Tommie Tradition

A look back at 75 years of Tommie Award winners

The announcement was bold: The Mr. Tommy Award, vowed a 1931 Purple and Gray story, "promises to be the biggest event of its kind in the history of the school."

Hyperbole aside, the College of St. Thomas student newspaper (and predecessor of The Aquin) thought it had hit on a winner in the spring of 1931: a contest to name "the representative St. Thomas student" based on "popularity, scholastic standing and extracurricular activity."

Students nominated five seniors for that first award, and the contest "captured the campus by storm," exclaimed another Purple and Gray story, with voting reaching "heights hitherto unknown on the campus." When the polls closed, Ralph Antil edged classmate Don Pates 87-82.

A tradition had been born - and it is a tradition that continues today in the form of the Tommie Award, which goes to a senior who exemplifies the ideals of the university.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the award this year, St. Thomas magazine looked back at the records of the 77 winners (there twice were ties) and asked the 61 living recipients to comment on what St. Thomas and the award mean to them. More than 50 people responded.

Those responses show just how different the winners are - and how much they have in common.

They chose professions in which they became leaders - as lawyers, doctors, teachers, priests, business owners and volunteers. So many loved playing sports that the connection between athletics and high achievement became obvious. And only one reported anything he hated about St. Thomas: February!

They mentioned the same teachers over and over, including Dr. Herb Slusser of English, Dr. Robert Fogerty of history, Dr. Fred Flynn of philosophy, Dr. James Colwell of English and Monsignor James Lavin, who taught religion and was an academic counselor.

But what they recall most fondly about their time St. Thomas are the friends they made. Here are the 77 award winners:

1931: Ralph Antil (deceased)
The physical education major was captain of the football and basketball teams and earned all-state honors as an end in football. He was vice president of his junior and senior classes.

1932: Francis Hyland (deceased)
He also played football and was grand tiger of the Tiger Club, also known in those days as the Gas House Tigers. He was an education major.

1933: Francis Lane (deceased)
A science major, he was a guard on the football team and, like Hyland, served as grand tiger of the Tiger Club as well as president of the Monogram Club.

1934: Neil Boyle (deceased)
The football team captain belonged to the Education and Aesculapian clubs, and went on to teach and coach in Waterloo, Iowa. He received the award from The Aquin, the new student newspaper beginning in fall 1933.

1935: Bernard Van Demark and Frank Haider (both deceased)
The contest resulted in a tie, at 125 votes each. Van Demark was president of three organizations - the student council, senior class and Education Club - and played hockey. He also coached the hockey team at St. Thomas Academy. Haider played hockey, was an all-state quarterback in football and helped coach the college's hockey team.

1936: John Lackner (deceased)
The football player and grand tiger majored in social sciences and went on to a distinguished career in education, including principal of St. Paul Central and director of American schools in Europe after World War II. He was a coach on St. Thomas' 1949 Cigar Bowl team.

1937: E. Harvey O'Phelan, M.D., Minneapolis
The oldest living Tommie Award winner and a former member of the board of trustees at St. Thomas, Harvey O'Phelan served for many years as a doctor to the Minnesota Twins. He often patched up St. Thomas athletes, even going to Cuba with the baseball team in 2000. Two sons, Sean and Edward, graduated from St. Thomas in the 1970s, as did his father, James, in 1906.

1938: Thomas Coughlan (deceased)
The Aquin editor and sports columnist was a banker, worked in the family business (Mankato-Kasota Stone) and served on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees in the 1970s and 1980s. He was Distinguished Alumnus in 1977.

1939: Sylvester Turbes, M.A., St. Paul
He believes he is the oldest living member of the Tiger Club and recalls how he organized a "hillbilly band" that performed at homecoming. He served in France and Germany with the 95th Infantry and was recalled for the Korean War in 1950, returning to teach at St. Thomas Academy until his retirement in 1985. A son and granddaughter graduated from St. Thomas. "It's a good university," he said. "I liked the fellowship and friendliness."

1940: Elden F. Rhode (deceased)
He majored in general sciences, ran track and was in the Tiger Club and on the All College Council. He taught at St. Thomas Academy before enlisting in World War II.

1941: James Shannon, M.A., Ph.D. (deceased)
The straight-A student graduated in three years with a major in Latin, was ordained a priest and, at age 35, became president of St. Thomas. He served from 1956 to 1966. Pope Paul VI named Shannon a bishop and he served until 1969, when he left active ministry. He later married and served in the administration at St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M., before returning to the Twin Cities as president of the Minneapolis Foundation and then the General Mills Foundation.

1942: Gilbert Dapper (deceased)
Captain of the football team, he also was involved in the ACC, Tiger Club, Monogram Club and Education Club.

1943: Eugene Neitge (deceased) and James Gergen
The second tie for Mr. Tommy, this time by a 40-40 vote, included an Aquin story that alleged another candidate, Don Wozniak, tried to stuff the ballot boxes in favor of Gergen. Wozniak confessed in the story that he "was laying rather heavy money on Gergen." The only problem with the story: It was published on April 1 in an edition full of made-up stories.

Gergen majored in chemistry, was president of Chemistry Affiliates (a student organization), served on the All College Council and played in the band. Neitge, a social sciences major, was an all-state football player.

1944: John T. Coskran, M.A., Burnsville, Minn.
Coskran actually didn't graduate until 1947, with a degree in social science, but was named the 1944 Mr. Tommy when he was in the Navy V-12 Officer Training Program. He joined Catholic Charities in 1962 and worked there for 31 years as associate director. In 1994 he received the Alumni Association's Humanitarian Award.

1945 and 1946 (no awards given because of World War II and extremely small enrollment)

1947: Norbert RobertsonNorbert Robertson '47 came back to St. Thomas after serving in World War II
When Emily Kessel, a sophomore at St. Thomas, walked into her grandfather Norbert Robertson's apartment, the first thing he told her was about the book he was reading. "Have you heard of this book? It's called The Greatest Generation, that's me."

Robertson was the 1947 recipient of the Mr. Tommy Award, but times were different back then. "He was the first Tommie to be married with a child," said Gwen, Robertson's wife of 60 years. "It was war time and the war was just over."

Robertson spent his first two years of college at the University of Minnesota and was drafted in September 1941. When he returned home from being stationed in the South Pacific, he decided to transfer to St. Thomas on the G.I. Bill. "The reason I went there was because my neighbors were interested in football, hockey and baseball and they said, 'Norb, we can all be on a team because they are starting everything new.' "

Some of Robertson's best memories from St. Thomas come from their stay at Tom Town, a collection of quonset huts occupied by couples, families and teachers. "On a Saturday you'd be invited to someone's house and all you'd get was a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, no dinners, no cocktails. We didn't have money for that," Robertson said. "But, oh, the fun of it."

The Robertson children had their share of fun at St. Thomas as well. Their son Michael would get bribed by students with a candy bar to come to class with them. "Our little boy ran the campus," recalled Gwen. "He'd go to class with the boys and they'd tell him to get up and say, 'This is a lousy, rotten class. I'm leaving.' "

After graduating from St. Thomas, Robertson went on to get his master's degree in education from the University of Minnesota. He taught and coached at St. Thomas Academy and Alexander Ramsey High School until he retired in 1985.

"My favorite thing about St. Thomas was the lasting friendships that I made," Robertson said.

As for the Tommie Award he says, "I am proud but humbled."

1948: William Quayle (deceased)
Quayle started at St. Thomas before World War II and served in Germany, where he lost both eyes. Undaunted, he returned to campus and earned a degree in social sciences. He owned an office supply store in downtown St. Paul.

1949: Nicholas Coleman (deceased)
The political science major and All College Council president ran an advertising agency in St. Paul and went into politics, becoming majority leader of the Minnesota Senate in the 1970s. One of his sons, Chris, is mayor of St. Paul.

1950: Donald Sovell, Minneapolis
A chemistry and math major, Sovell was president of his senior class and played on the 1949 Cigar Bowl team. He taught math and general science for 30 years in Minneapolis high schools, and also coached football, basketball and golf most of those years. After retirement as a teacher, he continued to serve as an assistant coach at high schools, including Cretin-Derham Hall when Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer was a freshman. "Taught him everything he knew," Sovell quipped.

1951: John Dolan, Eagan, Minn.
A high school teacher and athletic director, Dolan went into insurance sales and was president of Northwest Co. Associates. Today, St. Thomas is "doing great. Our children Dean, Steve and Ann and some grandchildren and many nieces and nephews and cousins graduated from St. Thomas."

1952: Glen Thommes, M.S., Ph.D., Wilmington, Del.
A director of research and development for DuPont, he co-founded Precision Cure, a software company, and was an adjunct professor in engineering at St. Thomas. Winning the award "im-proved (my) self-confidence and showed the value of friendship and mutual respect with all students and faculty," he said.

1953: Richard Copeland, J.D., Grant, Minn.
He played hockey and golf, was junior class president and in the Tiger Club. A business administration major, he found that he also liked political science courses. He was in the first graduating class of William Mitchell College of Law and still practices law. Six of his 10 children graduated from St. Thomas.

1954: John Hislop, M.A., Vadnais Heights, Minn.
A high school teacher, counselor and coach, Hislop founded the St. Paul School Job Shadowing Program for special needs students. The Korean War veteran was a basketball and football referee for 35 years and the founder of CUBE Realty. A son, Terry, attended St. Thomas.

1955: Francis Mach, M.A., Ph.D, Cumberland, Wis.
Director of athletics at St. Thomas from 1968 to 1992, Mach said his "most gratifying accomplishment was playing a significant role in re-establishing the men's athletic program to prominence in the MIAC, and the rare opportunity to start an athletics program for women and watch it prosper." What he liked most about St. Thomas were his fellow students: "The many friends were unpretentious, serious about studies and fun loving." Three Mach children graduated from St. Thomas.

1956: James Hare, two M.A.s, Edina, Minn.
His favorite activity was playing baseball for four years. Hare served three years in the Marines and six years as a captain in the Minnesota National Guard. His baseball teams at Richfield High won state titles in 1971 and 1972, and he was named state "Coach of the Year."

1957: John "Doc" Dolan, Eagan, Minn.
Dolan loved athletics and is in both the Cretin High School and St. Thomas Athletic halls of fame. He was named the IBM Rookie of the Year for a national new-accounts record. With seven children - two went to St. Thomas - and 24 grandchildren, his advice is: "Make St. Thomas affordable for large families."

1958: Charles Williams Jr., J.D., Roseville, Minn.Charles Williams Jr., '58 J.D. never paid much attention to being first black award winner
A lawyer, Charles Williams is a district court referee in Family Court and previously was a federal public defender.

"I understand that I was the first black student to win the Mr. Tommy Award," he said, "but I never paid much attention to that. I was just a member of the student body and there was no emphasis on black students on campus, though St. Thomas always welcomed students of color. Being named the outstanding senior affected my life by reinforcing the sound moral and personal values instilled in me by my parents."

He came to St. Thomas because his brother Stanley '53 was here. Two other brothers are alumni - Tommy, who joined the Naval Air Corps and later served in Vietnam, and Martin, who served in the Naval Reserve. A niece, Allison '93, also went to St. Thomas and a sister-in-law, Laverne, got a master's degree in 1960.

Williams enjoyed student life: "Working in the Bookstore for three and a half years, I got to know many students and faculty." His favorite memories are of singing in the St. Thomas Choral Group.

1959: Kenneth Staples, M.A., Champlin, Minn.
He played professional baseball for 10 years and was a high school teacher and coach for 28 years. "Married with two children, and living off campus, I was either in class or involved with baseball or hockey or coaching," he said. "Being named outstanding senior made me feel honored and was unexpected. It made me think anything can happen."

1960: Peter Redpath, Mendota Heights, Minn.
Redpath, who works in human resources, said his best class was Ethics with Flynn. The author of a book, Whiskey, Murder and God, Redpath said the Mr. Tommy Award "made me feel responsible and take life more seriously."

1961: Donald Saatzer, M.A., Hastings, Minn.
He played baseball in the New York Yankees organization for four years. He also was a scout for the Boston Bruins from 1983 to 2004 and became a close friend of Herb Brooks; serving as an honorary pallbearer at Brooks' funeral. His advice to future students: "Save money for tuition and read - read anything and everything you can."

1962: Clifford Mollsen, D.D.S., Mt. Prospect, Ill.
"The award winner is challenged to pursue life with a humble grace and strength of character," Mollsen said. "It compels us to live up to the responsibility of achievement through honest effort." He served in the Naval Reserve in Japan.

1963: William Cosgriff, J.D., St. Paul
An attorney, Cosgriff was a Navy judge advocate for three years, including one year in Vietnam. Also the winner of the St. Thomas Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Cretin Award from Cretin-Derham Hall and a member of the Twin Citian Volunteer Hall of Fame, Cosgriff said the Mr. Tommy Award "is a reminder of the debt of gratitude I have to the university for the outstanding education I received, the many lifelong friends I have made."

1964: Thomas Howe, J.D., Ormond Beach, Fla.
A district court judge in Minnesota for 25 years, Howe liked the "maintained and friendly campus. I received a lot of guidance and learned a lot about life" His favorite class was Ethics with Flynn. Howe's three children attended St. Thomas.

1965: Thomas Raih, M.D., Edina
The biology and chemistry major was captain of the basketball team, covered sports for The Aquin and was on the All College Council and in the Tiger Club. An orthopedic surgeon, he accompanied the St. Thomas baseball team on its historic trip to Cuba in 2000.

1966: David Rumpf, M.A., Ph.D., Nahant, Mass.
Working as a principal technologist in applied statistics and probability at GE Aviation in Lynn, Mass., Rumpf was professor of the year while teaching at Northeastern University in Boston. His best teacher at St. Thomas was Slusser, liked the "excellent friendships" best but thought the "cold weather was the worst."

1967: Edward Ross Jr., J.D., Chevy Chase, Md.
A lawyer, Ross said, "Herb Slusser was the best teacher I had. On campus, I liked the casual, friendly atmosphere." Beyond the classroom, his favorite activity was "grilling."

1968: Thomas Fox (deceased)He was president of his junior and senior classes and the All College Council, and majored in political science.

1969: Michael Mahoney, J.D., Edina, Minn.
"My greatest professional joy was owning my own law firm for more than 30 years," said Mahoney, a lawyer. The campus "was small enough that I literally knew every student and almost every professor. I now teach at the law school and observe its close-knit, collegial and supportive atmosphere even though the campus is larger at all levels."

1970: Timothy Rumsey, M.D., St. Paul
A family physician, Rumsey said his best accomplishment is being a "husband and father of three wonderful girls." He liked "everything at St. Thomas - the small, intimate faculty, and the best teachers: Colwell and Silverman." His advice: "Try your best. Enjoy yourself."

1971: Steve Fritz, M.A., Mendota Heights, Minn.
Director of athletics at St. Thomas since 1992 and head men's basketball coach since 1980, Fritz's teams have won 12 MIAC titles and reached the NCAA Final Four once. "I haven't found anything more exciting or fun on a daily basis than the challenge of coaching players, putting together teams and seeing them succeed beyond college," he said. Fritz has always worked at St. Thomas: "The students are the reason you stay involved. They are part of a wonderful community. Today St. Thomas is the most dynamic institution in the Midwest." Sons Joseph '98 and Peter '00 and daughter Maura '02 are alumni.

1972: Phillip Huyler
The physical education major was an all-conference soccer player for three years. He also played basketball and was a Silver Gloves boxing champion. He became a chiropractor.

1973: Fred M. Soucie, J.D., Anoka.Fred Soucie '73 sees quality of St. Thomas shining in daughters
"I cannot tell you how proud I am of my daughters, Sarah, who is a junior at St. Thomas and Ruth, a sophomore. The quality of St. Thomas is shining through every time I get together with Sarah and Ruth and hear about their experiences," said Soucie. "It is a great institution, not just for education but also for personal growth."

Soucie, a lawyer at Soucie Bolt in Anoka, recalls a college with a "strong sense of community. I felt I belonged. Father Lavin was the highlight for me. He is a real saint. I will never forget his generosity and his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which were available to us all night in Ireland Hall." (He also notes that Lavin played with the illegal puppy that Soucie and friends kept in Ireland.)

The advice he gave all four of his daughters (Becky and Rachel graduated from St. Catherine) was from a sermon about anxiety and worry he heard as a freshman. "The priest's message was, 'Work, don't worry,' and I took it to heart," said Soucie.

Soucie was happy Sarah and Ruth chose St. Thomas, but Ruth originally thought it was the last place she wanted to go. However, she "fell in love with it last year" when as a senior at Anoka High School she took college-level classes at St. Thomas. Now 19, she is majoring in political science and sociology. Sarah is a sociology and English major.

Besides hard work, both daughters have followed their dad into football, too. He enjoys seeing his daughters work as student managers for the football team. We are both fans," Ruth said. Fred played at St. Thomas for three years and wanted to be a football coach. However, he got "burnt out on football" and his brother told him, "You like to argue. You should be a lawyer."

1974: Kenneth Belle
He was an all-conference soccer player, majored in biology and served as president of the International Students Organization.

1975: Mark Dienhart, M.A., Ph.D., St. Paul
Executive vice president and chief administrative officer at St. Thomas, Dienhart said his best teachers were Dr. Tom Sullivan and Dr. Hubert Walczak. What he liked most was "the amount and quality of personal attention provided by faculty and staff." Dienhart coached football and indoor track at St. Thomas (the 1984 team won an NCAA national championship), and was director of athletics at the University of Minnesota before returning to St. Thomas in 2001. "St. Thomas is doing very well in challenging times and needs to stay strongly committed to great teaching and a high degree of personal attention for its students," he said.

1976: Richard Keogh, M.S., Houston, Texas
A petroleum geologist who explores major oil and gas fields, Keogh said, "I enjoyed the balance of studies, athletics and social life in a Catholic community. My best memories include a geology field trip to the Appalachians and sweeping the Air Force Academy in hockey in 1976 on their home ice." His favorite teachers were Jack Brownstein in geology, Robert Lippert in English and Father Lavin.

1977: Joe Sweeney, New Brighton
Head coach of women's track and cross-country at St. Thomas for 27 years, Sweeney's teams have won 55 MIAC and four cross-country national championships. "The best memory about the Tommie Award was being able to thank my parents who flew in from Chicago. They put eight children through private education and made many sacrifices for us." Today, he thinks, "St. Thomas has the size and scope of a big university but still offers a personal experience. We need to make it more affordable.

1978: Terrence Fleming, J.D., Minneapolis
He graduated in three years with a degree in English and was captain of the basketball team. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he returned to the Twin Cities, where he is a securities lawyer at Lindquist and Vennum.

1979: Michael Hines, J.D., Davenport, Iowa
An English major, he was on the All College Council and was active in Campus Ministry, where he taught religion to children with mental and physical disabilities. He went to law school at St. Louis University and is in practice in Davenport, his hometown.

1980: Steven Karel, Mendota Heights, Minn.
The accounting major played basketball, was grand tiger in the Tiger Club and served as a Volunteers in Action coordinator for the Exceptional Children's Fair. He is chief operating officer of Biothera. He previously owned a construction business with his brother.

1981: Rachel Wobschall, M.I.M., St. Paul
Executive director of alumni and constituent relations at St. Thomas, Wobschall was the first woman Tommie Award winner, part of the first coeducational class and the first woman president of the All College Council. "What I liked about St. Thomas was the small, collegial, community aspect. I can honestly say that every good thing that has happened to me as an adult is because of the education I received or because of the people I met here." Today, Wobschall said, "St. Thomas is absolutely fabulous. I think those who were on campus in the early 1980s could not imagine what UST has become today."

1982: Father William Vouk III, S.T.B., S.T.L., J.C.L., St. Cloud, Minn.
Vouk has been pastor of four Catholic parishes. Being named outstanding senior came at a good time: "I had gotten into trouble with the rector of the seminary, Monsignor (Richard) Pates, for writing a letter to The Aquin which blasted a decision of Monsignor Murphy. Getting named, I believe, helped to soften his confrontation. (I still had to apologize to Monsignor Murphy.)"

1983: Thomas Arnold, D.D.S., M.S., Burnsville, Minn.
What Arnold, an orthodontist, liked best was playing baseball, "Lavinburgers" and the small campus. St. Thomas has grown "dramatically in the last 25 years," he said. "My hope is that the core strengths (small class size, excellent faculty, broad-based liberal arts education) remain intact."

1984: Steve Hoeppner, Eagan, Minn.
Executive director of development at St. Thomas, Hoeppner said, "I was fortunate to have many excellent teachers. Father Vincent Rush stands out as one of the best. Faculty and staff took a personal interest in the well-being and quality of education of the students." His job consists of "connecting interesting, kind-hearted, generous people with giving opportunities that have changed people's lives," Hoeppner explained. "I think St. Thomas has improved by keeping the best aspects of the school I attended in the 1980s (faith-based, student-centered, liberal arts education) while adding better facilities, more educational programs and a bigger variety of extracurricular activities."

1985: Jodeen Kozlak Zahariades, J.D., Edina, Minn.
She is a vice president in human resources and general counsel at Target. Her favorite class was Western Political Thought.

1986: Paul Thurmes, M.D.
A chemistry major, he was captain of the cross country team and also was on the track team. He was active in Campus Ministry and a member of St. John Vianney Seminary. A physician, he is in his final year of a hematology and encology fellowship at Mayo Clinic and will join an Edina practice this summer.

1987: Charles Nies
He had a double major in psychology and theology and served as president of the Psychology Club. He was a resident adviser and Volunteers in Action coordinator, and sang in the Liturgical Choir.

1988: Laura Widerski, M.D.S
he was a chemistry major, president of the Aesculapian Club, a member of Aquinas Scholars and Campus Ministry and on the track team.

1989: Patrick Hrbacek, J.D., Colorado Springs, Colo.
He said he has "always been grateful to Coach (Steve) Fritz for the chance to participate in basketball and to be part of St. John Vianney Seminary, where I matured a great deal in my faith life. ... The people who took an interest in me shaped much of who I am today."

1990: Andrew Curoe, J.D., Huntington Woods, Mich.
His favorite activity as a student was "playing cribbage and euchre" and his favorite teachers were Dr. John Buri in psychology and Dr. Terry Nichols in theology, said the Detroit lawyer. As for the award, "People in Michigan called me 'Tommy Boy' after seeing it on my resume.

1991: Elizabeth Baniak Zupfer, M.B.A., Mounds View, Minn.
Manager of alumni systems at St. Thomas, Zupfer said she had a lot of fun as a student working with the "old crew in Campus Ministry, Development and Alumni." Her best teacher was Dr. Luann Dummer in English - "very encouraging and at the same time relentless in challenging us to think." Among her best classes was Intro to Theology with Anne King. "I met some lifelong friends in that class and was challenged to move beyond the CCD answers to who God is."

1992: Mark Quayle, J.D., St. Paul
An attorney for Cargill, Quayle said, "I still count a significant number of the people I met my first month on campus among my closest friends - even if they are scattered all over the globe. It made me especially proud to be the second member of my family to earn the award. (Bill Quayle, his great uncle, won in 1948.) It also was a thrill to help start a new school tradition - delivering the student speech at commencement."

1993: James Hornsten, M.A., Ph.D., Wooster, Ohio
He teaches economics at the University of Wooster. He enjoyed "trying to keep up with much faster runners on the track team and taunting Johnnie fans." The award, he said, "has reminded me what the college experience is all about; recalling my UST adventures helps me be lenient toward my students."

1994: Emily Leventhal, Ph.D., Tallahassee, Fla.
She majored in criminal justice and Spanish and spent her first year out of St. Thomas in Volunteers for Education in Social Services in Texas. She earned her doctorate in sociology at the University of Texas-Austin and ran research projects for the Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C, for five years before moving to Florida, where she is a senior legislative analyst.

1995: Laurie Wright Burgess, M.D., Woodbury, Minn.
An anesthesiologist specializing in pediatrics, she said her favorite classes (other than biology) were in theology, "which really surprised me. Christian Morality and Judaism were both fantastic classes. I really believed in living my college life to its full potential. I was so proud to be recognized as someone who represents the ideals of the university. The spirit of St. Thomas is growing and changing, yet the values remain the same."

1996: Curt Behrns, M.D., Rochester, Minn.
"Football was my favorite activity. It provided great lessons in teamwork, discipline and friendships," said Behrns, a resident in diagnostic radiology at the Mayo Clinic. He was a biology major but found "courses in philosophy with Dr. Steve Laumakis and history with Dr. Scott Wright have proven to be the most interesting. These are prominent in the books and articles I read today." His four brothers - Kevin, Steve, Lynn and Scott - attended St. Thomas, and now four nieces and nephews are students here.

1997: Ryan Schlief, M.A., Brooklyn, N.Y.
He lists his occupation as "human rights activist" and spent 2006 as acting head of Amnesty International's research and campaign work in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Brunei. Before joining Amnesty International in 2004, Schlief worked for the International Human Rights Law Centre in London. He worked for U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone and interned at the Center for Victims and Torture in Minneapolis. About the Tommie Award, Schlief said, "I accepted the honor then and still now as a culmination of the work other students, staff and faculty made at the time to better UST for everyone under its Arches."

1998: Father Paul C. Hoesing, O'Neil, Neb.
A religion teacher in the Omaha archdiocese, Hoesing remembers the "philosophy courses of Dr. Richard Berquist." Hoesing liked best "the serene libraries, the quiet chapels, the new science building, the napping zone in the student center, and those who would smile and say 'hello.' " He disliked February. "I found the award allowed me to meet some very good, heroic and holy people. I shared the podium with Mary Jo Copeland on graduation day and will not forget meeting her.

1999: Sara Freund, M.A., St. Paul
She was a journalism major and sang in the Liturgical Choir. She is an editor and project manager at Pearson AGS Globe, a textbook publisher in Shoreview, and previously taught at Trinity School in Bloomington.

2000: Jon Merchant, Portland
An assistant director of residence life at the University of Portland, Merchant said his best teachers were "Alan Sickbert, Cara Halgren Goodin, Thanos Zyngas, Karen Lange, Mary Dunn and Barb Joynson. None of these taught me in a classroom, but they inspired me to work hard and lead by an example of faith, service and integrity. "I was deeply humbled by the Tommie Award and know many of my classmates were just as deserving. I guess the impact is the way I live my life - striving to be a person of integrity, leadership, faith, service and excellence."

2001: Nicole Zwieg Daly, J.D., Maple Grove, Minn.
The business management and public relations major served as All College Council president, was on the Student Alumni Council and sang in the Liturgical Choir. She was in the first graduating class of the St. Thomas School of Law in 2004, and works for Concorde International, which resells other companies' products.

2002: Brian Brenberg, Boston
He is studying for an M.B.A. from Harvard University and an M.P.A. from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He expects to graduate from both programs in June 2008. His best teacher was Robert Riley.

2003: Andrew Peltier, Minneapolis
He will earn his M.D. degree this May. The Tommie Award "helped me realize that how we live our lives impacts others. We can pour ourselves out in the selfish pursuit of personal success, or we can pour ourselves out in the service of God and people."

2004: Greg Aitchison, Dallas
Aitchison is teaching theology at a Catholic grade school in Dallas and will finish a master's in education from Notre Dame in July. "The UST professors in theology and Catholic Studies showed me what it's like to teach with passion and faith, something I try to emulate in my classroom." He misses "barefoot sports on the quad and throwing snowballs at friends," and "loved living in Ireland Hall, even becoming a resident adviser so I could stay on there. ... My time at UST remains one that I continually thank God for."

2005: Adam Groebner, Edinburgh, Texas
He majored in international studies and Spanish, served as president of the All College Council and was co-captain of the men's swimming team his junior and senior years. He also tutored elementary school students, studied in Spain, Cuba and Chile, and participated in the Aquinas Scholars Program. This summer, he will complete a two-year Notre Dame program that combines teaching in a Catholic school in Texas while earning a master's degree in education.

2006: Benjamin Kessler, Vatican City, Rome
A seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Kessler recalls enjoying "the packed sports events," playing defensive tackle on the football team that he captained his senior year and life in St. John Vianney Seminary. "I would tell those starting college to find the best fit," Kessler said. "Prospering is about finding an environment that works for you, having the appropriate attitude and going out and doing what you are supposed to do."

2007: David Wierzbicki
(see story)

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