The University of St. Thomas celebrated its annual St. Thomas Day on Wednesday, May 1. The event honored 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.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Monsignor James Lavin Award – Doug Hennes ’77 (posthumous)
  • Professor of the Year Award – Victoria Young, PhD
  • Humanitarian Award – Beth Burns ’94
  • Tommie Award – Bisrat Bayou ’19
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award – Cardinal Blase Cupich ’71

Monsignor James Lavin Award: Doug Hennes ‘77

The Monsignor James Lavin Award honors an alumnus or alumna for outstanding volunteer contributions to St. Thomas

For 41 years as an alumnus and 27 years as a staff member, Hennes combined his passion for St. Thomas, his love of writing, and his innate desire to connect with and help people. He led his alma mater’s University Relations department and served as a liaison to government, neighborhood and various higher education groups. Through magazine articles, presidential addresses and other writing, Hennes expressed the mind and the heart of the university to fellow alumni and numerous other audiences. His notable dedication to Tommie sports took him around Minnesota (and nationwide, at playoff time) to cheer as a fan and to cover competition as a newsman.

Hennes, 63, passed away last July 19.

Professor of the Year: Victoria Young, PhD

Professor of the Year recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and service. The faculty selects the recipient, and this year’s Professor of the Year is Dr. Victoria Young, professor and chair of the St. Thomas art history program and architectural historian.

A dedicated faculty member, mentor and leader at the university since 2000, Young has positively influenced countless students and colleagues. Her global leadership in architectural history has helped art history rise to a new level at St. Thomas, and her positive influence has helped shape the university through the campus master plan and construction projects over the past two decades.

Humanitarian Award: Beth Burns ’94

The Humanitarian Award recognizes an individual’s contributions to the betterment of the spiritual and material welfare of the less fortunate.

Since 2002, Burns’ nonprofit organization, p:ear, has offered life-changing services to Portland, Oregon’s, homeless youth through programs in education, arts and recreation. As co-founder and executive director, she brings dignity, hope and a positive vision for the future to more than 50 young people a day – almost 5,000 over the course of p:ear’s existence. Provided with daily food, mentoring and job training programs, those who need and use these opportunities feel connected to a supportive community. With Burns’ help, they lay foundations for successful adult lives and realize that generosity and caring can heal even deep wounds.

Tommie Award: Bisrat Bayou ’19

The Tommie Award is sponsored annually by the Division of Student Affairs and honors a senior selected by students, faculty and staff as best representing St. Thomas Aquinas’ ideals of scholarship, leadership and campus involvement.

Bayou is a senior majoring in neuroscience and minoring in public health. He has been involved as a student leader at St. Thomas in a variety of ways, including serving as the Undergraduate Student Government president; as a Student Diversity and Inclusion Services linkages mentor; and a member of the Black Empowerment Student Alliance, African Nations Student Association and Summit Singers.

Distinguished Alumnus Award: Cardinal Blase Cupich ’71

The Distinguished Alumnus Award honors an individual for leadership and service to St. Thomas, the community and in his or her field of endeavor.

Ordained a priest in 1975, Cupich was ordained a bishop in 1998 and has served the dioceses of Rapid City, South Dakota; Spokane, Washington; and Chicago, Illinois. In the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cupich has served on and led many committees, and has held board and advising roles for other prominent organizations, including chairman of the National Catholic Education Association. In 2016, Pope Francis elevated him to the College of Cardinals at the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City.

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.

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