Newman University presented its top awards to several worthy recipients at the Feb. 26 Cardinal Newman Banquet and Awards Ceremony, held in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center on the Newman campus.
The annual event, the capstone of the annual Cardinal Newman Week activities, celebrates the life and teachings of 19th century Catholic theologian and educator Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, for whom Newman University is named.
The premier event included the presentation of the Cardinal Newman Medal to John J. Marstall, former Newman University Board of Trustees chair and supporter of Newman University. Marstall was recognized for his long service to Newman, higher education and the Catholic community. A certified public accountant with a 40-year career in accounting, he has served on corporate boards and in several offices of the Serra Club of Wichita – Downtown. He was also a member of Newman’s Associate Board of Directors and later the Board of Trustees from 1996 – 2008. During his 2006-2007 term as chairman of the Board, Marstall helped secure a challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation for the new Dugan Library and Campus Center, and led the university’s search for a new president, and ensured the successful conclusion of the university’s 10-year accreditation process.
The Newman Medal is the university’s highest honor. It is conferred upon those who demonstrate in their daily lives an appreciation of the spirit and ideals of John Henry Cardinal Newman and who have been instrumental in the growth and development of the university.
“It is truly an honor to have such quality and faith-filled people as a part of Newman University’s community. John Marstall richly deserves this prestigious honor for his tireless and significant support of Newman University at a time when the institution truly needed it,” said Dr. Noreen Carrocci, Newman University President. “In addition, the alumni award recipients humble us by their accomplishments. The world is a better place because of the talents they share. These dynamic individuals most certainly exemplify the Newman University mission of transforming the world.”
The Cardinal Newman Banquet and Awards Ceremony also included the presentation of the annual alumni awards. This year’s award recipients were:
Capt. Donald E. Bittner, M.D., ’77, of the U.S. Navy was awarded the Spirit of Acuto Transformational Leadership Award. This award honors alumni and friends who, as a reflection of their association with Newman University, have been a driving force, using their talent and training at critical
junctures to move a vision to reality. Bittner recently concluded his service in Afghanistan as chief medical officer of a large medical battalion of commercial builders. While in Afghanistan, he performed surgery 10 to 12 hours per day on civilians, U.S soldiers and prisoners. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, Bittner is also associate professor and chairman of the Hand Surgery Department for the University of Southern California at Irvine. During the evening it was announced he is preparing to move to Germany to serve as second in command of a military hospital there. Following Bittner’s acceptance speech, he presented President Carrocci and Newman University with a folded United States flag which he flew over Kandahar in honor of Newman University. The flag was accompanied by a framed certificate of authentication.
William A. (Tony) Schountz, Ph.D., ’86, associate professor of microbiology at the University of Northern Colorado, Greely, was the recipient of the Leon A. McNeill Distinguished Alumni Award in Arts and Sciences. The award honors graduates who have achieved outstanding success in their professional lives. Schountz was recognized for his achievements in the field of emerging infectious diseases. An internationally-known speaker, he harbors infected bats and deer mice to study the transmission of diseases, such as the hantavirus, from rodents to humans. Over the past five years, the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Disease have supported his research with more than $750,000 in funding. Schountz holds a master’s degree in virology from Emporia State University and a doctorate in immunology from Kansas State University. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Tennessee in the study of mammalian molecular genetics.
Dennis A. Newell ’77, instructor for Emporia Middle School, was awarded the Leon A. McNeill Distinguished Alumni Award in Education. Newell recently completed a year of service with the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator, the first Kansan to be selected for this program since it was founded in 1994. Most of Newell’s 30-year teaching career has been at Emporia Middle School, where he is known for classrooms filled with cutting-edge technology provided by the numerous grants and awards he has garnered. Newell devoted three summers to research on hydrogen fuel cells and bio-fuels for the U.S. Department of Energy at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., which stoked his enthusiasm for encouraging students to pursue careers in science, mathematics and engineering. The self-professed lifelong learner is currently pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.
Margaret Knoeber, ASC Ph.D. ’49, ’53, ’61, received the St. Maria De Mattias Award. The De Mattias Award honors alumni who display a deep loyalty to Newman University and its mission. The award recipient has given meritorious and continuous support and stewardship to Newman University and Catholic life. Knoeber attended Sacred Heart Academy, a predecessor institution of Newman University. It led to her becoming a professed member of Newman University’s sponsoring order, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. With a long-standing commitment to Catholic life and education, Knoeber earned associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in secondary education while working for 10 years as a music and elementary school teacher. She later earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Notre Dame. She served as instructor and then associate professor of chemistry at Kansas Newman College, also a predecessor institution to Newman University, for 10 years, and as alumni director from 1983-1990. Sr. Knoeber pioneered interactive television technology in western Kansas and has been provincial counselor for the ASC, community archivist at the ASC Wichita Center, and a member of the Alumni Board of Directors.