If you would like to be part of the newly formed alumni association please attend our meetings. If you have any questions feel free to contact Beth Metz, treasurer at firstname.lastname@example.org or association president Mary Ellen McNellie at email@example.com
Meet the Alumni Association Board Members:
President Mary Ellen McNellie
Vice President Eric Polito
Treasurer Beth Metz
Secretary Sarah McGuinness
Mary Ellen McNellie, President
Hi, fellow VC alums! I am Mary Ellen Stubler McNellie, class of 1970, president of the newly formed Alumni Association at Venango Catholic (Venango Christian in my day!) Each of you is automatically a member of this organization, and my personal goal is to invite all of us to connect to each other through our stories of our alma mater and the years beyond. I have been asked to share some information about myself for those who don’t know me. I hope you are able to find something that you can connect with…even something as simple as a shared birthday!
I was born 7/24/52 in Oil City hospital (no longer there!), the oldest of 4 siblings: Jane Stubler Francis (’71), Chris Stubler Zagar (’73), Bob (Spid) Stubler (’74), and Suzy Stubler Simmons (’78). We have, sadly, buried our amazing parents, Chuck and Ellie Stubler, in the past 12 years. They were huge supporters of Catholic education in general, and St. Stephen and VC in particular, from whose hallowed halls we all graduated! Thanks be to God, both schools are still open, educating a new generation of students, who will soon join our ranks as VC grads.
I graduated in 1974 from Ohio Dominican College (now University!) in Columbus, Ohio, with a degree in religious education, thanks to the enthusiasm and mentoring of my Scripture professor, Sr. Jeanette Stang, now 89, to whom I continue to turn for advice and friendship. I taught my first year at St. Mary’s in German Village, where I had a little 5th grader, Carol Lynch, who has faithfully kept in touch with me for the past 43 years! I married my first high school boyfriend, Tom McNellie (’68), in 1975 and moved back to Oil City, where we both taught at St. Stephen School for 2 years. We then moved with our principal, Sr. Anne McGreevey, to open a new Catholic elementary school, All Saints Interparochial, in Wickliffe, Ohio, where I taught for 3 years.(Tom was teaching at a nearby high school.) Meanwhile, Tom’s parents had retired to Florida and we decided it would be great to get out of the cold winters so we sent our resumes, only to discover that my mentor, Sr. Jeanette, had moved there and was the Director of the Office of Education for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, where we moved in 1980. (Small world, huh?) Tom taught social studies (like his mentor, Dr. Ruby) at St. Pete Catholic, while I went to St. Jude Elementary to teach religion to 200 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. We adopted our oldest daughter, Beth Marie McNellie Metz (‘2000) in 1982, after 7 years of infertility and emergency surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy (her due date was the exact same day as my due date from our first baby who died! Isn’t God amazing??) Beth had the largest baby shower on record with all 200 of my students bringing gifts. One of the highlights was her baptism at a school Mass in St. Jude Cathedral with all 500+ students attending! When Beth started kindergarten, I was hired at Transfiguration School but underwent my own surprising transformation, after 13 years of infertility: three children in 3 years! Katie McNellie Beck (’06), followed by Sarah McNellie (’08), and Michael McNellie (’09)! I then taught music at St. Jerome preschool for 3 years, which was definitely the most “fun” job I have ever had! Three and four- year olds are hysterical! I was also the folk music choir director at St. Cecelia’s Catholic Church in Clearwater for 10 years, which was a wonderful part time job, developing my love of music and an opportunity to make life-long friends. (Interestingly, the pastor, Fr. Cipell, was a White Father who had known and loved Vic Pilewski from Oil City in seminary, and St. Cecelia’s Director of Religious Education had graduated from Ohio Dominican College a few years after I did! So many “co-incidences” and connections!) In future newsletters I’ll share our story of how we returned from Florida after 16 years, but Tom has now been teaching social studies at VC for 22 years, fulfilling his dream, and I was blessed to teach Morality, Scripture, and Handbells at VC for 18 years, until God called me to become the Catholic Chaplain at Polk Center, a state institution for the mentally disabled, 2 years ago! (Yes! It is also still open!) During my VC years, we opened our home to 9 different exchange students over 8 years and one foster child (’11) for 3 years. We have completely immersed ourselves in VC for 22 years and counting, and are thrilled that our oldest granddaughter, Mackenzie Marie Metz, is presently a sophomore at our beloved alma mater. I continue to volunteer at VC, playing for the Friday liturgies, stuffing envelopes when necessary, and going to countless meetings to ensure her future! Every stitch I put into my huge Nativity crosstitch project is “a prayer for VC and everyone who has ever been connected in any way with this amazing school”…which means each of you! So welcome to our Alumni Association! Look for future installments from Tom, Cindy Eckert (’71) and me-the “3 Musketeers”-as we share with all of you the amazing VC story we have told to seniors at their final school retreat for many years. Hopefully, it will inspire you to send us your awesome stories as well!
Eric Polito, Vice President
Eric Polito was born on February 15th, 1972 and grew up in Franklin, PA. He attended elementary school at St. Patrick’s in Franklin, PA and high school at Venango Christian in Oil City, PA. He had a mix of reasons for joining the Navy. His primary reason was that his family was a military family. Joining the military was all he ever wanted to do. Even though both of his parents had joined the Air Force, he chose to forge his own path and join the Navy. Hands on electrical work was what he was looking for in a job, and the Navy provided this opportunity outside of a formal sit down school.
He initially enlisted on active duty in October 1990 prior to graduating High School and attending 8 week basic training in San Diego, CA on July 14th 1991, followed by Electrical Theory School from October 1991 to December 1991 in San Diego, CA. Upon finishing Electrical Theory School he reported to EM ‘A’ School in December 1991 in Great Lakes, IL and graduated from there in June 1992 before reporting to USS FORRESTAL (CV-59) in Pensacola, FL. He served aboard USS FORRESTAL until she decommissioned in 1993, and subsequently reported to USS SAGINAW (LST-1188) in Little Creek, VA. While on board he was promoted to 3rd class Petty Officer. The USS SAGINAW (LST-1188) decommissioned in 1994 and he then was assigned to USS YORKTOWN (CG-48) which was on a Mediterranean cruise at the time. So in order to reach the ship he had to fly to Italy and was then flown in by a MH-60 helicopter to the USS YORKTOWN while underway. While on board he visited France, Greece, Spain and Italy, where he had the opportunity to attend mass presided over by Pope John Paul II whom he also got to meet. This was his last tour while on active duty and he separated from active duty in July 1995. After leaving active duty, he then enlisted in the USNR in September 1995 performing all of his reserve duty, to the present day, at NOSC Erie, PA. He was assigned to ACB-2 Det. 305 Unit from 1999 – 2013. During his tenure he performed many duties including: eval coordinator, unit career counselor, LPO and LCPO. He was promoted to 2nd class Petty officer in 2002 and to 1st class Petty Officer in 2006. He completed one deployment from 2008 May – 2009 February to Al Kut, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There he served as Camp Duty Electrician, supervising and planning on-site projects for Camp Delta and layouts for building of material lists for off-site projects. He was selected to Chief Petty Officer in July FY-10. Towards the end of 2013, he was assigned to Operational Support Unit as the Senior Enlisted Leader. While serving with OSU, his active duty assignments were at the Naval Shipyard Repair Facility in Yokosuka, Japan, where he was the Technical Support Electrician for the 7th Fleet. He remained with OSU until the end of his enlistment time. He was selected to Senior Chief petty Officer in April FY-15. In July 2015, Eric enrolled with the Senior Enlisted Academy (SEA). Over a nine-week period, he completed several chapters in preparation for the final classes and exams. He attended the SEA in Newport, RI, to complete the final classes and exams and graduated on September 4, 2015. Eric retired from the Navy honorably on November 1, 2017, and is still active within the Chief Petty Officerciation.
Eric currently works as a quality control supervisor with RENOVEX, a subsidiary of Blue Rhino, in a facility that refurbishes 20lb propane cylinders. He is married to Dawn Polito and they have two children, Amelia, 8, and Leah, 3. Before he and his wife had children, they danced competitively in country western couples dancing from 1999-2005, performing styles such as the two-step, polka, swing, cha-cha and waltz. In 2004, they competed in a World Championship event where they took first place in three of their dances and 2nd place overall in Nashville, TN. He also enjoys riding his motorcycle when he can find the time, and finds family time extremely important.
Beth Metz, Treasurer
Hello Alum! My name is Beth McNellie Metz, I am the treasurer for the VCAA, and I am a second generation graduate of Venango Catholic High School! My parents, Mary Ellen Stubler McNellie (’70) and Thomas McNellie (’68), are both alumni from our great school, and now, I am proud to say that my oldest daughter Mackenzie Metz (third generation Viking!) is a sophomore there and will graduate in 2020!
My journey to VC started in New York, where my birthmother lived when she found out she was pregnant. She was deaf and felt that she could not take care of me, so before I was born, her mother brought her (and me!) to St. Petersburg, Florida, to put me up for adoption. I was born on January 6, 1982; two days later I went home as a McNellie and six months later I was legally adopted. My parents have always been very open and supportive with me about my adoption and they still wish me a “Happy Adoption Day” every June 14th!
I grew up in Florida and attended a public elementary school and middle school. When I was in eighth grade, my parents experienced a calling from God to move back to their home town of Oil City. After a lot of consideration and prayer they decided to move our family to Pennsylvania. As a thirteen year old, this was hard for me to understand and all I could see was that they were moving me away from my friends the summer before I was going to start high school. I was also not happy about having to wear a uniform for the first time in my life and when the brown, plaid skirts, which were almost down to my ankles, came in the mail, I vowed that, “I would not being wearing those and I was moving back to Florida!” Thankfully, I was told that #1) I wasn’t going anywhere and #2) the skirts came unhemmed!
Since moving back to FL on my own wasn’t an option, I started my freshman year at VC (wearing the skirt!) and joined the volleyball team. I had tried out for the volleyball team at my middle school and hadn’t made it so this was an amazing opportunity for me. I loved volleyball, being part of a team helped me make new friends and it gave me self-confidence which I hadn’t had a lot of previously. I ended up playing volleyball and softball for 4 years, basketball for 2, and swimming for 1; GO VIKINGS!! During my time at VC I also participated in multiple plays and was voted Prom Queen my senior year!
The summer after I graduated I met my husband, Justin, and five short years later we were married in a small ceremony that was held in my parent’s home. We have two beautiful daughters, Mackenzie (A sophomore at VC) and Avery (A 5th grader at St. Stephen School). Justin worked as a driller on an oil rig which allowed me to be a stay at home mom while the girls were little, but in June of 2010 our lives changed when with no warning Justin had a grand mal seizure. He was rushed to the hospital where they told us that a blood vessel had burst in his brain and they needed to transfer him to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. After being in the neurological continuous care unit for 5 days he was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the left frontal lobe of his brain. Basically, there was an abnormal cluster of blood vessels that had six ways for blood to get in and only three ways for the blood to get out, which had caused the bleed. He went through two gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgeries to get rid of the malformation and reduce the risk of another bleed. It took six years for the surgeries to completely shrink the AVM and during this time he was not allowed to return to work. Justin is not one to sit around and do nothing, so during his “time off” he earned a degree in welding and got his crane operators license. He was cleared by his neurologists in August of 2016 and now enjoys working as a crane operator!
When Justin was not able to return to work after his seizure, I went to work for Orchard Brands, an inbound telephone sales company. I did not expect to get anything out of this job, it was just something to earn money but within two years I was managing a team of 20-40 sales and customer service representatives and was required to take part in many different aspects of the business, like human resources, training, and administrative work. I really enjoyed how competitive and fast paced the job was and I loved the people I worked with! Unfortunately, in April of 2015, Orchard Brands announced they were closing our center in June and around 150 people would be losing their jobs to their center in the Philippines. Justin was still not cleared for work, so I was the only one working and it seemed like a devastating blow. I was offered a position in one of their two other centers but either one would be over an hour commute each way. Justin and I had many conversations and prayed about what to do and I kept coming back to the same idea. Go back to school and get a degree. It was a crazy idea, and it felt irresponsible to choose not to earn an income, but, I felt that this was the right decision. Justin and my family were very supportive, so in October of 2015, I went back to school to earn my degree in business. Less than a year after Orchard Brands closed the employees were approved for the Trade Act. This program helps people who lost their jobs due to a shift in production to foreign countries, by paying for schooling and they will also pay you an allowance while you’re attending school. God works in mysterious ways!! So in June of 2018 I will earn my bachelors in business and then be continuing on to get my MBA!!
Before I was even born, God had a plan for my life, just like he has a plan for VC, and just like he has a plan for you! One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my life, thus far, is to trust in God’s plan and when it seems the hardest, that is when I need to trust in him the most! I know that everything happens for a reason and would love to hear your stories about how you have seen God’s plan for your life unfold!
Sarah McGuinness, Secretary
Sarah McGuinness, Class 0f 2011, graduated from Slippery Rock University with a Bachelor of Science in geology. After participating in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for undergraduates, she published an abstract and presented at the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) 2014 national meeting in Vancouver, Canada. Since graduation, Sarah has been employed by the Venango County Regional Planning Commission, first as Planner I and now as GIS Planner and Floodplain Administrator. She became a certified floodplain manager in the summer of 2016 and remains an active member of the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM). Also an active member of the Pittsburgh Geological Society, Sarah was the exhibits committee co-chair for the Northeast-North Central GSA meeting they in the spring of 2017. She has been a member of the alumni association since its recent revival.