NORWALK, Conn. - The Villanova University Alumni Association has selected two distinguished graduates, including one from Norwalk, to receive its highest accolades during the University’s Reunion Weekend, June 5-8 in Villanova, Pa.
Norwalk’s Rosa M. Gatti, Class of 1972, will be presented with the 2014 St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal. A trailblazer for women in the sports industry, Gatti had a remarkable 33-year career at ESPN.
Taylor Henderson, Class of 2005, will be awarded the VUAA’s Young Alumni Medal. Henderson accomplished his goal of building a Habitat for Humanity home on every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica, before the age of 30.
After graduating from Villanova in 1972 with a bachelor of arts in modern languages, Gatti began her career as an administrative assistant in Villanova’s athletic department. In 1974, at age 24, Gatti was hired as the University’s Sports Information Director, the first woman to hold this position at a major NCAA university. Gatti gained recognition in the college sports world, eventually holding the same position at Brown University for four years.
In 1980, ESPN, still in its first year of operation, hired Gatti to build the network’s communication department, establishing policies and best practices. In the mid-1980s, Gatti started to oversee ESPN’s human resources department where, in 1991, she founded ESPN’s Diversity Committee. Gatti went on to become senior vice president of communications counsel and corporate outreach, overseeing all of ESPN’s corporate outreach initiatives, including The V Foundation for Cancer Research, corporate giving, cause-marketing and volunteerism.
Gatti retired in 2013 as one of the most respected persons in the telecommunications and sports industries. Gatti served on the Villanova Board of Trustees for 10 years; is a member of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Advisory Council; and is a co-chair of the Communication and Media Society’s Senior Advisory Council.
Henderson earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Villanova in 2005. In August 2012, Henderson, a North America commercial executive at Dow Solar, achieved his Habitat for Humanity goal.
Henderson's passion for Habitat for Humanity stems from his time as a student at Villanova. During his sophomore year, he participated in a Habitat build in inner-city Philadelphia. As a senior, he participated in a Habitat Global Village build in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Since graduating from Villanova, Henderson has traveled to Borneo, Malaysia, Chile, New Zealand and Romania to build Habitat Homes.
In addition to these international efforts, Henderson, a resident of Denver, founded Denver Habitat Young Professionals in 2009 to share his passion for Habitat with others in the Denver area. He now serves on the board of Habitat Metro Denver's Corporate Leadership Team. Henderson is the former Chapter President of the VUAA in Denver. He currently participates in the Alumni Interview Program by meeting with prospective Villanova students.
The St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the VUAA, is conferred on alumni who best symbolize the spirit and legacy of St. Thomas. Alumni selected for the honor have achieved a level of distinction within their chosen fields or professions and have brought extraordinary benefit to the university and their communities.
The Villanova Young Alumni Medal is awarded to an alumnus who has reached a significant level of achievement in his/her profession and who is a model of the quality and caliber of today’s Villanova student. All young Alumni Medal winners are recent graduates having earned their degrees from the University within the past 10 years.