Distinguished Newman alumni were honored at the annual Newman Alumni Awards Banquet April 21 in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center.
The event is an opportunity to recognize those who are making a difference in the community and who have also dedicated many of their resources to the university throughout the years.
Gary Hand is one of those individuals who has given years of support and dedication to Newman.
Hand was recognized during the banquet as an honorary alumnus. He attended the university when it was known as Sacred Heart and went on to become an adjunct professor for several years at the university.
Hand said he was thankful for the honor and he considers it a privilege to be connected to the Adorers of the Blood of Christ sisters and the university.
“I’ve always been amazed how whenever, with any task they (the sisters) wish to take on, they do it with such intensity and commitment, but yet, they always follow their vision. They are a great example of how to do things in this world.”
Jay Holmes ’89, was the recipient of the Spirit of Acuto Transformational Leadership Award. This award celebrates drive to respond to the needs of others.
Holmes said he had a great academic and athletic experience here at Newman and made a point to thank Professor of Sociology and Assistant Undergraduate Dean Larry Heck, Ph.D., noting that the Lord put Heck in his life at a critical point.
“He played such a critical role in my life during my junior year,” said Holmes. “He took the time to sit down … and identify strengths in me that led me in a direction to work with criminally involved people.”
Holmes has made a difference in many children’s lives, teaching them basic skills and getting them the life skills they needed while working at the Lake Afton Boys Ranch. He now serves as deputy director of adult programs for Sedgwick County and is also head men’s and women’s soccer coach at Maize High School in Maize, Kansas.
Sharai McConico ’72 was the recipient of the Leon A. McNeill Award — an award that celebrates success and integrity.
McConico said the award was not only humbling to receive but was a blessing because she was able to reconnect at the banquet with so many people that she hadn’t seen for a really long time — people that made a real impact on her life.
After graduating college, she began working for the city of Wichita. She is now a civil rights investigator with the state of Kansas. She said she learned early on in her life that working in civil rights would be her lifelong career. She made an impact in many different ways but said it really comes down to “building awareness of your fellow man to create a more positive work environment.”
“My parents always taught me not to recognize a person by their race, you recognize them as a person of God. And while at Newman, I got a whole lot of support from Sister Tarcisia and Sister Charlotte,” she said. “We learned to know each other and carry on those relationships after I left the university. And that’s what makes me proud. I’m proud that I was able to go there and feel comfortable throughout my career.”
The Beata Netemeyer Service Award celebrates overcoming difficulties in order to serve others, and Clint Stucky ’95, said he was honored to receive the award.
Stucky was raised on a dairy farm and said his parents were supportive in whatever he and his siblings wanted to do. Completing college took Stucky a little longer than most because he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do, but once he found his calling in occupational therapy, his collegiate career took off.
When accepting his award he said, “Whereas our accomplishment may never match up to those of Sister Beata’s, I like to think there is a bit of the spirit of Sister Beata in every Newman grad, which I believe to be the spirit of God.”
The final award of the evening, the Saint Maria De Mattias Award, celebrates loyalty through stewardship and Catholic life. This year’s recipient was Liana M. (Albers) Torkelson ’70.
Torkelson said her Catholic faith was important to her and is what drove her life decisions.
With the guidance of some of the ASC sisters, she decided to become an English and psychology teacher. After teaching some high school and community college courses, she said she started to become frustrated that she could not talk about God.
“I was ready to leave education entirely when I attended a church dinner in 1989 … and was told about a job at Kapaun Mt. Carmel. Kapaun’s mission statement says that it is ‘dedicated to the education and formation of the total person in the image of Jesus Christ.’ That formation piece is what makes Catholic education different.”
She felt immediately at home when she started her career at Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School in Wichita, Kansas.
“I am so grateful that I was hired at Kapaun Mt. Carmel. I believe the Kapaun community receives this award along with me tonight. They challenged me to be the Catholic educator that I grew to be.”