Legacy Awards Banquet honors the stewards of Newman’s future

Apr 18, 2024
Kristopher Gupilan's family at the Newman Legacy Awards
Kristopher Gupilan's family at the Newman Legacy Awards

More than 130 supporters and friends of Newman University gathered the evening of April 16 to celebrate the Legacy Awards Banquet.

The newly named Newman Legacy Awards Banquet combines what had been separate events to recognize three distinguished honors — the annual alumni award winners, generous donors as they join giving societies and the prestigious St. Newman Medal recipient. 

Vice President of Institutional Advancement Bob Beumer explained that honoring these outstanding individuals is essential to recognizing the entirety of the Newman legacy. It also showcases how donor support directly elevates students, alumni and the next generation of community leaders to make the world a better place.

Guests of the Newman Legacy Awards smile at their tables.
Guests of the Newman Legacy Awards

“Our alumni’s commitment to service of others is what our university was founded on, and they are great role models for our students, faculty and staff to aspire to,” Beumer said. “We can also thank many of our special benefactors for passing on the gift of education. We want them to know how much we appreciate their investment and trust in us.”

Newman President Kathleen Jagger, Ph.D., MPH said it’s inspiring to witness the theme of appreciation for Newman and “what Newman University did to change people’s lives over the years.”

“It almost makes me tear up to hear the stories of impact our alumni are living out,” Jagger said. “I’m so proud to know that is the outcome of our students.” 

Distinguished Alumni Awards

St. Maria De Mattias Award – Karen Flanigan

Alumna Karen Flanigan was presented with the St. Maria De Mattias Award, which honors alumni who display a deep loyalty to Newman and its mission.

The 1964 graduate of Sacred Heart Academy is a two-time Newman student and former adjunct professor. For Flanigan, Newman was more than just an education — it was a place where she could grow in her faith. She organizes annual Sacred Heart Academy birthday celebrations for her graduating high school class on campus and continues to “cheerlead” for Newman in any way she can.

Karen Flanigan received the St. Maria De Mattias Award
Karen Flanigan received the St. Maria De Mattias Award

One of her nominees said, “Karen is a loyal supporter of education —particularly Newman University. Her personal representation of the values and beliefs that St. Maria embodied and fostered inspires others.”

Another nominee talked about Flanigan’s kindness and dedication to her classmates even today, saying, “Karen has served the sick, lonely and needy within our group during her stewardship. She has kept us together with reunions, news events, monthly luncheons and prayers for our community.”

Flanigan was floored when she learned she was the 2024 recipient. 

“When I was told I had been nominated, I knew that many people were nominated and many — I know — do much more than I and give much more in time, energy and donations than I ever could,” Flanigan said. 

Video: 2024 St Maria DeMattias Award winner Karen Flanigan

Beata Netemeyer Service Award – Kristopher Gupilan

Kristopher Gupilan, a 2008 criminal justice graduate, proudly serves the Wichita Police Department and was recognized as the 2024 Beata Netemeyer Service Award recipient.

The award is named for the first provincial of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. It honors alumni who have given outstanding service to humanity and exemplify the mission and values of Newman by living in a state of critical consciousness, respecting dignity, honoring integrity and embracing all humanity.

Kristopher Gupilan accepts his Beata Netemeyer Service Award.
Gupilan accepts his Beata Netemeyer Service Award.

As a student, Gupilan played on the men’s volleyball team, met his wife, Rochelle, during their first class with Director of Music Deanne Zogleman and experienced the kindness and dedication of Newman professors including Professor Emeritus Larry Heck, Ph.D.

Gupilan’s nominator said, “I believe the values and integrity he displays day in and day out for his family, department and community is a direct result of the foundation his Newman education has given him.”

Video: 2024 Beata Netemeyer Award winner Kristopher Gupilan

Gupilan said he feels blessed and honored to spread the Gospel and help people at their lowest through his day-to-day work as an officer.

“That core of friends that I had in college helped me stay within the lanes of living a Gospel-centered life,” he said. “I think if Newman wasn’t there and I hadn’t met the people I met, from my friends to my wife, I don’t know which way this road would’ve gone.”

Leon A. McNeill Achievement Award – Marilyn Roberts

Marilyn Roberts was recognized with the Leon A. McNeill Achievement Award, which honors graduates who have achieved outstanding success in their personal lives and careers and have enriched the church spiritually, made contributions to society and demonstrated concern for others.

Marilyn Roberts was recognized with the Leon A. McNeill Achievement Award.
Roberts was recognized with the Leon A. McNeill Achievement Award.

Roberts is a three-time graduate of Newman University holding a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a Master of Business Administration degree and a master’s in social work. Her favorite aspect as a medical social worker who helps dialysis patients overcome anxiety and depression is advocating for others. In her free time, she loves riding motorcycles with a group known as Run for the Son and the Christian Motorcyclists Association.

Her nomination stated, “Marilyn has such a servant’s heart and wisdom to serve wisely. She has a heart for homeless people and has volunteered to help where she can when anyone asks.”

Roberts’ heart started racing when she learned she was a Newman alumni award winner.

Video: 2024 Monsignor Leon A. McNeill Award winner Marilyn Roberts

“I feel very humbled and don’t feel any more deserving than anyone else,” Roberts said. “God has seen me through tough times and good times just like he sees others. He has given me peace that goes past all understanding, and for that and this award I am so grateful.”

Spirit of Acuto Award – Amanda Stanley

The Spirit of Acuto Award was given to Amanda Stanley, a 2008 graduate who overcame a cancerous leg amputation as a medical school student, made a 180-degree turn to attend law school and now fearlessly advocates for her clients as the city attorney for Topeka, Kansas.

(From left to right) Amanda Stanley, Spirit of Acuto Award winner, with sister Diana Stanley.
(From left to right) Amanda Stanley, Spirit of Acuto Award winner, with sister Diana Stanley.

The Spirit of Acuto Award is named for the area of Italy where St. Maria De Mattias began her ministries in the 1830s and recognizes alumni who are driven to respond to the needs of others, using their talent and training to move a vision to reality.

One of Amanda’s nominators said, “Amanda is one of the hardest working and best young lawyers I know. She is creative and practical about the problems faced by her city and will listen to criticism without becoming defensive.”

Stanley said she felt “deeply honored and slightly confused” to be nominated.

Video: 2024 Spirit of Acuto Award winner Amanda Stanley

“It is a humbling feeling to realize that even when the predominant feeling I have most days is exhaustion, people do see what I do and find value in it,” Stanley said. 

A welcome to Newman giving societies

In addition to new donors, several established donors were present at the banquet and Jagger extended her gratitude to all who have supported Newman.

“We appreciate every single person and gift that has been established for the benefit of Newman University and its students,” Jagger said. 

A crystal clock award for donors of the Sacred Heart Society
An award for donors of the Sacred Heart Society

New donors who gave $1,000 or more to Newman University in the past year were recognized and inducted into three giving societies: the De Mattias Society, Monsignor McNeill Society and Sacred Heart Society.

The De Mattias Society is reserved for donors who give $1,000 to $9,999 in a year. The following supporters were inducted into the De Mattias Society for 2023-24:

  • Marcelo ’13 and Colleen Casenove
  • Pat ’07 and Melissa ’05 Edwards
  • Ben ’06 and June ’89 Huie
  • Margeret Lyons ’11
  • Scott ’19 and Rachel ’20 Mudloff
  • Bob and Donna Schmisseur
  • Amanda Stanley ’08
  • Geri and Jim Tyrell
  • Bob and Debbie Beumer
  • Ryan Alefs
  • Father Dwight Birket
  • Marion Bontrager
  • Ryan Disbrow
  • HealthCore Clinic
  • Kyle Jacobs
  • Thomas and Katherine Kirk
  • Kevin and Rachel Lewis
  • JD Munley
  • David ’97 and Lisa Munn
  • Billy Murphy
  • Brad Nees
  • Tim Nyberg
  • Jon and Renee Pachta
  • Christopher Shank
  • Joyce Suellentrop ’09 (Hon A)
  • Bradley Tideman

The Monsignor McNeill Society recognizes donors who gave $10,000 to $24,999. The 2024 inductees are:

  • IMA Foundation represented by Blake Wells
  • Barry and Jan Gustafson
  • Donald Sbarra

The following honorees were inducted into the Sacred Heart Society, which recognizes individuals, businesses and foundations that give $25,000 or more in cash gifts: 

  • Kathleen and Jim Jagger
  • Jo Zakas Legacy Foundation represented by Cathy Feemster 

“These supporters are true beacons for this institution and we are grateful for their unwavering support,” Beumer said.

St. Newman Medal Recipient – Father Tom Welk

The 2024 St. Newman Medal is the Newman University Board of Trustees’ highest honor. It is presented to individuals who demonstrate an appreciation of the spirit and ideals of St. John Henry Newman in their daily life and who have been instrumental in the growth and development of the university.

(From left to right) Board of Trustees Chair Jenifer Stone, APRN, ’87, ’93 and Father Tom Welk
(From left to right) Board of Trustees Chair Jenifer Stone, APRN, ’87, ’93 and Father Welk

Father Tom Welk is the 2024 St. Newman Medal Recipient, recognized for his lifelong dedication to education and service to others.

Welk first connected with Newman University more than five decades ago as a teacher, coach and chaplain. He left the school in 1983 for his calling and life’s work when he helped start hospice care in Wichita. Welk is still serving today, all while continuing his connections to Newman.

Chris McNiel, a chaplain resident at Wesley Medical Center, attended the Legacy Awards Banquet as a guest of Welk. McNiel describes Welk as “someone who is instrumental in developing people of all walks of life, including me.”

Father Tom Welk (center) surrounded by friends and supporters after winning the St. Newman Medal.
Welk (center) surrounded by friends and supporters after winning the St. Newman Medal.

“Father Tom was the person that I happened to walk into at a hospice agency and say, ‘I need to speak to a chaplain,’” McNiel said. “I went back to him not knowing he was a priest, not knowing his role in developing hospice here in Wichita, but I said, ‘I think I want to become a chaplain. How do I do it?’ He sat with me and told me what to do.”

McNiel followed Welk’s instructions and continually stopped by to catch up with Welk. 

“He always made time for me and helped direct my life,” McNiel said. “So my prayer to work at the place I wanted to work at was answered through and because of Father Tom’s example.” 

Video: 2024 St Newman Medal Award winner Father Tom Welk

Welk has created numerous training videos for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita and Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice and presents to regional health care and community organizations. But it is the connection with patients and families that keeps him involved long after retirement age.

“You don’t always get ‘thank yous’ for what you do,” Welk explained of working in hospice care. “People are drained emotionally, they don’t have the energy to respond, but I think the biggest return or payoff is the satisfaction that you’ve really made a difference in people going through a difficult time.”

The proof in a Newman ‘Degree of Difference’ motivates giving

This marked the first year of giving for June ’89 and Ben ’06 Huie, grandparents of current Newman students and soon-to-be graduates Nathan and Kenny Huie.

“I like the fact that Newman encourages its students to do things out in the community, not just here on campus, because that’s where it really shows itself,” Ben said.

June added that she and her husband have always wanted to give back, and this was the year when they finally could. 

President Jagger with June Huie '89
President Jagger with June Huie ’89

“It’s important to us because one of the things that I support all through the city is retaining our young people, having them out in the world to make a difference,” June said. “That’s what they’re trying to do, and we’re proud of all the work our grandsons have gotten to be involved with.”

The Huies were inspired after witnessing the four alumni award winners, fellow giving societies members and the impact of the St. Newman Medal recipient. They left the event even more confident that their support makes a difference in students’ lives at Newman University.

“We’re happy and we will keep giving back,” June said.

Apply to Newman University

Experience a super-charged student support and success program designed to help you thrive in a rapidly changing world at Newman University.