Villa Maria’s 2018 Hall of Fame Dinner recognized and celebrated distinguished members of the Villa community.
The Fidelis Award was presented to Rosemarie Coghlan, long-time faculty member (36 years) and Dean of Students.
Four athletes or coaches were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Hurricanes sports:
- The late Leo Cullen P ’91, Track & Field Coach and founder of the VMA track program
- Anita D’Ascenzo Podles ’84, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball
- Jenn Durkin Oschell ’92, Field Hockey, Basketball, Lacrosse
- Mary Jo Reider Dougherty ’95, Field Hockey & Lacrosse
Dr. Leo Cullen
Dr. Leo Cullen is a part of the fabric of Villa Maria Academy athletics. He is the founder of both the cross country and track programs at the school. In 1988, Leo asked then principal, Sister Maria Veritas (who later became known as Sister Mary Kelly), if he could enter his daughter Joanne in a few meets and have her run as a representative of Villa. He agreed to pay the entry fees and even supplied the jersey. Sister Veritas, who was always thinking ahead, agreed, but only if Leo would invite other students to compete as well. That agreement fired the starting pistol for the Villa Maria track program.
Leo was born in Darby, PA, and was a proud graduate of Darby High School. As a student, Leo was the quintessential student athlete, carrying a stellar 4.0 average while becoming Darby’s #1 hurdler. After high school, Leo enrolled as a chemistry major at Temple University. He taught himself German, because at the time most of the advanced research in chemistry was in German. Upon graduation, Leo went to work at Wyeth and attended school at night to earn his PhD in chemistry. He would later become the Director of Research and Development at Wyeth, where he was part of a team that created hundreds of pharmaceutical cures. In 1997 Leo received the pharmaceutical industry’s Pole Vault Award (ironically named) for surpassing all industry standards.
Before coming to Villa Maria, Leo coached track at SS. Simon and Jude, where both his children Sean and Joanne competed. Together they won several archdiocesan championships. Later Leo took over both the indoor and outdoor track programs at Devon Prep. He also served on the Board of the Del Val Indoor Track League.
In 1988 he came to Villa Maria to start the indoor track team. In 1989 he founded both the cross country program and the outdoor track team, where he had his son Sean work as his assistant. Leo’s teams quickly became standouts not only in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA), but also in the Southern Chester County League (SCCL). In 1989 both the cross country and track teams claimed the AACA championship. In 1991 the track team finished 2nd in the SCCL, and the 4 x 100 relay won the scholastic division of the prestigious Penn Relays. 1994 proved to be a banner year for Villa as they claimed the AACA cross country championship, the SCCL championship, the District 1 championship, and were PIAA State runners up. In 1997 Leo was named Philadelphia Inquirer Cross Country Coach of the Year and the Maxwell Scholastic Coach of the Year.
Leo’s greatest accomplishment is his beautiful family. He and his wife Mary met the first day of band camp at Temple University and were married for 35 years. He coached both his son Sean and his daughter Joanne Cullen Metzger ’91 in both grade school and high school. He passed his passion for track onto both his children and through them to his granddaughter Allyson, who is a sophomore runner at Villa Maria.
Leo passed away on February 29, 2000. Every year since his death, the Villa Maria Academy Athletic Department presents the Leo Cullen Award to a senior student-athlete who exhibits the same courage, persistence and excellence in athletics that Leo modeled his entire life.
Jenn Durkin Oschell
Class of 1992
Jenn Durkin Oschell arrived at Villa Maria in 1988 and made an immediate positive impact on the school community. Being the youngest of Tim and Christine’s ten children, Jenn learned from an early age not only how to survive, but also how to thrive on big teams. She was a varsity field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse player during her time at Villa.
It didn’t take coach Maurene Polley long to recognize Jenn’s field hockey abilities; she named Jenn a starter on our championship field hockey team as a freshman. Jenn helped the Hurricanes to four consecutive AACA titles, a 1991 District Championship, and our first trip to the PIAA State Championship game. She was named team MVP in 1989 and 1990. She was a three-time AACA All-League selection, as well as a three-time All-Main Line Times and Suburban 1st Team All-Area selection. She was co-captain of the 1991 squad. In 1990, Jenn captured the silver medal in the Junior Olympic Games and was an Olympic Developmental Camp selection.
In lacrosse Jenn enjoyed similar success. She was a four year starter on the team and was named co-captain her senior year. She helped the lax Hurricanes to AACA championships in 1991 and 1992. She was named to the Main Line Times and Suburban All-Area teams in 1990 and 1992. Jenn suffered a season-ending injury in the beginning of her junior season, which in all likelihood kept her from those teams in 1991.
Jenn also used her leadership skills as a four-year member of the Student Council, being elected Vice President of the Executive Council in her senior year. She was also a four-year member of the Athletic Association. Upon graduation from Villa Maria, Jenn took her immense talents as a student and an athlete to Lafayette College in Easton, PA. There Jenn continued her field hockey career as a four year starter for the Leopards, as well as team co-captain in her senior year. During her tenure, Lafayette was a three year Patriot League Champion. Jenn was the team’s leading scorer in 1993 and 1994. In 1995, Jenn was named to the Mideast Region All-American Team, and was also named Patriot League Tournament MVP.
With her playing days behind her, Jenn wanted to give back to the game, so she returned to Villa in 1996 to serve as Maurene Polley’s assistant coach. She spent five years as an assistant coach at Villanova University. During that time, Jenn also served as assistant lacrosse coach at Nova for two seasons. In 2004 Jenn was named Head Field Hockey coach at Sacred Heart Academy.
Jenn and Frank, her husband of 19 years, met while they both were outstanding students and athletes at Villa Maria and Malvern Prep respectively. Jenn was actually a field hockey and basketball teammate with her future sisters-in-law Jen Oschell Ferri ’89 and Jeanne Oschell Fanelli ’89. Jenn and Frank live in Phoenixville where they are raising sons Fran, Charlie, and Will. Jenn serves as athletic director at her parish, St. Basil. Her greatest joy in life is spending time with her family, especially watching her sons play basketball and baseball.
Fidelis is a Latin word that means faithful or loyal. There is no greater example of faithfulness to the mission of Villa Maria Academy than Rosemarie Coghlan. Rose was a Dean of Students, English teacher, dance chaperone, Children of Mary moderator, Literary Magazine moderator, Safety Committee chair, and most of all a loyal advocate for thousands of Villa Maria students.
Rosemarie Coghlan is an Archbishop Prendergast graduate who holds B.A. in English from Chestnut Hill College, an M.A. in English from Villanova, and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from St. Joseph’s University. Rose has been professionally published as well. In 1998 in Momentum, a journal of the NCEA, she wrote “Leading Women.” In 2000 she published “Teaching of Anti-Violent Strategies within the English Classroom” in English Journal, and in 2004 she contributed a chapter in the NCTE publication A Curriculum of Peace.
Rose came to Villa Maria in 1983 after teaching at St. Hubert’s High School, Delaware County Community College, and the West Chester School District. Once she arrived she threw herself head on into the Villa community. In addition to her teaching load, she worked on the steering committee of two Middle States evaluations, chaired the committee that designed the school’s Academic Honesty Policy, and designed and implemented the invaluable senior Capstone experience. In 2017, Rose designed and launched the first Scholars’ Seminar for our top freshman students. This class is designed to challenge our scholarship students and will culminate in their senior Capstone research project.
Rose has said that “the lifelong friends she has made at Villa have been a real blessing in her life”. Professionally, working in an environment that allowed her to help prepare young women to be confident, ethical, empathetic, intelligent, Christian leaders and citizens has given her great purpose. But her greatest purpose and joy come from her family. Rose shared a 32 year marriage with her husband Chic, and together they raised two children, Raymond and Brigid. She has celebrated adding her daughter-in-law Alicia and son-in-law Christian to her family. Today she shares her wisdom with her grandchildren Bailey, Mairin, Lanty and Claire Rose.
In the beginning of each school year, the Villa students take a pledge about passing on the traditions of the school. Without hesitation, Rosemarie Coghlan has “transmitted the traditions of Villa Maria not less nor worse, but greater and more beautiful” than they were passed onto her.
Anita D’Ascenzo Podles
Class of 1984
Anita D’Ascenzo Podles ’84 was in some ways a typical Villa Maria athlete of the early 1980’s, but in many ways, was in a class by herself. Typical in that she played three varsity sports; atypical in that she starred in all three of them. Former Athletic Director and Coach, Maurene Polley, described Anita as “an energetic, enthusiastic and extremely aggressive athlete who played hard every minute of every game. She was a versatile player whose presence was felt both defensively and offensively in all three sports.” Anita played varsity field hockey, basketball and softball. Anita will tell you that she never played field hockey until she entered Villa in the fall of 1980. Actually, her mother “forced” her to attend field hockey camp that summer. Not only did she attend but she was named the week’s Most Improved player. She also fell in love with the sport that would help shape her life.
Anita played three years of varsity field hockey at Villa. She was an Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA) All-Star in both her junior and senior years. She was elected captain of the squad her senior year. During her four years at Villa, the Vimacats, as they were known then, won four consecutive league titles. In the winter Anita traded her hockey stick for a pair of high top sneakers when she made the basketball team. She was a four year varsity player in basketball and an AACA All-Star for three years. Anita was elected as captain in her senior year. In basketball, the Vimacats captured three league titles during Anita’s four years. In the spring, Anita played on the softball team where she was a varsity starter and AACA All-Star for four years. She also was a key member of the Athletic Association where she served as President her senior year.
Upon graduation, Anita enrolled at Villanova University where she starred in field hockey. She led the Wildcats in scoring in both her junior and senior years. After college, Anita began a highly successful coaching career. She began as a coaching intern at St. Lawrence University and then became the head field hockey coach at Fairfield University. In 1989, under new head coach Anita, Fairfield played a full Division I schedule for the first time in school history. During her tenure at Fairfield, she helped one of her players, Mary Beth Combs, win the NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Anita has always believed in giving back to her sport and to women’s sports in general. She currently works as a field hockey umpire and she chairs the Baltimore Board of Women’s Sports. She has coached club field hockey teams and most importantly, she returned to her alma mater to work the VMA Field Hockey Camp every summer from 1984-2016. She says she came back to figure out the secret to Maurene Polley’s success.
Anita lives in Phoenix, Maryland with her husband Tom and her four children. Her oldest son, John, is a cross country and track runner at St. Joseph University and her daughter, Claire, is a freshman at St. Joseph following in her brother’s footsteps as a runner. Her sons Tommy and Andrew are in high school. Anita works at Loyola University in the Recreational Sports Department and in Campus Ministry. She is an avid runner, recreational tennis player, and health-conscious cook.
Mary Jo Reider Dougherty
Class of 1995
Mary Jo Reider Dougherty graduated from Villa Maria Academy in 1995. While a student, Mary Jo starred in both field hockey and lacrosse. Opponents may have been fooled by her quiet demeanor and small stature, but Mary Jo was an intense, terrific athlete. In field hockey, Mary Jo led the team that won back-to-back Athletic Association of Catholic Academies (AACA) championships, District I championships, and PIAA State championships in 1993 and 1994. She was named an AACA All-Star in both her junior and senior years. In her senior year, Mary Jo led the team in scoring, was named to the All-State Team, All- Main Line Team, and the All-Chester County Team. She was also named to the 1994 National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association (NFHCA) All-America Team. When asked to describe Mary Jo, her former coach, Maurene Polley, said, “Mary Jo was a dynamic field hockey player. She was the total package…a real game changer. She could score the winning goal or steal the ball at a critical time. She was an integral part of our two state championships.” Outside of Villa, Mary Jo participated in the Junior Olympics, the Olympic Festival team and the Keystone State games.
Mary Jo enjoyed similar success on the lacrosse field where she was named the MVP of the squad her senior year. In lacrosse, Mary Jo was an AACA All-Star, a member of both the All-Main Line Team and the All-Chester County Team.
As evidenced by her membership in the National Honor Society, Mary Jo was a fine student as well. At the conclusion of her senior field hockey season, Mary Jo received a full field hockey scholarship to continue both her academic and athletic careers at Duke University.
As a Duke Blue Devil, Mary Jo continued her winning ways. The Duke team was nationally ranked during Mary Jo’s entire tenure. While at Duke, she was named to the ACC All-Tournament Team in both 1995 and 1998. In her junior and senior seasons Mary Jo made the ACC Honor Roll. In 1998 she was a member of the All-ACC Team and in all four years she was an All-South Region All-American. She graduated from Duke in 1999 with a degree in biological anthropology and anatomy. She continued to Drexel University where she earned her M.S. in Health Science and Physician Assistant. Currently Mary Jo works as a Physician Assistant and as a cheerleader at her sons’ sporting events. She lives in Virginia
Beach with her husband, John, and their three sons Aiden, Bryce, and Connor.