By Stephanie Dolan
Gina Kuntz-Fleming grew up on the Southside. She attended Holy Name Catholic School, graduated from Roncalli High School and got her degree from what was then Marian College (now Marian University). She spent time as a principal and an assistant superintendent before finally becoming Superintendent of Catholic Schools, her current position, seven years ago.
“My primary responsibility is to provide support to pastors and school leaders to help them in serving students and families as well,” she said. “I also serve as a delegate of the archbishop as we strive to ensure that all schools are providing quality Catholic education and formation of young people.”
This year, she has been named Catholic Person of the Year by Catholic Business Network.
“I was completely speechless and anyone who knows me realizes that doesn’t happen very often,” Kuntz-Fleming said. “I’m incredibly humbled. I’ve grown up knowing that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and it’s because of who God is and who he has placed in my life that I have been able to accomplish anything. I really feel like I’m being honored more as a representative of so many individuals who have made an amazing impact on the lives of others, and I’ve just had the pleasure and blessing of being a very small part of that.”
Living by example
Ben Brown, chairperson of the Catholic Business Network’s Inspirational Insights, said that Kuntz-Fleming’s tireless involvement and dedication to education, as well as her unwavering embodiment of faith, were all taken into consideration for the award.
“There is usually a list of several worthy candidates; we take so many factors into consideration,” he said. “A few traits that must be present are, but not limited to, how one lives out their faith, in word and in deed, and one’s commitment and contribution to the education of our youth. When putting all of these things together, Gina rose to the top. She embodies everything this award is about and what the Catholic Business Network encourages its members to be, keepers of the faith in all aspects of our lives and being Christian, being Catholic, which does not stop at our parish footsteps.”
Kuntz-Fleming, 48, is the youngest of nine children. She is married with two children of her own. Her parents have passed, but she credits them with providing the example that she lives by today.
“First of all, they are most certainly my first teachers, and they were amazing parents and amazing examples of our faith in action,” she said. “Anything I’ve learned about God’s love, grace and charity all really stem from their incredible example.”
Kuntz-Fleming’s father was executive director of Catholic Youth Organization and prior to that had been a teacher and a coach.
“So, he certainly was a great example,” she said. “My mom was what we could call today a domestic engineer. She too really taught me the importance of discipline and prioritizing the values of faith, family and education above all else. That was a time when you did not have 24-hour grocery stores, and at any point in time there may just have one vehicle shared amongst my parents, so that the older kids could go to work. But I don’t remember ever wanting for everything.”
She also said there is a 19-year spread between her oldest sibling and herself.
“By the time I came along, my oldest sister was in nursing school,” Kuntz-Fleming said. “I’ve had great examples of teachers in my life. My sister Susie was a teacher as well – she’s six years older than I and has been a great example for me.”
Kuntz-Fleming also said she feels she’s a teacher of teachers.
“I would also say that I see myself as a teacher of teachers, so no matter what my title has been over the years I’m still a teacher at heart,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to teach teachers and leaders what it means to be an effective Catholic school leader and minister of the faith.”
While Kuntz-Fleming strives to be an example for teachers, she feels her greatest responsibility is to her children.
Faith, family and education
“I think the most important role my husband and I play in raising our children is really striving to get them to heaven,” she said. “So kind of passing on that same model of valuing faith, family and education is something I hope my boys will always take with them and as part of that faith, knowing that God loves us completely and gives us everything we need to be able to use our gifts well and our job is to figure out how to best use those gifts to honor and glorify him. I pray that my boys have used the examples in their lives to treat everyone with dignity and respect, valuing different perspectives and feeling confident and comfortable in their own skin to be able to share their faith journey and their gifts willingly.”
Kuntz-Fleming also said that her boys have also been positive examples for her as well.
“What’s interesting is we as parents are tasked with helping our children grow and develop, but I have to say that our sons have taught me so much about what it means to be a good Christian person. They love and care so deeply, and the way that they just approach life with enthusiasm and joy is a daily reminder to me of how blessed I am.”
Another great example in her life is her husband.
“So, interestingly, my husband is not Catholic, and he’s one of the best examples of Christ’s love, certainly Christ’s forgiveness, and just generosity, kindness, compassion, charity – he’s been such a great example for me in that regard,” Kuntz-Fleming said. “I think our marriage has taught me the power of being unified in values in a way that help us stand strong against sort of cultural norms that may make it easy to kind of not prioritize the way that we’ve been taught.”
Above all, Kuntz-Fleming is honored to be Catholic Person of the Year.
“I’m incredibly grateful to CBN for this honor,” she said. “I would say, too, that I thank God daily for the opportunity to live in a country where religious freedom is upheld and to be a part of the Catholic church who takes broken lives and makes them whole and who makes Christ present in the world.”
Five Questions with Gina Kuntz-Fleming
- Who or what inspires you? Jesus Christ and my family
- If you had to choose a theme song for your life, what would it be? “Do Something” by Matthew West
- What is your favorite book? The Mitford Series by Jan Karon
- What activity do you enjoy doing with your family? Watching sports or performances, especially if our boys, nieces or nephews are involved or my husband is coaching
- What’s your favorite movie? Forrest Gump!