In the early 1990s, the Reverend Tim Scully and other leaders at the University of Notre Dame decided that if Catholic elementary and secondary schools were going to survive and prosper in the future they would need help from Catholic colleges. In 1993 Scully founded the Alliance for Catholic Education, which recruits and trains about 90 new top-ranked college graduates each year to serve as teachers for two years in an underresourced Catholic school. During summers, the 180 active ACE participants undergo intensive training and study on the Notre Dame campus, and at the end of their two-year teaching commitment more than 90 percent emerge with a no-cost master’s degree in education. During their two years as a classroom instructor they live with other ACE students in group houses provided by their local Catholic diocese—which allows sharing of work experience and knowledge, along with emotional support and spiritual growth. Fully 82 percent of ACE graduates continue to serve as educators after their two-year commitment is up, and 75 percent are still working in education five years out.
The Alliance for Catholic Education has been built on the support of the University of Notre Dame and myriad individual donors like Chicago investor John Jordan, who designated the program as one of the beneficiaries of the $150 million he has given the university in recent years. In the cities where it sends its teachers, ACE also encourages donors to support local schools. An example would be the $1 million Ralph and Trish Nagel donated to Catholic schools in their hometown of Denver, where in many of the classrooms 90 percent of the children live at the poverty level. The most enduring supporters of ACE have been Minnesota businessman Jack Remick and his wife, Mary Ann, whose latest gift of many was a 2014 donation of $10 million. (See 2008 entry.)
ACE has sent more than 1,300 teachers to serve in high-need schools throughout the United States. The group has recently added to its offerings professional and consulting services to help strengthen local Catholic schools. The Alliance’s success has inspired 12 other Catholic colleges to launch similar teacher-training programs, which under the umbrella of the University Consortium for Catholic Education annually instruct and send forth 400 much-needed teachers.