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Five honored during Saint Mary’s Founders’ Day celebration

March 16, 2022

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In celebration of its heritage, Saint Mary’s University presented awards to beatified alumnus Blessed James Miller, FSC ’66, M’74 posthumously, as well as one faculty member, one staff member, and two outstanding seniors at its annual Founders’ Day celebration, which was held on March 15.

Patti Richter, Carl Richter, Ralph Miller, Bill Miller, the Most Rev. Bishop John Quinn (bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester), the Very Rev. Father James Burns (president of Saint Mary’s University).

In recognition of his lifelong dedication (and ultimately tragic death) in service to the marginalized youth in his care, Blessed James Miller received an honorary Doctorate in Educational Leadership posthumously. The recognition highlights Blessed James Miller’s devotion to youth in Central America at a time of great violence, pervasive injustice, civic unrest, and political turmoil, and his faithful and devout life as a De La Salle Christian Brother for 19 years prior to his death. His family members, sister Patti (and her husband Carl) Richter, and brothers Ralph and Bill Miller, attended the event, and Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC, Visitor of the Christian Brothers of the Midwest District, accepted the award on behalf of Blessed James.

Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award recipient Paul Kotz and Bishop Heffron Award recipient Deb Nahrgang.

Presented each year to a member of the faculty, staff, or administration whose life of faith and service exemplifies the ideals of John Baptist de la Salle, the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award was presented to Paul Kotz, Ph.D., core professor in the Ed.D. in Leadership program. The award is given by Lasallian institutions like Saint Mary’s in the Lasallian Region of North America of the De La Salle Christian Brothers to honor contributions and commitment to the Lasallian mission of education. Kotz, who has worked at Saint Mary’s for a total of 18 years, is renowned for his kindness, his patience, his dedication, and his positive spirit — traits that he shares with students, colleagues, and through his many involvements and written works. A sought-after adviser and mentor, Kotz models the Lasallian charism in his interactions.

To honor her 18 years of service to the university, Deb Nahrgang, senior communications director, was honored with the Bishop Heffron Award. The Heffron award — named after the founder of Saint Mary’s University — is awarded every other year to an employee who has contributed positively to the life of the university, has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the values of the university, and has been a model of the Lasallian spirit in interactions with colleagues and students. Nahrgang regularly demonstrates, through her work and her interactions with other employees and with students, a deep commitment to respect for all persons and to the university’s mission of ethical leadership and service. Her bright smile and infectious laugh lighten the load of employees and are a source of inspiration for many.

Outstanding Female Senior Jordan Keeley and Outstanding Male Senior Trevor Paradise.

The university also announced its Outstanding Male and Female Seniors during the Founders’ Day celebration. Outstanding Seniors have demonstrated the ideals of scholarship, character, leadership, service to colleagues and the university community, as well as genuine concern for the needs of others.

This year, the honor went to Jordan Keeley, of St. Peter, Minn., and Trevor Paradise, of Colorado Springs, Colo. The eight other students nominated for Outstanding Senior included Mary Furlong, Terra Lieser, Jordan Modjeski, Destiny Walker, Jack Hatton, Jonathon Krull, Angel Sacta Espinoza, and Elijah Williams.

Featured photo caption: Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC, Visitor of the Christian Brothers of the Midwest District, accepts an honorary Doctorate in Educational Leadership on behalf of Blessed James Miller.