first_img[singlepic id=1076 w= h= float=none]There was no evidence of controversy when one of Mater Dei’s most famous graduates, Brian Williams, and his wife Jane Stoddard, attended the Save the Seraphs Gala Saturday night at the Shore Casino to benefit the high school.If anything, many people who were there were happy to see him and said his presence brought the school national attention.“Brian’s generosity and support of the Mater Dei community is fantastic and getting us closer to our goals,” said Joan Gotti of Rumson, of the Class of ’78.In his first public appearance since being suspended from NBC News, Williams was his old self. He was charming, friendly, and eager to renew friendships with former classmates, and obviously happy to be with families and friends with whom he shared many good times between 1974 and 1977.Friends and fans wanted to shake his hand and tell him they were happy he was there.Eager to acknowledge everyone who tried to crowd around, Williams, who few knew was attending the event, smiled broadly and shook his head at one alumni who held out his tie, flipped it upside down, and asked if the newscaster would sign it sometime during the night.Williams received a standing ovation after Gerry Harper, Class of ’71, whose family was the main sponsor of the event, gave a speech and then thanked Williams for coming and expressed support for him personally and “from the entire Mater Dei family.”And Williams had strong praise for his former high school. “This is Mater Dei. It’s been a very, very important part of my life,” he told The Two River Times at the event. “I had four great years here. I did not know it then, but it was the last degree I’d ever earn in my life.” Although Williams attended Brookdale Community College, he accepted an offer to pursue his journalism career before earning an associate’s degree and never continued higher education following almost immediate success on television.Before being pulled away by yet more attendees who wanted to talk to him, Williams said, “It’s a wonderful school, and it should be open for a long time, for everybody. I feel I was very fortunate I was able to go here. It was great.”Those in attendance only reaped praise on the Mater Dei alum.Williams attendance, as reported exclusively on the Two River Times website – – captured the attention of the national media because it was his first public sighting since his suspension.“The fact that so many news organizations picked it up, it gave us quite a bit of exposure,” said Little Silver resident Kathy Flood Cashes, Class of ’73. “It gave us national attention,” having Williams appear, to offer his support for his high school, she said, “for this little school that could.”Cashes hadn’t been aware of Williams’ intention to come to the event and was happily surprised. “When he walked in the door, I was like ‘Oh my God!’” she said. His support was certainly welcomed, she added.“It shows the spirit of the school,” she added.Chip Robertson, Class of ’78 who now lives in Cresskill, came south for the event.“It was an amazing gathering of our Mater Dei family,” said Robertson. “Hard times are a true test of family ties and this one is unbreakable. Special thanks to Brian Williams for his amazing show of love and support.”Joseph Buzzanco, who is now Red Bank dentist, gave Williams credit for showing his support for his alma mater, given the shadow Williams had been under for the last month.“I got to give it to Brian,” Buzzanco said. “It couldn’t have been easy for him to come out that night. Being in the business he understood it would draw attention.”And attention it did draw, which likely helped with the efforts to save the school, Buzzanco said.“Obviously, it had a very positive effect,” he said.“I think it was as much fun for him as it was for us,” Buzzanco added.Joe Rapolla was equally pleased.“It was great to see Brian there and so many of our friends willing to show our support, which further demonstrates the depth of character of the MDP family,” said Rapolla of Oceanport, Class of ’79. His band, Joe Rapolla and the Perfect Square, donated their time and performed at the fundraiser.Williams was just one who made a “generous” donation to the fund,which is aimed at helping the school to open in September as a private, Catholic institution, financially and operationally separate from St. Mary’s parish. The Seraph’s Fund will operate as an endowment fund for the school with a separate Board of Trustees overseeing budgeting and development.For more information about The Seraph’s Fund and upcoming fundraising events or to make a donation visit — By Muriel J. Smith and John Burton. Several Two River Times staffers also contributed to this report.last_img

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