.B., interim vice president for academic affairs and academic dean, has been awarded the 11th annual Saint Vincent College Projektenmacher Award in recognition of his initiatives that, in the spirit of founder Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, “brought vision to reality through hard work and perseverance.”
SVC president Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., presented Father Philip with the award at the Founders’ Day Honors Convocation on Thursday, Nov. 18, in the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
Wimmer was known as a dreamer, having dreamt of bringing education and ministry to the United States. However, his dreams were often met with ridicule or brushed aside as fantasy by his fellow monks. Mockingly, he was given the nickname of "projektenmacher," or ‘project maker,’ for his dreams and vision. Wimmer was able to fulfill his dreams of ministry and education, and it’s thanks to those dreams that Saint Vincent is now in its 176th year.
Father Philip is also a professor in the education department within the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at SVC, which he joined in 1994. In addition to teaching, he serves as the chief financial officer and senior researcher for the Bearcat B.E.S.T. transition program and procurator and chief financial officer for Saint Vincent Archabbey.
“Beginning with 10 students in 2015, Father Philip founded and led the development of the Bearcat B.E.S.T program. There are now 22 enrolled in Bearcat B.E.S.T. from 12 school districts in the area with 31 students that have graduated from the program, all of whom are now employed,” said Father Paul. "His leadership and impact in this achievement alone make him deserving of the Projektenmacher award.”
The Bearcat B.E.S.T. program has received national recognition, and program representatives have been invited to conferences and events across the nation to speak about it. To date, Father Philip has written and received more than $1.4 million in successful grant funding to support the program.
“I am pleased to accept the award on behalf of the Bearcat B.E.S.T. team, Amy Hildebrand, director; Leann Downs, Alaina Robbins and Philip Pisone, special educators; and Kathy Burd, instructional support,” said Father Philip. “I recall a conversation [Father Paul] and I had in my office about seven or eight years ago where I mentioned an idea I had. [His] ongoing support of the program that the idea became is deeply appreciated.”
Father Philip also expressed gratitude to the Saint Vincent community for its welcoming and hospitality to Bearcat B.E.S.T. students.
“Two years ago, when I met with Pat Hozella, at the time, director of the Bureau of Special Education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, she asked me to consider replicating this program at other colleges. Having visited Saint Vincent on occasions to observe, she recognized the unique charism of hospitality and welcome that is present here,” continued Father Philip. “I thank you for being a community worthy of that recognition.”
“Finally, I want to thank the entire Bearcat B.E.S.T team. Every day you struggle to eliminate the myth that our students’ families have been told since the day they were born – a myth of disability, of limitation and of the opportunities their children would never know. You rewrite that myth every day with the truth. The truth that being differently-abled does not mean being less.”
“So, Bearcat [B.E.S.T.] team, this award is yours,” Father Philip concluded.
Along with his extensive involvement in education, Father Philip is also the founder of the Gristmill General Store and the Basilica Gift Shop. Most recently, he has taken on the role of interim vice president for academic affairs and academic dean. He is a member of the Saint Vincent Archabbey Council of Seniors, program reviewer for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, reviewer for the Animal Behavior Society and a member of the board of directors for the Benedictine Military School in Savannah, GA.
He holds bachelor’s degrees in secondary education, economics, sports medicine (University of Pittsburgh) and philosophy (Saint Vincent College); master’s degrees in business administration (University of Pittsburgh), special education (University of Pittsburgh) and exercise science (California University of PA); and a doctorate in special education (West Virginia University). Father Philip also holds a master’s degree in scriptural theology and a Master of Divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in addition to post-graduate certifications in applied behavior analysis and children’s literature, both from the Pennsylvania State University.
PHOTO: Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., (Right) presents the 2021 Saint Vincent College Projektenmacher Award to Father Philip M. Kanfush, O.S.B., (Left)