By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
ADDISON – Surrounded by friends, family and supporters, Robert Baillargeon accepted The Catholic Foundation 2013 Award at the foundation’s annual award dinner on Jan. 18.
A crowd of 955 people, including Baillargeon’s sister, Louise, who made the trip from Canada, paid tribute to the longtime community volunteer during a dinner and celebration at the Hotel Inter- Continental Dallas. In accepting the award, Baillargeon said he was humbled and honored.
“I want to thank God for the many ways he has blessed me and my family,” Baillargeon said. “I am humbled to receive this award from The Catholic Foundation. I appreciate all the people in my life —my parents, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart —who helped me along the way.”
Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Baillargeon grew up in a devout Catholic environment and received his education at a French inner-city school run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Upon graduation, Baillargeon was approached by several U.S. professional baseball teams, and ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1957. In 1962, Baillargeon married Margaret Berrigan and his baseball career brought them to Texas. He eventually entered the automobile industry, opening a Ford dealership in Richardson in 1980.
Citing his own positive experience in inner-city Catholic schools, Baillargeon said he has a special place in his heart for inner-city schools in the Diocese of Dallas. He is a founding trustee of John Paul II High School in Plano and has been actively involved with Jesuit College Preparatory School and the Dave Fox Inner-City Schools Fundraising Campaign. A supporter of seminaries and vocations, Baillargeon has served on the finance committee of Holy Trinity Seminary and worked with the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House and the Serra Club of North Central Dallas. He also is a Knight of Malta. A former trustee on The Catholic Foundation board, Baillargeon is a donor and member of The Catholic Foundation Legacy Circle.
“My years as a trustee for the foundation were some of the most very rewarding years in my life,” Baillargeon said. “The Catholic Foundation helps people who want to be generous to funnel their treasure and talent to help others.” In introducing Baillargeon to the crowd, Auxiliary Bishop Mark J. Seitz said he counted his relationship with the Baillargeon family as one of the true blessings of his life.
“The more I came to know the Baillargeon family, the more I came to see that this faith they possessed was not just for show,” Bishop Seitz said. “They were serious about faith in a way that it was incorporated to literally everything they did.”
Baillargeon and his late wife, Margaret, also devoted themselves to the pro-life movement, and it remains one of many Catholic initiatives he continues to champion with his wife, Colleen Parro Baillargeon. After accepting the award, Baillargeon said the banquet was not just a celebration of his achievements, but of everyone who has applied their gifts and talents to the benefit of others.
“You make the work of The Catholic Foundation possible,” he said. “What you are, is God’s gift to you; what you become, is a gift back to God.”
Also during the foundation banquet, Ursuline Academy junior Faith Noah accepted The Catholic Foundation’s 2013 Scholars Award.
Noah has been active in a number of leadership and philanthropic roles at Ursuline Academy, such as serving as president of the National Charity League and captain of the JV lacrosse team as well as participating in Mission: True Beauty, Angel for a Day, Down Syndrome Guild, Ursuline Fights Cancer Club, Girls Assisting Global Awareness Club and Jonathan’s Place. Noah has received numerous academic awards.
“My experience in Catholic schools has drastically impacted the person I am today,” Noah said. “While growing intellectually and spiritually, I receive countless opportunities to encounter God. This, I believe, is the true meaning of a Catholic education: experiencing God each and every day.”