Every year, one graduating male and one graduating female are selected from several nominees for Newman University’s most prestigious undergraduate awards: the Ablah Awards.
The 2023 Leona J. Ablah Award was presented to the winning female recipient, Talia Powers, during the Newman commencement ceremony May 12.
About the Newman Ablah Awards
Harvey J. Ablah exemplified the spirit of the American dream. Supported by his wife, Leona, Harvey became a successful entrepreneur, pioneering the fast food chain concept and leading the family hotel supply business.
To honor Harvey, and to perpetuate his vision of entrepreneurship, his daughter Geri, along with her husband, Fran Jabara, established the Harvey J. Ablah Award at Newman in 1994. In 1996, they added the Leona J. Ablah Award to provide recognition for one outstanding female and one outstanding male graduate. The Ablah Award includes a monetary stipend and is presented to two graduating seniors who have a minimum grade point average of 3.0, who exemplify the mission and spirit of Newman University, and who show promise to make a strong, positive contribution to society.
When her name was called as the 2023 female Ablah Award winner, she didn’t expect to have one more accomplishment added to the list.
“It was a huge honor, and then it was an even bigger honor to hear one of my really good friends’ names right after me — Austin Schwartz — as the male recipient,” Powers said. “Every single year, the Ablah winners are just such great people. So it’s incredible to even be grouped in that category of people.”
Vice President of Academic Affairs Alden Stout described Powers to the commencement crowd as “an exceptional student with a promising future.
“She exemplifies the four Newman core values of academic excellence, global perspective, Catholic identity and a culture of service,” he continued. “It would be hard to find a student more engaged in student life than Talia.”
Powers has been on the dean’s list every year. Powers volunteers for a hospice center and the Salvation Army, sings for the troubadours and chorale, served as a senator in the Student Government Association, and most recently performed as Ariel in Newman’s production of “The Little Mermaid.” She is also the 2023 recipient of the Sister Claudine Axman Award, awarded to a biology major who exhibits superior academic performance in the program and leadership in the community.
Out of all these involvements and accomplishments, Powers said the biggest takeaway from her time at Newman is the friendships she’ll carry for years to come.
“I have learned a lot and I really think that the friendships and bonds I’ve made have been really impactful for me,” Powers said.
Several professors served as mentors to Powers throughout her four years, including director of music Deanne Zogleman, instructor Carole Pracht, associate professor of biology Michael Bradley, library assistant Dyana Baca, assistant professor and director of Dugan Library Steve Hamersky, assistant professor and reference librarian Wesley Cornett and Newman cheer and dance coach Brandy Muncy.
“Having a good support system was amazing and helped me overcome the struggles of adjusting to college courses,” Powers said. “I think that my degree has also prepared me to do well in my future career.”
Now, Powers is excited to continue her educational journey at the University of Kansas School of Medicine where she earned early admittance. She hopes to one day serve as a “conscientious and empathetic physician” to her patients.
One nominator said it best: “We believe that she will represent Newman well at KU Med and has all the skills she needs to be a wonderful doctor who we can all be proud to claim as a Newman alum.”
To current students still awaiting the finish line, Powers offers some advice: “Just keep working, keep pushing forward and find your support system. You can make it through it.”
Discover what’s possible at Newman University
Founded in 1933, Newman University is grounded in Catholic values and traditions, yet is respectful of all faith traditions. At Newman you’ll find people, programs, organizations and activities designed to educate your mind and inspire your spirit.