The Rockhurst High School National Alumni Association presented Rev. Jeffrey Putthoff, SJ, class of 1983, as the institution’s “Alumnus of the Year” at the annual Alumni Senior Luncheon on May 10, 2013. The ceremony was held in the school’s Loyola Center with over 300 guests in attendance, including this year’s graduated class of Seniors.
“I am honored by this award, but in so many ways it is not mine,” said Fr. Putthoff. “The gift of Jesuit education is not ours to keep. It should be something as “men for others” that we look to give away in our good deeds and the way we live for the greater glory of God. I learned that at Rockhurst. Every day, I hope to give back for others. This is the ideal embodied in the award that I hope my life has and will represent.”
Fr. Putthoff has been a Jesuit priest for 13 years and in the Society of Jesus for 25 years. He holds a bachelor’s in philosophy from Saint Louis University, a Masters in English from Loyola Chicago, a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Theology from Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, MA. He is studying at the University of Pennsylvania for a degree in Organizational Dynamics and is enrolled in the AKRI training program.
For the past 13 years, Fr. Putthoff has lived and worked in Camden, NJ, which holds the dubious distinction of having one of the highest crime rates for a metropolitan area of its size in the nation. In 2012, Camden set a new record for murders in a single year and has had over 700 people murdered within the city limits since 1995. Fr. Putthoff established Hopeworks in 2000 as a direct response to what he viewed as a youth crisis.
Hopeworks has received national recognition for enhancing the lives of inner-city Camden youth. The organization expands learning opportunities for young people and works to point the way to a future full of hope through teamwork. The heart of the program is technology training provided in a safe, respectful, and celebratory atmosphere. Students are trained on state-of-the art computer applications, web site design, geographic information services (GIS), computer networking and repair, and video. Hopeworks has reduced high school dropout rates in Camden, particularly for African-American and Hispanic youths, and created a foundation for them to good-paying jobs, business development, and further educational opportunities. Nearly 1,000 young people have benefitted from Hopeworks programming.
Fr. Putthoff has been recognized for his youth development work with the Camden Diocese Msgr. Michael Doyle and Msgr. Robert McDermott Award for Parish and Community Ministry (2009); the Campbell Soup Hometown Hero Award (2008); “Insuring The Future Award” (2007); induction into the New Jersey Technology Hall Of Fame (2007); the Camden County Martin Luther King, Jr Freedom Medal (2007); the CTCNET Toni Stone “Innovative Award” (2005); and the Robert T Johnson YMCA “Commitment To Youth Award” (2003).
Fr. Putthoff told the Seniors about a baby girl that he cared for during his ministry who was terribly disfigured and not given long to live. He noted that after the shock of first seeing the child, all he wanted to do was to hold and love her, which he did daily for a number of weeks. When the baby finally died, Fr. Putthoff said he felt tremendously blessed for having had such a special soul enter his life. Fr. Putthoff said his prayer for the great Class of 2013 was that someday they too would feel compelled to love someone who truly needed them and that they would feel the deep sense of God’s love in their lives through the experience that he had enjoyed.