Newman honors distinguished alumni with awards


Newman University alumni are making positive changes in their work environments, neighborhoods and communities every day.

At the Distinguished Alumni Awards, Newman is able to honor a few alumni who have made a big impact over the course of the year.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards were held on the evening of April 27. A special honorary alumni award was given to a man who has given countless hours and effort to the success of students, staff and faculty at Newman University, and four alumni were recognized for their contributions to society.

Honorary Alumni Award

The evening’s first award was given to Athletic Director Vic Trilli who was presented with the Honorary Alumni award. Trilli has been with Newman University for 11 years and in that time, has shown nothing but dedication for the school and its students.

Trilli said, “I’ve always wanted to be an advocate for the students, student-athletes and my coaches, that’s just who I am. It bothered me a little bit to have this award, especially when I felt like I was just doing what I was supposed to do.”

With plans to retire in 2019, Trilli will miss the relationships he’s made at Newman University the most he said.

“From the bottom of my heart, my time here has been awesome,” he said.

After receiving this award, Trilli is now considered a formal alumni of Newman University.

Spirit of Acuto Transformational Leadership Award

Jacob Wayman, a 2017 graduate, was awarded the Spirit of Acuto Transformational Leadership Award. This award is named for the area of Italy where Saint Maria De Mattias began her ministries in the 1830s. It recognizes alumni who are driven to respond to the needs of others, using their talent and training to move a vision to reality.

Wayman is well-known in the Wichita area for finding a need and fulfilling it in terms of leadership and educational opportunities. He founded Wayman Consulting Group which focuses on business development consulting and event design and planning. Wayman also helped found an organization called Shift Conferences, a think tank for emerging technologies.

“I haven’t accomplished as much as I want to accomplish in this community. And being recognized tonight really shows that maybe I am doing something that makes a difference in Wichita. It’s a very awesome recognition,” he said.

Leon A. McNeill Award

Alicia Thompson, Ph.D., superintendent of Wichita Public Schools, was the recipient of the Leon A. McNeill award.

This award is named for the college’s first president, Monsignor Leon McNeill and honors alumni who have achieved a high degree of success and integrity in their professional lives.

Thompson said, “I believe God blessed me with this opportunity to be of service to others. The Bible says, ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’ and I believe he blesses me with my health and my strength so that I can serve him.

“My faith in God shapes every decision that I make. And I pray that each day, in some small way, that I can inspire and empower students in our classrooms today to dream, believe and to achieve.”

Beata Netemeyer Service Award

The Beata Netemeyer Service award, named for the first Wichita provincial of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC), recognizes alumni who are leaders and who have overcome difficulties in order to serve others.

Curtis Nightingale, a 2004 graduate, received the honor this year.

“Working undercover dope at night and being in classes during the day, that’s not your normal student track. But I would tell you that I couldn’t have gotten it done without what was going on here (at Newman University),” said Nightingale, who was an undercover narcotics police office at the same time he was enrolled at Newman.

Nightingale currently serves as principal for Bennington school districts. The district has been chosen by the Kansas State Department of Education to be a part of their new project called “Redesign.”

“What we’re trying to do in Kansas schools is move education away from a teacher-centered philosophy to a student-centered philosophy. And that seems like a huge swing for some, but I would tell you if you went to school at Newman, that’s how you came up.”

Nightingale believes in his line of work, to be successful means that students are being successful — and winning this award is a reflection of that, he said.

Saint Maria De Mattias Award

Renee Hein, a 2002 graduate, was honored with the Saint Maria De Mattias award.

The Saint Maria De Mattias award honors alumni who display a deep loyalty to Newman University and its mission through their stewardship and Catholic life.

“(My mother) taught me that when you give of yourself to other people, you’re really giving yourself a gift as well. And so all of the time that I spent at Newman was still just more of a gift to myself.”

Hein has stayed dedicated to Newman for many years, serving as Alumni Board president and working as an adjunct professor in the chemistry department.

“We don’t get dedicated alumni at Newman University without dedicated faculty and staff. It’s that personal touch I’ve been blessed to have experienced as a student, and in my limited capacity now as an adjunct to try and give to students too, so that every student that we get on campus, hopefully, we can get across that finish line and get them to be dedicated alumni that will transform their society wherever they are,” she said.

2019 Ablah Award Nominees

The 2019 Ablah award nominees were also recognized at the banquet. The Harvey J. Ablah Award and Leona J. Ablah Award are presented each year at the undergraduate commencement ceremony to a graduating male and female student who exemplify the mission and spirit of Newman. 

(l to r) Luke Sponsel, Angela de Souza, Brandon Steiner, Laura Shine, Amy Emerson, Paul Rupnik

Female nominees for this year’s award are Angela de Souza, Amy Emerson and Laura Shine and male nominees are Brandon Steiner, Luke Sponsel and Paul Rupnik.



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