The Academy of the Sacred Heart and the Rosary Sacred Heart Alumnae Association are pleased to announce Ann-Marie "Ann" Heslin '95 as the recipient of the 2021 Mother Shannon Changemaker Award. Created in 2018, this award recognizes an alumna that has taken seriously our motto of "our girls change the world" by making a difference in her community outside of her dedication to Sacred Heart and has created positive change through her professional career or philanthropic endeavors in her community.
Ann Heslin is the Director of Special Philanthropy Events for Ochsner Health. Since beginning her career in 2001, she has raised more than $15 million as a fundraising professional and as a civic volunteer. Her career began at the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans in 2001. She was then appointed as Director of Zoo-To-Do Events for Audubon Nature Institute in 2006, Director of Development for the Stuart Hall School for Boys in 2011, and established her own events and consulting firm, Fabulous Fêtes in 2013.
Ann graduated from the Rosary in 1995, then went on to earn a B.A. in Political Science and French from Millsaps College, and a Masters Degree in Preservation Studies from the Tulane University School of Architecture. Ann was honored as a “Person to Watch" by New Orleans Magazine in 2015, and a “Volunteer Activist of the Year” in 2018 by the St. Elizabeth’s Guild. She has served in volunteer leadership roles for many local charitable organizations including Sacred Heart, American Cancer Society, Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater New Orleans Chapter, Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans, Children's Hospital New Orleans, Edible School Yard, Friends of City Park, Junior League of New Orleans, Louisiana Landmarks Society, New Orleans Opera Association, Notre Dame Seminary, Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, Save Our Cemeteries, Tulane University, and the Young Leadership Council.
Tell us about your current role.
I began my role at Ochsner Health in August 2019. We present four annual events to benefit our cardiology, pediatrics, neuroscience, and cancer programs and patients. I am responsible for coordinating these events: Red Tie Affair (John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute), Imagination Gala (Ochsner Hospital for Children), Colors of the Mind (Ochsner Neuroscience Institute), and Moonlight and Miracles Gala (Ochsner Cancer Institute). I work with a dedicated group of staff and volunteers who help to ensure the success of each event. Our events generate more than $2 million in revenue annually to benefit these service lines. I am so proud to be a part of the Ochsner team.
What does Sacred Heart mean to you?
Where do I start?! When I walked through the Rosary campus gates on my first day of Nursery in August 1980, I had no idea how Sacred Heart would shape me into the person that I am today. My parents believed in the importance of attaining a superior Catholic education and made many sacrifices in order to provide that to me. When I walked through the gates for the last time as a student on the night of my graduation in May 1995, I knew that the Rosary would be a place that I could always call home. It is so rewarding to see the current student body being educated with the same philosophies and traditions as it was when I was a student in the 1980s and 1990s. Faith, courage, and perseverance are the three qualities that I cherish most about my Rosary education. I truly believe that I was able to successfully heal from Stage III gynecological skin cancer this year because of my faith in God, courageously facing my diagnosis, and the perseverance to overcome it.
How did your Sacred Heart education get you to where you are professionally today?
I am the person I am today is because of my Rosary education. There is do doubt about it. Sacred Heart students are blessed to have role models such as Mary our Mother, St. Philippine Duchesne, Mother Sophie Barat, and countless alumna who have achieved high professional success. As a child of the Sacred Heart, we are taught from a very young age (mostly through Rosy Posy stories) to have a strong faith in God, to help the underserved populations in our community, to achieve academic success, to be courageous, and to persevere. In addition to honoring our many cherished traditions, the Rosary teaches its students that we can and will change the world. I am so proud to be a Rosary alumna. Our school continues to expand in ways that were unimaginable two decades ago. I cannot wait to see what the future brings for the Rosary.
Outside of academics, what about the Sacred Heart experience uniquely influenced who you are?
My parents were very involved in the Rosary community. They co-chaired the Auction, served on various committees, and volunteered for events. My late father served as Fathers' Club President and provided the dinner to the Congé set-up volunteers for many years. Through their volunteerism, my parents had so much fun and made many lifelong friends, all while supporting the Rosary community. I wanted the same as an alumna. Leading by their example, my parents encouraged me to get involved in the Rosary and local charitable organizations. When Kelly Ellis asked to join the Alumnae Association Board in 2008, I immediately accepted the invitation without hesitation. Being a part of the Alumnae Association Board, serving as a 1995 class captain, and most recently as an auction volunteer has been very fun and rewarding. Knowing how proud he was to be a part of the Rosary community, I can say with all certainty that my late father would be thrilled that I am receiving the Mother Shannon Changemaker Award this year. The Rosary gave so much to me, and I remain committed to helping the Rosary advance its mission for the benefit of current and future generations of students.
What is your favorite Sacred Heart memory?
I have so many favorite memories! I have fond memories of participating in the Christmas Houses program that Sr. Rita Karam started in the early 1990s. Making Hearty Meals during our break was also a lot of fun. I frequented the Cake Walk booth at the Congé every year, and I faithfully saved my egg shells for the confetti booth. I played the role of "The King" in our 1994 production of "Alice in Wonderland." That was hilarious. Outsmarting the Jesuit and De La Salle students at speech and debate tournaments was also a highlight. I always look forward to participating in the annual Christmas Baskets program, which is one of my favorite things to do during the season.