St. Thomas Day Celebration Takes Center Stage Among Colleges in Minnesota

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University of St. Thomas to honor five at annual event.

“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.”

Like many colleges in Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas marks a special day to honor its past and recognize those steering its future. Our community will gather Saturday, March 5, to celebrate our annual St. Thomas Day and honor recipients of the Humanitarian, Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna, Professor of the Year, Tommie and Monsignor James Lavin awards.

St. Thomas Day events include a Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas and an awards program in Murray-Herrick Campus Center. More than 500 members of the St. Thomas community, and representatives from other universities in Minnesota, are expected to attend.

The five St. Thomas Day awards will be presented to:

Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award – This year's award is being 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 works in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a program called Witness and lists his occupation as “human rights activist.” The 1997 St. Thomas graduate will receive the university’s 2011 Humanitarian of the Year Award.

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, will receive 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.”

Tommie Award – 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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