Five Community Members to Be Honored at Annual St. Thomas Day Awards May 3

The University of St. Thomas will celebrate its annual St. Thomas Day on Wednesday, May 3. The event honors recipients of the Monsignor James Lavin Award, Professor of the Year Award, Humanitarian Award, Tommie Award and Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award.

St. Thomas Day recognizes the extraordinary contributions that members of the St. Thomas community have made to the university and the wider community. The awards presented on St. Thomas Day were instituted over a period of 60 years.

St. Thomas Day events will begin with a 5:30 p.m. Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas celebrated by Father John Malone, pastor of Church of the Assumption in St. Paul, and former vice president for mission and business law professor at St. Thomas. A dinner and awards program will follow at 7 p.m. in James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall in the Anderson Student Center. Dr. Julie Sullivan, president of St. Thomas, will present at the award ceremony, where more than 400 members of the St. Thomas community are expected to attend.

Nominations for the Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna, Humanitarian and Lavin awards are welcome throughout the year but are required by July 1 for consideration for the following year’s St. Thomas Day. Contact the Alumni Relations office for more information.

Distinguished Alumnus Award
Andrew J. Cecere ’82

The Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna 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 Andrew Cecere ’82 who was named chief executive officer of Minnesota-based U.S. Bancorp earlier this year. Cecere has been with U.S. Bancorp since 1985 and has held other leadership roles within the organization, including chief financial officer, chief operating officer, president and vice chairman. His leadership in business is matched by his equally thoughtful community involvement and service to St. Thomas on the university's Board of Trustees and through Alumni Association activities.

Cecere is one of three chairs helming the current capital campaign of the Dorothy Day Center, helping to oversee an approximately $100 million project, the new Dorothy Day Place, which requires both public and private funding to provide help, hope and opportunity for local community members most in need.

He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from St. Thomas, and an MBA in finance from the University of Minnesota. Cecere, a Chicago native, lives in North Oaks, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathleen, with whom he has a daughter, Nicolina, 21.

Humanitarian Award
Wayne H. Thalhuber '60, M.D.

Retired physician Wayne Thalhuber '60, M.D.,  is this year's recipient of the Humanitarian Award for his more than 40 years directing physical and spiritual support for patients in hospice care.

Thalhuber's contributions to medicine are longstanding and exemplify his devotion to easing the suffering of individuals in their last days of life. He served as diplomat to the American Board of Internal Medicine from 1968-2001, and as diplomat to the American Board of Palliative Care and Hospice from 1992-2001. He also was chairman of the Ramsey County Medical Society in 1987; medical director of Our Lady of Good Counsel from 1968-2008; and medical director of HealthEast Hospice from 1992-2001.

In an article published in The Catholic Spirit Oct. 20, 2015, Thalhuber, who began praying with his hospice patients in the last few years of his career, noted that, “My Catholic training definitely put me in a position to better appreciate my spirituality so to develop my relationship with my God,” and "greatly facilitated my ability as a physician to be with the dying patient.”

Hospice, he also said in the article, "was hands down the most fulfilling aspect of my practice of medicine. The best. I learned so much. I was so privileged.”

At the College of St. Thomas, Thalhuber played basketball for three years and was captain his senior year. He and wife, Dorothy, reside in Lilydale, Minnesota. The couple has five children and 12 grandchildren.

Monsignor James Lavin Award
R. Jean Gray ’51

R. Jean Gray, a retired special agent for the FBI, is the 2017 recipient of the Monsignor James Lavin Award. This award honors an alumnus/alumna of St. Thomas for outstanding contributions and service to the University of St. Thomas Alumni Association, its programs and services.

Gray's enthusiastic leadership of Old Guard and reunion activities is longstanding and well-known. He has been involved with Alumni Association activities locally and internationally, and participated in numerous alumni travel experiences to Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. In addition, he has served as a member of the Catholic Studies board of governors and The Saint Paul Seminary Board of Trustees and is a member of the President's Council and the Finn Heritage Society.

Gray, who returns to campus monthly to attend St. Thomas events, gives generously and wholeheartedly to everything he supports and with which he is involved on campus. He funds numerous scholarships, including his own named scholarship. Among his favorite programs that he funds is the Padrino Program (aka Godfather Program) through the Center for Catholic Studies, whereby he financially supports one student each year throughout their undergraduate coursework.

In 1998 Gray received the Humanitarian Award. He currently is on the board of trustees of Saint John Vianney Seminary and is vice president of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, Intl, a collective of orphanages that create a life of dignity for orphaned and abandoned children in the countries it serves. He is a resident of Excelsior, Minnesota.

Professor of the Year
Kristine Wammer, Ph.D.

Kristine Wammer, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry and in the environmental science program in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the 2017 Professor of the Year.

Wammer's research focuses on the chemical and microbiological processes that affect the fate of organic contaminants in the environment. She has received numerous grants for her research and presented her research many conferences nationally and internationally.

Her collaboration with undergraduates is longstanding. She has served as an Undergraduate Research Mentor for 30 students, and many of the academic journal publications have included her St. Thomas students as co-writers. Her students have gone on to medical school and have become chemists and chemistry teachers, among other notable endeavors.

In 2014, she received St. Thomas' Undergraduate Research Award for Faculty, an award given annually to one faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to supporting undergraduate research and faculty-student collaboration. She was the 2011-12 Aquinas Scholars Honors Program Professor of the Year. From 2005-08 she served as co-adviser for the Chemistry Club.

Prior to joining St. Thomas as in 2005, she was a Dreyfus Environmental Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellow in the University of Minnesota departments of chemistry, civil engineering and environmental health sciences, as well as a visiting professor in the Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in Switzerland.

Wammer currently is a faculty chair of the College of Arts and Sciences and serves as co-chair on St. Thomas' Educating for the Future Task Force.

She earned her B.A. from St. Olaf College and her Ph.D. from Princeton University. Wammer lives in Bloomington, Minnesota, with her husband, Greg, a fifth-grade teacher, and their two children, Emily, 15, and Lukas, 10.

Tommie Award
Michelle Miller '17

Michelle Miller '17 was voted by students, staff and faculty as the winner of the 2017 Tommie Award. She is a senior majoring in English with a minor in American culture and difference.

Miller was selected based on her exceptional scholarship, leadership and campus involvement. While maintaining a strong academic record, Miller devoted her time at St. Thomas to the performing arts and helping her peers. She was a REAL Program peer adviser, a resident adviser and an orientation leader. Miller also has been involved in PULSE, Cadenza, Donne Unite and Chamber Singers.

Dr. Todd Lawrence, Miller’s teacher and mentor, wrote in a testimonial for the Tommie Award, “No one cares about others more than Michelle. I have seen her demonstrate care and empathy in countless ways – both in the classroom and outside it. I have never seen Michelle act without kindness or without consideration for the feelings and experiences of others. I admire this quality in her. To me, this is something we should want someone who represents our community to have – we should want that person to represent our own highest aspirations as a community. I believe that Michelle does that. I believe she embodies all that we say we value as a community.”

With the exception of 1945 and 1946, the Tommie Award has been presented annually since 1931 to a St. Thomas senior. The award recognizes achievements in scholarship, leadership and campus involvement, and represents the highest ideals of the university.

The Tommie Award is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs.