CHINATOWN — It wasn’t a beauty queen’s ambitions that compelled Chinatown’s St. Therese Chinese Catholic School Principal Phyllis Cavallone to enter a women’s magazine "beauty search" contest.
Instead, her motivation was enduring a rough year that saw the back-to-back deaths of her mother-in-law and father, plus her husband’s diagnosis of skin cancer.
“What grew from that experience, as parents ourselves, is another layer of appreciation for family. For me, beauty is defined by what I have, my family and the joy I find with them,” she said.
Cavallone’s essay to More magazine was enough to name the veteran principal as one of four winners in the magazine's nationwide search. The winners are featured in the magazine's October 2013 issue.
Billed as a publication “for women of style and substance,” More’s readership is a “community of affluent, influential women interested in reinventing themselves and their world.”
Cavallone, 43, said the contest's winners — women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60-plus — “really spoke to nonphysical beauty and the joy of our families and overcoming our situations. That’s the whole focus of the magazine.”
The award, which netted the Beverly resident and her husband a free summer trip to New York City and $5,000 cash, is yet another feather in the veteran principal’s cap.
Last year, she was named a winner in Tech & Learning’s Leader of the Year awards for her work in spurring innovation at the school, the Midwest's only Chinese Catholic school.
Cavallone is widely credited with reversing a decline in enrollment after taking the helm in 2004.
The school now enrolls roughly 300 preschool through eighth-grade students, 70 percent of whom are Chinese-American. It’s been recognized as a finalist in Intel’s “School of Distinction” for mathematics instruction, and last year won the U.S. Education Department's designation as a Blue Ribbon School.
Plans are underway for a major school expansion.
Taken together, it's a whole lot of good fortune, and Cavallone said it hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Beauty is also my work. It’s what we do day-in and day-out here, connecting with all of these wonderful people around me. I don’t know what I would've done if we weren't surrounded by all this graciousness," she said.