The university's annual Distinguished Alumnus Award honors an individual for leadership and service to St. Thomas, the community and in his or her field of endeavor. This year's recipient is Cardinal Blase Cupich ’71.
Cupich, an Omaha native, enrolled at St. Thomas and St. John Vianney Seminary for his junior and senior years. He was ordained to the priesthood after four years of study at the North American College and Gregorian University in Rome, and returned to Omaha to serve as a pastor and teach at a Catholic high school at Creighton University.
He was secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature, the pope’s diplomatic mission in Washington, where he earned his doctorate in sacramental theology from the Catholic University of America. He was rector of a seminary in Columbus Ohio, and a pastor in Omaha before Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1998. Pope Benedict XVI named him bishop of Spokane 12 years later and in 2014, Pope Francis appointed him archbishop of Chicago. In 2016, Pope Francis elevated him to the College of Cardinals at the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City.
That same year, St. Thomas conferred a Doctor of Laws degree on Cupich. “Humble, compassionate and thought provoking, your ministry is grounded in fundamental convictions that we are on this earth to make it a better place for all of God’s children as we steadfastly seek to promote a universal common good,” the citation states. “It is that pursuit of the common good that unites all of us: our students, faculty and alumni, the citizens of your great archdiocese, and you.”
To read more about Cupich, see this St. Thomas magazine profile, published in the fall 2015 issue.