The University of St. Thomas community gathered on March 5 to celebrate its annual St. Thomas Day and honor recipients of its Humanitarian, Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna, Professor of the Year, Tommie and Monsignor James Lavin awards.
Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award
This year's award was given to Timothy Flynn, global chairman of Amsterdam-based KPMG International. With 140,000 professionals in 146 countries, it is one of the world’s largest accounting firms.
Established in 1971, the Distinguished Alumnus award recognizes leadership and service to the university, to the community and in the person’s field of endeavor.
Flynn began his 32-year career with KPMG’s Minneapolis office in 1979, the year he graduated from St. Thomas. He was elected chairman and chief executive of the company in 2005 and global chairman in 2007.
“You can’t pick your destination but you can pick your paths,” Flynn said. “The path I picked … my choice to come to St. Thomas … was a terrific selection.”
Humanitarian of the Year Award
Ryan Schlief ’97 works in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a program called Witness and lists his occupation as “human rights activist.”
Established 43 years ago, the award is presented by the university’s Alumni Association and recognizes those who “better the spiritual and material welfare of the less fortunate.”
This will be the second time Schlief was chosen for a St. Thomas Day honor. In March 1997, he accepted the Tommie Award, given annually to a St. Thomas senior who exemplifies the ideals of the university.
As program coordinator at Witness, he works with residents of Asia who use hand-held cameras to record human-rights violations. “I can’t parachute in and make something better,” he said. “But I can try to use some of the things that I and others have learned to support local efforts.”
Karen Lange, the dean of students at St. Thomas, knew Schlief as a college student. “He has really done what he said he was going to do,” she said.
Professor of the Year Award
Dr. Thomas Connery, who joined the St. Thomas Journalism Department (now Communication and Journalism) in 1982 and served nine years as dean of the College of Arts Sciences, is this year's Professor of the Year.
The 50-year-old award recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and inspiration to students.
Successful teachers, Connery feels, “have a passion for the subject matter and the students feel that passion. You know when they feel it and that’s one of the great things about teaching. When you are in the classroom and a student ‘gets it,’ it’s a great feeling.”
Monsignor James Lavin Award
Dr. James McEnaney, a retired Owatonna physician and a 1952 St. Thomas graduate, received this year's Lavin award. Established in 1994, the award annually honors a volunteer for service to the St. Thomas Alumni Association.
“I’m thrilled to death, getting an award named for Monsignor Lavin,” McEnaney said. “He is a pretty good friend of mine.
“Father Lavin’s legacy to me is being prayerful and helpful to others, to concentrate on what you’re doing, and that there’s joy in life.” And as for being a physician, he said you “have to understand people and be gentle when they are facing problems. Compassion is important; you have to be passionate about being compassionate.”
Daniel Carr, of Dickinson, N.D., won the 2011 Tommie Award, an 80-year-old honor that has been given annually to a St. Thomas senior who exemplifies the ideals of the university.
Carr is majoring in political science and holds a 3.91 grade-point average.
Chosen from a field of 21 nominees and three finalists, Carr “combines great intellectual curiosity and ability with immense affability and excellent interpersonal skills,” commented one of his professors, Dr. John Kronen, in a nomination letter. “He has a strong sense of duty to the common good and gives of his time and himself to ensure that the world is a better place for everyone.”
Carr studied overseas, volunteered with a host of social service organizations and co-founded the university’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. “My faith means a lot more to me now than when I first came to St. Thomas,” he said. “Faith is the realization there’s a bigger plan.”
Carr was both a football and rugby player, and as a nearly straight-A student, participated in the Aquinas Scholar Honors Program.
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