The University of St. Thomas will celebrate its annual St. Thomas Day on Wednesday, May 6. The event honors recipients of the Monsignor James Lavin Award, Professor of the Year, Humanitarian Award, Tommie Award and Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award.
St. Thomas Day recognizes the extraordinary contributions 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 the Most Rev. John Nienstedt, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. A dinner and awards program will follow in James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall, Anderson Student Center. Dr. Julie Sullivan, president of St. Thomas, will present the awards. More than 500 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. For forms and more information on how to submit a nomination, visit the Alumni Association website.
Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award
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 John Carr '72, founder and director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and the Washington correspondent of America Magazine.
Carr's career as a leader at the intersection of faith and politics in Washington, D.C., has been nothing short of remarkable.
For 20 years he served as executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, where he provided guidance for the U.S. bishops' public policy and advocacy initiatives and publicly represented the department. He resigned in 2012 to accept a residential fellowship at the Institute of Politics of Harvard University, where he further concentrated his efforts in the connection between faith and public life.
In his resignation letter to the USCCB, Carr expressed his desire "to focus my remaining energies on efforts to help form, support and encourage Catholic lay men and women to be more effective leaders in bringing Catholic principles to public life and all of society. This has long been a priority for me and now is the right time to act on my conviction that new efforts are needed to help Catholic laity act on Catholic principles on human life and dignity, economic and social justice, religious freedom and solidarity, care for creation and peace."
Carr's past work includes service under U.S. President Jimmy Carter as executive director of the White House Conference on Families and as director of the National Committee for Full Employment, a civil rights-labor-religious coalition spearheaded by Coretta Scott King.
He is on the board of the St. Thomas' School of Law and also is vice chair of the board of Bread for the World. His awards include the John A. Ryan Award from St. Thomas, the Vision Award from Catholic Charities USA, the George Higgins Award from the Archdiocese of Washington, and he was named a “Hunger Hero” by Bread for the World.
Carr, Carr, who also attended St. John Vianney College Seminary while at St. Thomas, and his wife, Linda, reside in Cheverly, Maryland. They have four grown children and two grandchildren.
Mark Lacek '88 M.B.A. is the recipient of the 2015 Humanitarian Award for his decade's worth of philanthropic work.
Lacek is best known for co-founding, with his wife, Susan, Faith's Lodge, an 80-acre retreat in northwest Wisconsin where families who have lost a child or have a child with a life-threatening illness can retreat, reflect and renew their hope with families in a similar situation. The nonprofit is a tribute to their daughter, Faith Ann, who was delivered stillborn June 5, 2000.
For eight years, grieving families have sought the 12,000-square-foot lodge, which was built through fundraising, for its solace and the opportunity to surround themselves with those who share the same loss and experience. As of the end of 2014 Faith's Lodge has served more than 1,700 families and more than 6,000 individuals.
Lacek, a self-described serial entrepreneur, developed one of the first loyalty programs for the airline industry, creating Republic Airlines’ frequent-flyer program (now Delta's). Most recently he founded FamDoo, a mobile parenting app that draws from his vast experience. The do-good app offers cash-value rewards to children for doing chores, homework and other social tasks while aiding in teaching them financial literacy and helping parents foster strong, well-connected families.
He also has served on the boards of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and m.Paani, an India-based innovator in bringing social services to the poor through strategic marketing partnerships and loyalty platforms.
Lacek and his wife live in Minneapolis with their two daughters, Emmy and Ally.
Monsignor James Lavin Award
Alfred "Al" Colling is the 2015 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, and its programs and services.
Colling has been involved with St. Thomas since he graduated in 1959. He served on the Alumni Board of Directors for a three-year term in the mid-1980s and also has been active in many alumni functions, including reunions and homecoming events. A General Mills retiree, Colling recruited finance and accounting students for positions at the company for 20 years, some of whom ascended to vice-president levels over the course of their careers at General Mills. He has participated in curriculum reviews in the Finance and Accounting departments and has shared his insights into both fields as a classroom speaker many times over.
In the early 1990s, Colling began to fund the Colling Family Endowed Scholarship, which began granting scholarships in the late 1990s and continues to this day.
Born in Jordan, Minnesota, Colling now calls Edina, Minnesota, home.
Professor of the Year
Dr. Jill Manske, a professor of biology who has taught at St. Thomas for 24 years, is this year's Professor of the Year.
Established in 1961, the Professor of the Year award recognizes a St. Thomas faculty member for excellence in teaching, scholarship and inspiration to students.
Manske's research interests center on the intersection between immunology, infectious disease and community health. Her work has taken her as far as sub-Saharan Africa, where she studied the region's environmental, cultural and public health challenges in the face of modernization.
Closer to home, Manske's research focuses on maternal influenza vaccination. She spent her 2011 sabbatical as a research fellow with the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy working with the center's scientists on a comprehensive influenza vaccine initiative. At St. Thomas she worked with the Biology Department to launch a new major in the biology of global health. Currently, she is chair of the College of Arts and Science faculty, co-chairs the Integrated and Expanded Health and Wellness Programs task force of the university's Strategic Planning Oversight Committee and serves on the advisory boards of the Luann Dummer Center for Women and the Women's Studies program, of which she is a former director. In 2013 she was named one of 13 American Association of Colleges and Universities Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills Scholars. She also received the 2008 Sister Pat Kowalski Women's Leadership Award.
Her degrees include a Ph.D. in immunology and an M.P.H from the University of Minnesota, an M.A. in zoology from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale and a bachelor’s in biology from St. Catherine University.
Manske lives in St. Paul with her husband, Michael Klutho, and their two dogs. They have three grown children.
Mariann Kukielka, a Shoreview native and senior majoring in entrepreneurship and business communications, was voted by students, staff and faculty as the winner of the 2015 Tommie Award.
Kukielka's service as a student leader at St. Thomas is extensive. Her positions include Morrison Hall apartment coordinator, first-year commuter adviser, president of Delta Sigma Pi, co-captain of the swim and dive team – on which she holds the all-MIAC record in the 100-yard butterfly – and undergraduate representative on President Julie Sullivan's Steering Committee to lead strategic planning efforts.
Outside of St. Thomas, she volunteers for Junior Achievement and Special Olympics Minnesota and works as a personal care assistant to children with developmental and cognitive special needs. She also is co-founder and chief creative officer of MerchSphere, an online merchandise marketing firm that helps businesses expand their reach.
Friend and classmate Kayla Bengtson wrote in a testimonial about Kukielka, “With extreme determination, intelligence and a heart of pure gold, Mariann Kukielka exemplifies what it means to be a Tommie. She has an absolutely contagious personality that brightens every room and a dedication to scholarship that we should all admire.”
After graduation, Kukielka will pursue opportunities in corporate fashion in New York City. She said, "With my entrepreneurship and business communication majors and film studies minor, I would eventually like to end up in producing or production management, but I just want to focus on getting my toes wet in the executive side of creative industries and see where that takes me!"
The Tommie Award has been presented since 1931 to a UST senior. It recognizes achievement in scholarship, leadership and campus involvement, and represents the highest ideals of the university.