MIDDLETOWN – Mater Dei’s most famous graduate, Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News, appeared at the Save the Seraphs Gala festive fundraiser Saturday night at the Shore Casino in Atlantic Highlands.
Brian Williams told The Two River Times, “This is Mater Dei. It’s been a very, very important part of my life. I had four great years here. I did not know it then, but it was the last degree I’d ever earn,” he said. “It’s a wonderful school, and it should be open for a long time, for everybody,” he added.
Williams, who attended with his wife Jane Stoddard, was warmly received and mingled with the crowd of 455 people. “He had a lot of friends he went to school with,” said fundraiser co-chair Maria Buzzanco. “He was happy to come back to the Shore Casino because he went to proms there. He was greeted with warm hugs. Everyone was telling him how much they support him as well, and thanked him for coming.”
It was the first public appearance of Williams since his suspension from NBC News.
As of Sunday morning, The Seraph Fund webpage announced it has raised nearly $900,000 towards its $1 million goal to remain open. The number is expected to go higher after last night’s event. “We are pretty close,” said Buzzanco. “I expect to have the final number this afternoon.”
By 6 p.m., Buzzanco said “I think we’re really close to a million.” A final figure could be available tonight or tomorrow morning, she said.
Elizabeth Wulfhorst, public relations chairwoman for the Save the Seraphs committee, said Sunday in a phone interview “If we’re not there by the end of today we’ll be there early this week.” Wulfhorst expected the gala would raise about $80,000. And once the million dollar mark was reached, the next step would be to reach out to the Diocese of Trenton to work on “our road map for the future of Mater Dei Prep.”
The event was an opportunity for a large number of graduates to reunite in honor of the High School. Joe Rapolla, Class of 1979, kept the dance floor packed with his band “The Perfect Square.” Friends moved freely about the Shore Casino, reminiscing about teachers they shared, how little everyone had changed, and lasting memories of their youth at the New Monmouth campus.
— This story was reported by Christina Johnson, Dawn Stout, John Burton and Muriel J. Smith
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