Cynthia [Caraffa] and Anthony Petrello, friends of Sacred Heart High School, recently received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. The Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service is given to individuals who have served with distinction in public life – in the political, cultural, or scientific sectors of society – and have shown a special commitment to seeking out informed opinions and thoughtful views. Recipients of this award share Woodrow Wilson’s steadfast belief in public discourse, scholarship, and the extension of the benefits of knowledge in the United States and around the world. Rather than basing policies and ideas on political or professional expediency, these leaders devote themselves to examining the historical background and long-term implications of important public policy issues. They encourage the free and open exchange of ideas that is the bedrock of our nation’s foundation.
Cynthia and Anthony Petrello are two dynamic individuals. Through their involvement in a number of worthy causes, they have become two of Houston’s leading advocates and most prolific philanthropists.
Two themes run strong through their giving – the arts and health care. As an actress, Mrs. Petrello has embraced support for the performing arts. She serves on the board of directors of Houston Grand Opera, Houston’s Alley Theatre, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Mr. Petrello is an accomplished business leader who has led a successful career with Nabors Industries, an oil drilling contract and equipment manufacturer with worldwide operations. Outside the boardroom, he has served as an advisory board member for Fund for Teachers and Theatre Under the Stars. Together, the Petrellos have chaired or hosted numerous fund-raising events for various causes raising millions of dollars.
Through their generosity to Houston’s world-class medical and health care institutions, the Petrellos have touched thousands of lives in Texas and beyond. Mrs. Petrello is Board member of the Periwinkle Foundation and is an active member of organizations like the Institute of Rehabilitation and Research and United Cerebral Palsy. Mr. Petrello serves as Chairman of the Finance Committee for the Board of Texas Children’s Hospital and as an Honorary Trustee of the Texas Heart Institute. The Petrellos have been instrumental in building the physical, mental, and emotional health of youth afflicted with injury and disease. Both are focused on ensuring that these children and teenagers have the support and resources needed to improve their bodies and minds, and to live life to their maximum potential.
Texas Children’s Hospital is one of the primary beneficiaries of the Petrellos’ generosity. They made one of the largest philanthropic commitments in the organization’s history to help establish the new Texas Children’s Neurological Research Institute. The facility combines clinical, educational, and research programs focused on children with mental or neurological disorders. Theirs will be a legacy not only of improving their fellow Texans’ health and well-being, but also of building Houson’s reputation as a national leader in medicine and culture.
The Petrellos’ generosity is not limited to Texas. Cynthia is a 1972 graduate of Sacred Heart High School. Over the last twenty years, Cynthia and her husband Anthony have given selflessly of themselves for the students of Sacred Heart. As a result of their generosity and commitment to Cynthia’s alma mater, a Women’s Studies Program was initiated in the early 1990’s with the goal of providing young women with the necessary tools to build their self-confidence and self esteem and ultimately lay the ground work for their future success.
Cynthia’s love of the Heart has continued throughout the years, with the establishment of the Tuttle-Carrafa Scholarship. As partners each year in the lives of countless students,, their educational partnership has afforded over one hundred young women the richness of a strong, value based Catholic education.
In 2006, looking to again expand the impact of the Caraffa Women’s Studies program, Sacred Heart partnered with Cynthia to establish the Carrafa-Petrello Healthcare program. This cooperative learning experience between Sacred Heart High School and St. Mary’s Hospital affords students the opportunity to explore the healthcare profession through an in-class curriculum supported by field work, thus allowing students to learn firsthand the rewards and challenges of the healthcare profession.
Cynthia’s love of Sacred Heart, but more importantly her and Anthony’s commitment to our students is an example of how “we can make a living by what we get.” For Anthony and Cynthia it is truly that they make a life by their selflessness and genuine concern for the needs of others.