I met the Rev. Virgil Cordano in the summer of 1998. It was a brief meeting welcoming me to Santa Barbara, he offering to help me in any way he could. That was Father Virgil’s life, a life of offering to help others and then always, always following through.
To anyone who knew him, Father Virgil could not help but become a central figure, a guide, a mentor and, in the long view, a saint. My memories, though admittedly faded, blurred by the passage of time and molded by the benefit of retrospect, are nothing but fond, and they are filled with the kind of meaning only truly great men offer.
Father Virgil was an intellect, earning his doctorate from the Catholic University of America. But he was not an arrogant intellectual. One would never guess the depth of his knowledge or scholarly understanding of and appreciation for scripture. His homilies were simple, to the point and deeply, personally touching. Father Virgil’s ability to speak to every man changed lives.
His life was, in a word, remarkable, and the Santa Barbara community is infinitely better that the majority of his life was spent here. Father Virgil made Santa Barbara a better place to live. He made Santa Barbarians better people. I am happy to count myself among those.
It is fitting that, as we approach the fifth anniversary of Father Virgil’s death, an award has been created in his honor celebrating Santa Barbarians who personify the remarkable life he led. On Jan. 17, the first, Father Virgil Remarkable Life Award will be presented to Betty and Stan Hatch, two of Santa Barbara’s finest.
Life Chronicles, an organization that earned Father Virgil’s undying respect and appreciation, will present the first award at a dinner that will celebrate Father Virgil as well as the incredible contributions made by Stan and Betty Hatch to the Santa Barbara community.
The limitations of this column will not allow me to fully capture the width and breadth of Stan and Betty’s impact on this community. However, anyone who knows them is keenly aware that both can stand shoulder to shoulder with Father Virgil.
Betty’s list of causes reads like a philanthropist’s guide to giving selflessly and endlessly. Her contributions include commitments to education, leadership, women’s issues and, perhaps most importantly and significantly, self-esteem. Literally millions have been touched by her tireless dedication to those things she holds dear.
Stan’s contributions are equally impressive, guiding local, state, national and international organizations to embrace compassion, understanding and a vision of a future that one can easily see embodied in the life of Father Virgil. No words here can adequately capture the extent of Stan’s impact on this community. Professionally, personally and philanthropically, his legacy is both enduring and profound.
It is fitting, appropriate and essential that the Santa Barbara community take pause and celebrate the lives of these two giants in our community. It is fitting, too, that they will be the first recipients of an award given to honor and memorialize a man whose own impact still echoes across the community.
The Father Virgil Remarkable Life Award will be presented to Stan and Betty Hatch at a dinner to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17 at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. For ticket information, call Life Chronicles at 805.682.3411.