The St. Thomas community gathered March 4 to celebrate its annual St. Thomas Day and to honor recipients of its Humanitarian, Distinguished Alumnus, Professor of the Year, Tommie and Monsignor James Lavin awards.
St. Thomas Day events began with a Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, which was celebrated by Archbishop Harry Flynn, chair of the university’s board of trustees. It was 88 years ago – on the March 7 St. Thomas Day of 1918 – that the first Mass was celebrated in that chapel. A dinner and awards program followed in Murray-Herrick Campus Center. More than 500 members of the St. Thomas community attended.
The five St. Thomas Day awards were presented to:
Humanitarian of the Year: William Roddy '79
William Roddy, of Eden Prairie, received the 2006 Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work on behalf of at-risk youth.
Roddy, a 1979 business graduate of St. Thomas, and his wife, Gail, were volunteers at the Hennepin County Home School, a juvenile correctional facility located in Minnetonka, when they decided to launch a nonprofit venture called Osiris Organization. It is named for an ancient Egyptian god of renewal and transformation.
Osiris began in 1996 at the Home School with the goal of providing its at-risk residents with technology and computer training, as well as mentoring opportunities. While Bill and Gail acknowledge that no computer class will change a life, “it sets the stage for other aspects of the program that truly can.”
After establishing its program at the Home School, Osiris went on to open additional computer centers at more than a dozen Minneapolis parks. All of the park centers are open to the public, and one of the largest, at Powderhorn Community Park, has 14 computers. Participants learn a range of Web site, networking, graphics and other software programs.
By hiring Home School computer graduates to work as instructors in the parks, Osiris gives young people positive role models to look up to. The younger participants learn valuable computer skills, and the older participants learn the value of being positive role models.
About 70 Home School residents participate in the Osiris programs each year; about 25 of them are hired to teach at the Minneapolis parks.
According to an article in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper, there were some who questioned Bill Roddy’s decision to quit his job and start Osiris. “My friends thought I had lost my mind. But I didn’t listen to them,” he said.
Roddy, 48, grew up on the west side of Chicago. He was an outstanding high school basketball player and at St. Thomas earned a spot in the “Career 1,000 Points Club” with 1,431 points during the years 1975 to 1979. He also played varsity tennis and was involved in the Tiger Club and President’s Student Development Council. As an alumnus, he has been involved in the African-American Alumni Committee.
Established 34 years ago, the Humanitarian of the Year Award is presented by the university’s Alumni Association.
Professor of the Year: Frank Coglitore
Frank Coglitore of Lakeville is Professor of the Year, recognized for excellence in teaching, scholarship and inspiration to students.
Coglitore, 63, has been teaching accounting at St. Thomas for 23 years and has no plans to retire. “I truly love going into the classroom and teaching, and plan to keep doing so as long as I enjoy working with our students and feel I’m making a contribution.”
As a teacher, he has three broad goals.
“Whether it is in the field of accounting, or in life in general, we want our students to learn how to learn. We use various teaching techniques to do this, and it’s one of the most important things we do.”
Next, he says, is teaching students to be competent in their field so they can pass the required professional exams and be productive employees.
Third is to expose students to situations in which they must consider the right thing to do. “This has to do with ethics, of course. While some could consider the field of accounting to be fairly cut and dried, there are many things that are open to interpretation; our students need to know what is the right thing to do,” he said. “We instill in them a professional code of conduct.”
Coglitore grew up in New York and remains a Yankees fan, something that comes in handy for starting good-natured arguments with his Twins-fan students. He majored in accounting and minored in philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx, received an M.B.A. at the University of Scranton, and continued his studies at the University of Minnesota, where he held a teaching fellowship.
When he took the certified public accountant exam in Minnesota, he received the Harold C. Utley Award for having the highest test score in the state.
After two years in the Army, Coglitore joined the faculty at Mankato State University, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in accounting from 1971 to 1976. He then spent five years at the international accounting firm KPMG, where he was a manager, and joined the St. Thomas accounting faculty in 1982.
He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in accounting and auditing. He has served as department chair and helped develop new programs.
He also has given more than two dozen presentations at accounting conferences locally and nationally. One of his research specialties has been in the field of problem-based teaching, which emphasizes critical-thinking, writing and communication skills. A paper he co-wrote on the topic was voted Best Faculty Paper at a regional conference of the American Accounting Association.
A second research specialty has been gender issues in accounting. Women have been making promising strides in the field, Coglitore said. That’s the case at St. Thomas, where slightly more than half of accounting students are women. Coglitore recalls that when he started teaching at St. Thomas, there was only one woman on the accounting faculty. Today, five of the 11 full-time accounting professors are women.
“We are tremendously proud of Frank’s accomplishments as Professor of the Year,” commented Dr. Christopher Puto, dean of the College of Business. “His approach to his classes and to his students embodies all of the elements we value so highly at St. Thomas.
Monsignor James Lavin Award: Charles Duggan '84
Charles Duggan, of Edina, received this year’s Lavin award. Established in 1994, the award annually honors a volunteer for service to the St. Thomas Alumni Association.
Duggan was active on campus as a student in New College, a former undergraduate program for older and nontraditional students, and has continued to be active with the university following his 1984 graduation.
Duggan was a founding member of the New College Alumni Association and worked to develop social, educational and career-related programs for older students and graduates.
A computer specialist, he also became a member of the main Alumni Association’s board of directors.
As one Alumni Association staff member described it, “A special place exists in the heart of Chuck for the University of St. Thomas. One of the first members of his family to receive a college degree, the education he received as an adult learner was a feat not to be underestimated.”
During his years of service, Duggan has been involved in a host of alumni programs that include career and entrepreneurship groups, First Friday lectures, taking students to lunch, Young Alumni events, and theater, golf and Christmas gatherings.
In 2001, at age 44, Duggan suffered a heart attack, which caused some brain damage. His long recovery was aided by a heart transplant three years ago.
Now Duggan is a volunteer at the Courage and Edina Care Centers. “I’ve been helping here for about two years. I was helped out a lot in my life and now these guys need it,” said the man who believes he is still here for a purpose and wants to fulfill that purpose.
“I got some values at St. Thomas that really stuck with me. I was blessed to go to St. Thomas while a lot of people weren’t that lucky. Now when I see a real need I go in and help out.”
Tommie Award: Benjamin Kessler
Benjamin Kessler was selected the 2006 Tommie Award winner by a vote of students, staff and faculty. The award has been given annually since 1931 to a senior who exemplifies the ideals of the university.
Kessler, of Janesville, Wis., holds a 4.0 grade-point average and is majoring in philosophy and business. He is a member of St. John Vianney Seminary, a community of undergraduate seminarians on the St. Paul campus, and his years at St. Thomas have blended scholarship, athletics and service to the church and community.
Father William Baer, rector of St. John Vianney, said, “I don’t quite know how he does it. Ben finds time in his schedule where no time seems to exist, coordinating activities and projects around the campus and surrounding community that have brought together seminarian students, nonseminarian students, student-athletes, coaches, faculty, staff, parents, church leaders and local community social-service agencies.
“As Ben’s seminary rector, I watch him engage in bridge-building efforts among various sections of the university community unlike any others.”
At 6’2” and 250 pounds, Kessler played defensive tackle for the St. Thomas football team for four years and was team captain in his senior year. He was named an ESPN the Magazine Academic All American. He also was a finalist for the Draddy Award, often referred to as the “Academic Heisman.”
At St. John Vianney, he served as both assistant and head sacristan, was the athletic tournament coordinator and led a mission trip to New Orleans in 2003.
He has been a founding member and grand knight of the St. Thomas Knights of Columbus Council and chaired the council’s food drive and pancake breakfast. His volunteer activities are many and varied: Loaves and Fishes food program, St. Phillips After-School Program, Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home, St. Mary’s Nursing Home, Segrado Corazon Hispanic Ministry and Spectrum Lighthouse Rehabilitation Home.
He is a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and Delta Epsilon Sigma National Scholastic Honor Society. He received a William B. Malevich Leadership Scholarship and a Monsignor James Lavin Award. He also chaired a Divine Mercy Hour of Prayer at St. Thomas and a 24-hour pro-life vigil in Madison, Wis.
“Ben is very intense in all facets of his daily life,” noted his football coach Don Roney. “Ben is extremely determined and works very hard. He has the same intensity in the classroom and when talking about his faith and the Catholic Church.
“He is a great role model for our other players and for other students on campus. He is equally a great role model for his seminarian classmates; a man exploring his calling can be aggressive, intense and proud of his faith while being successful in everything he does.”
This unusual combination of gritty football player and devoted seminarian has been covered in a host of media accounts that have appeared on campus, in Minnesota and nationally.
Kessler is the son of Anne and Ralph Kessler. Following graduation from St. Thomas this spring he plans to continue his studies in Vatican City at the Pontifical North American College, and hopes to become a priest.
The Tommie Award is sponsored by university’s Division of Student Affairs.