Saint Mary's University Campus News
WINONA, Minn. — It was a weekend of records as 500 attendees reconnected with each other, as well as their alma mater, during Saint Mary’s Reunion Weekend June 24-26.
The 50th anniversary Class of 1966 alone attracted a record 72 members, and the class generated a record reunion gift of almost $512,000 in appreciation for the education they received at Saint Mary’s. Matching gifts raise the impact of the donation to more than $620,000.
Another highlight of the weekend, the university presented four awards to successful alumni including:
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Throughout his career as an attorney in Washington, D.C., and Dayton, Ohio, Merle F. Wilberding ’66 has accrued a lengthy list of prominent legal achievements and worked high-profile national cases. He has repeatedly received the highest ratings from his peers and is continuously named an “Ohio Super Lawyer” and included in the “Best Lawyers in America,” among many others. In 2012 the Ohio State Bar Foundation gave him the Ramey Award for Distinguished Community Service. He received national recognition as an Army JAG Captain, representing the government in briefing and arguing the appeal in U.S. vs. Lt. William L. Calley, otherwise known as the “My Lai Massacre,” a case that will go down as the most notorious court-martial arising out of the Vietnam War. In 2008, on a substantially pro bono basis, he represented the family of LCpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was savagely murdered and buried in the backyard of Cpl. Cesar Laurean in North Carolina. As part of the case, he was interviewed on CNN’s morning news, The Today Show, and other national news shows and testified in hearings before the U.S. Congress. Subsequently, he became a national spokesperson for the victims of sexual assault in the military. At Saint Mary’s, the Merle F. Wilberding Alumni Room has been named in his honor. An active community leader and volunteer and a prolific writer, Wilberding has dedicated a lifetime of service for the benefit of his fellow man.
Clair (Zauhar) Pennycuff ’06, M’07
Young Alumna Award
Clair (Zauhar) Pennycuff ’06, M’07 empowers her students to grow not only in their academic knowledge but to live ethical lives as well. After completing her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Saint Mary’s, she moved to Kansas and became an English teacher at Kapaun Mount Carmel Catholic High School (KMC) for the Diocese of Wichita. Pennycuff shares her caring demeanor, with a touch of humor, with her students—holding very high expectations for them all. Her leadership abilities do not stop in the classroom. She has helped many other teachers by explaining the process of renewing their teaching license. She has also mentored new teachers. Pennycuff is also a part of the school technology committee and is involved with many other teacher and student groups, along with community activities. In 2012, she received the Gold Apple Award from KAKE news and was named Faculty Member of the Month in 2013. In 2014-15, she was named Teacher of the Year at KMC. This came after a difficult year involving a situation in which students had been caught cheating. It means a lot to her that this same set of students later helped nominate her for this award.
Barbara (Mulvey) McQuillan ’76
Lasallian Service Award
Barbara (Mulvey) McQuillan ’76 has dedicated her life to helping others. In 1993 McQuillan found her calling at Twin Cities Housing Development Corporation (TCHDC), where she worked her way quickly to executive director. TCHDC is a non-profit developer and owner of affordable rental housing for families in St. Paul, which has developed or preserved over 2,700 units of affordable rental housing in the Twin Cities metro area. McQuillan was awarded the LISC 2005 Community Development Leadership Award for TCHDC’s work related to the acquisition of tax credit properties. TCHDC properties not only provide high-quality affordable rental housing for low-income families, but often also help bring stability to the neighborhoods in which the properties are located. She has also been active on the boards—and held leadership positions—for three other nonprofit organizations: New Connection Programs, Inc., an adolescent chemical dependency treatment program in St. Paul; Neighborhood Involvement Program, a medical, dental, and mental health community clinic serving uninsured and underinsured individuals in Minneapolis; and Wayside House Inc., a chemical dependency and mental health treatment program for women.
Renée Garpestad ’81, D’03
Alumni Appreciation Award
Renée Garpestad ’81, D’03 has been a longtime partner of Saint Mary’s University. She graduated egregia cum laude from Saint Mary’s in 1981. After earning her M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in 1985, she returned to Saint Mary’s to obtain her Ed.D. in 2003. Garpestad began her sales and marketing career with Control Data, and she currently is senior vice president of business development at Lee Hecht Harrison. As an adjunct instructor at Saint Mary’s and St. Thomas, she has shared her expertise by teaching marketing and leadership. Garpestad has further shared her talent by serving on the Alumni Board of Directors from 1989-93 and as alumni board vice president from 1992-93. She also served two five-year terms on the Saint Mary’s University Board of Trustees and was named a Fellow of the Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership. In addition to participating in numerous university events, Garpestad was involved with many campaign steering committees and focus groups over the years such as The Next Step, Millennium, Context and Vision, and the Centennial Celebration. In honor of the Centennial, she was recognized as an alumna who is living the Saint Mary’s mission.
The weekend included tours of the bluffs and campus, a fun run for all ages, a canoeing excursion, a community picnic, a chance to build a mosaic masterpiece, trolley rides through Winona hot spots, and more. Winona alumni also held class reunions all over campus, throughout the downtown, and beyond. A lively Golden Reunion class gathered Friday evening, and Brother William presented them with special diplomas proclaiming mastery of “the art and science of life experiences.” Additionally, the Merle F. Wilberding ’66 Alumni Room was dedicated in the Toner Student Center.
See more photos from the weekend at smumn.edu/photos. Watch a video recap at www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqH4FtgO90Y&feature=youtu.be.
Read and watch more about Wilberding here.
To see video introductions of the four award winners:
- Pennycuff: www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_lTjo12zPE
- McQuillan: www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1ZpVBBWJi4
- Wilberding: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgpbEX9cd4M
- Garpestad: www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7eVeT6gPS8
About Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Enriched by the Lasallian Catholic heritage, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota awakens, nurtures, and empowers learners to ethical lives of leadership and service. At Saint Mary’s, students find in every classroom—whether in person or online—a relationship-driven, person-centered education. Through intense inquiry, students discover the truths in the world and the character within. Founded in 1912 and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota enrolls 5,800 students at its residential undergraduate college in Winona and its Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs, based in Minneapolis but extending worldwide. Saint Mary’s offers respected and affordable programs in a variety of areas leading to bachelor’s, bachelor’s completion, master’s, certificate, specialist, and doctoral degrees. Learn more at smumn.edu.
Inspiring Educator, Lasallian Leader
Hometown: Aurora, Ill.
Major: Communication Arts (Theatre)
Mary Catherine Fox is a well-respected graduate of Saint Mary’s and has been employed at her alma mater since 1990, serving as dean of the School of Business, Computer Science and Media Communications; vice president for university relations; and professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. She also teaches in the Lasallian Core Traditions program. For her service and dedication, she received affiliated De La Salle Christian Brother honors in 2014. Affiliation is the highest and rarest honor bestowed by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. By affiliation, men and women, lay, religious, and members of the clergy are made members of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. She was a delegate to the De La Salle Christian Brothers USA/Toronto Regional Assembly in 2005 and the 1st International Assembly on Association and Mission in 2006. She was the initial chairman of the Midwest District’s Mission and Ministry Council and was elected to two terms as chairman, and she has also served on the board of directors for Saint Mary’s Press. She received a Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award at the Huether Conference in 2013. She serves on the advisory board of the Institute for Lasallian Studies at Saint Mary’s, and has presented at both the International Leadership Conference of the International Association of Lasallian Universities and the Regional Lasallian Leadership Institute.
By Abbie Fangman ’17
Merle F. Wilberding ’66 is credited for bettering not only his community, but also the nation.
A renowned attorney in Washington D.C., and Dayton, Ohio, Wilberding has worked on several historically significant and nationally prominent cases. During the Vietnam War, Wilberding served as a U.S. Army JAG Captain and represented the Army in 800 appeals and argued 100 cases, including two of the biggest cases at that time—the Presidio Mutiny case and the Lt. William L. Calley also known as the “My Lai Massacre” case, which became known as the most notorious court-martial arising out of the Vietnam War.
In 2008, on a substantially pro bono basis, he represented the family of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was savagely murdered and buried in the backyard of Cpl. Cesar Laurean in North Carolina. As part of the case, he was interviewed on CNN’s morning news, The Today Show, and other national news shows and testified in hearings before the U.S. Congress. Subsequently, he became a national spokesperson for the victims of sexual assault in the military.
Throughout his career, Wilberding has accrued a lengthy list of prominent legal achievements and worked high-profile national cases. He has repeatedly received the highest ratings from his peers and is continuously named an “Ohio Super Lawyer” and included in the “Best Lawyers in America,” among many others. In 2012 the Ohio State Bar Foundation gave him the Ramey Award for Distinguished Community Service.
United States District Court Judge Walter Rice said, “Wilberding is not only a practitioner, he embodies the role of a community servant.” An active community leader and volunteer and a prolific writer, Wilberding has dedicated a lifetime of service for the benefit of his fellow man.
Fittingly, Wilberding was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award during Saint Mary’s University’s Alumni Reunion Weekend June 24-26.
Wilberding embodies the Saint Mary’s mission of empowering learners to live ethical lives of service and leadership. Clients are drawn to him for his integrity and the breath of his knowledge. Douglas Sholz, president of Unibuilt Industries, Inc., said that Wilberding “gives not only the legal determination, but the right determination.”
The alumnus credits the education he received from Saint Mary’s as helping to prepare him for his career. One faculty member in particular, Brother K. Basil, had a strong impact. Brother K. Basil pushed his students to analyze information and to write concisely, and Wilberding said these skills proved valuable to him as he furthered his education and throughout his career.
Wilberding donated funds to construct an alumni room—dedicated during Reunion Weekend—in Brother K. Basil’s honor. The Merle F. Wilberding Alumni Room, a legacy to Merle’s life, is located in the Toner Student Center and is a place for alumni to gather to remember the past and learn about Saint Mary’s future.
Hear colleagues comment on Merle’s contributions to his community and to the nation.
Hear Merle talk about his time at Saint Mary’s and how professors prepared him for his law career.
View Merle’s acceptance speech after receiving the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award.