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Saint Mary’s students make pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., to watch Pope Francis

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 2:04pm

WINONA, Minn. — Twelve Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota students watched history unfold Thursday, Sept. 24, in Washington, D.C., as Pope Francis made his first trip to the United States.

These undergraduate students—chosen for their leadership roles on campus—were watching as Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress via a live Jumbotron broadcast from the West Front lawn of the nation’s Capitol. After his Congressional address, a first in U.S. history, Pope Francis made a brief appearance on the West Front, which overlooks the National Mall.

For junior Briana Torres, a biology major from Chicago, the trip was especially meaningful.

“I was confirmed here at Saint Mary’s last year on my birthday,” she said. “I was raised Catholic and had drifted so to be confirmed was me finding my way back home. I cried when I found out I was chosen to go. It’s something you never think in your whole life will happen to you. This experience is going to help us do what we need to do to better the world.”

Stephanie Schmidt, a sophomore elementary education major from Plainview, Minn., agrees that as college students, Pope Francis’ message is especially timely as it will help to guide their paths. “We are the future,” she said. “We need to make good decisions so that we can make good contributions to society.”

Abram Whitebird, a sophomore history/social studies major from White Bear Lake, Minn., said he has closely followed Pope Francis’ papacy and believes strongly in his messages of acceptance and his commitment to the poor.

Dr. Tim Gossen, associate vice president for mission, accompanied the students. “As a Lasallian Catholic and American university, our students have benefited immeasurably from simply being present. But it is also a unique opportunity to integrate faith and reason, Christian identity, leadership, and civic responsibility,” he said. “I hope Francis’ deep commitment to preaching and living the gospel will have an impact on our students.”

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) secured the tickets for Saint Mary’s students.

Students attending were: Maetzin Cruz-Reyes (Taopi, Minn.), Lucas Gerads (Saint Cloud, Minn.), Marissa Kinzer (Aitkin, Minn.), Javi Madrid (Tucson, Ariz.), Joe Malinao (Savage, Minn.), Cassie Ricker (Oakdale, Minn.), Stephanie Schmidt (Plainview, Minn.), Mark Schumacher (Perham, Minn.), Matthew Smaron (Maple Plain, Minn.), Briana Torres (Chicago), Anna Washburn (Kenyon, Minn.), and Abram Whitebird (White Bear Lake, Minn.).

CAPTION: Some of the Saint Mary’s students who traveled to Washington, D.C., to hear Pope Francis are, from left: Lucas Gerads, Briana Torres, Stephanie Schmidt and Abram Whitebird.

Leadership series kick-off drives students toward goals

Mon, 09/21/2015 - 4:15pm

The message was simple, but the impact extraordinary.

Macki Fadness, a senior at the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota undergraduate, residential campus in Winona, has more clear direction for her future due to some recent leadership advice from a prominent Saint Mary’s graduate.

“Find a goal, and go after it,” Fadness said was the key take away she obtained from the university-sponsored inaugural 2015-2016 leadership series event on Sept. 10. It was no ordinary day for this two-time captain of the Cardinal women’s hockey team and team leader for the Saint Mary’s volleyball squad.

It was a day where Fadness, an education major from Eau Claire, Wis., heard alumnus John McDonough ’75 speak on leadership and success three times throughout the day. McDonough is the current leader of the six-time NHL Champion Chicago Blackhawks. President and CEO McDonough returned to his alma mater this fall with the 2015 Stanley Cup in tow. Arguably the sports world’s most revered team trophy, the Stanley Cup wasn’t the only memorable moment for Saint Mary’s students. McDonough’s messages took center stage.

Throughout the day, McDonough and two other Saint Mary’s alumni who are Blackhawks employees shared their leadership advice with students on the Winona Campus. McDonough’s remarks stressing the importance of strong teamwork, as well as drive and determination, resonated with Fadness, who said this advice will help her in sports, academics, and beyond, including as she pursues a career as a middle school teacher and eventually a school administrator/leader.

“Being part of a team involves every person—meaning for John McDonough it included the business people, coaches, players, and anyone who is a member of the Blackhawks organization. That really hit home for me, because it’s the same here at Saint Mary’s,” Fadness said. “When one of our teams is succeeding it is because of the efforts of everyone—coaches, managers, players, and anyone else involved—working together toward the common goal.”

McDonough encouraged students to reflect and answer the following questions: “What do you love? What’s your passion? What drives you? What do you want to do? What do you want to achieve?” He added, “Take serious inventory and push yourself to the limit and say, ‘I’m going to take this seriously.’”

Mike Mezzano, a senior captain for the Cardinal men’s hockey team, was impacted by McDonough’s messages, but also by his actions.

“Having Mr. McDonough back on campus was something that you never think about experiencing when you go to college. Not many students can say they attend a university that has an individual with the amount of success he has, and yet he’s willing to take time out of his busy schedule to spend time with you,” Mezzano said, who is from Woodbury, Minn. “To me, it was important to have him back on campus because it shows individuals that anything is possible,” said the accounting/finance major whose goal is to pursue investment banking, asset management, or fixed-income sales and trading.

In addition to McDonough’s leadership conversations with students, the day-long visit included a luncheon with Winona-area business leaders—during which Winona Mayor Mark Peterson presented McDonough with a proclamation declaring Sept. 10, 2015 as “John F. McDonough Day” in Winona—as well as a Saint Mary’s community rally, and a public Stanley Cup viewing.

Joining McDonough in the return to their alma mater were two 2008 alumni who are also current members of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. Eric Lear and Adam Gill, both Rochester, Minn., area natives. Lear serves as team reporter-new media for Chicago and Gill is video coach for the Blackhawks’ Rockford Icehogs affiliate. Both also visited with students and discussed their experiences since graduation.

It was a celebratory homecoming for the successful alumni. As McDonough said, “(Saint Mary’s) is a magical place . . . You can leave Saint Mary’s as a student, but Saint Mary’s never leaves you.”

And while messages of leadership and success rang loud and clear, the big silver symbol of success drew more than 800 enthusiasts to campus to have their photograph taken with the prized trophy.

“I think one of the coolest parts of the entire day was just having the excitement on campus to have both Mr. McDonough and the Stanley Cup here,” Mezzano said. “Having excitement like that makes it an even more fun place to be.”

To see photos from the event, go to

Student-athletes honored for 2014-15 achievements

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 11:30am

Neither one wears No. 2, but when it comes to this year’s Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Outstanding Male and Female Athletes, the number two seems to be rather significant.

Ben Buerkle (Roseville, Minn.) took the baseball world by storm as a freshman in 2013-14—and was named Saint Mary’s Outstanding Male Athlete for his efforts.

The Cardinal outfielder was even better as a sophomore—and Friday evening he was once again rewarded for those efforts with a second straight Saint Mary’s Outstanding Male Athlete honor.

A two-sport standout, Macki Fadness (Eau Claire, Wis.) made her presence felt both on the volleyball court and the hockey rink, helping both Cardinal squads reach the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Playoffs—and earn Saint Mary’s Outstanding Female Athlete award in the process.

Sticking with the No. 2 theme, Aaron Haley (Plainview, Minn.) and Katie Stolz (Forest Lake, Minn.), meanwhile, were named Saint Mary’s Outstanding Male and Female Scholar Athletes—for the second year in a row.

Friday’s festivities also included the induction of three new members into the Saint Mary’s Sports Hall of Fame, as the Cardinal ‘M’ Club, in association with the Saint Mary’s Alumni Office, welcomed the Class of 2015—Missie Meemken ’03 (women’s hockey), Missy (Westergren ’02) Kuntz (women’s hockey), and Corby Manes ’95 (men’s hockey) | Hall Release

The MIAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman, Buerkle took his game to another level in 2015, being named ABCA/Rawlings and All-American—not to mention Capital One Academic All-American—while also garnering First-Team All-Region honors from both ABCA/Rawlings and, and being named First-Team All-MIAC. Buerkle proved to be opposing pitchers’ worst nightmare in 2015, leading the team in batting average (.462), runs (46), hits (61), doubles (11), triples (4), home runs (7), total bases (101), RBIs (47), slugging percentage (.765), and on-base percentage (.517). Buerkle—whose 46 runs and 47 RBIs are single-season school records—has had at least one hit in 71 of the 76 games he’s played in his two-year collegiate career, and has been held off the base paths just twice in 76 career contests.

Fadness has proven to be a real thorn in opponents’ sides—in two sports. One of the top “shut down” defensemen in the MIAC, Fadness—who closed out the year with three goals and two assists—earned her third straight All-MIAC honor after helping the Cardinal women’s hockey team to the conference playoffs for the first time in five seasons. And that was the second post-season appearance of the year for Fadness, who was equally as dominant on the volleyball court, posting a team- and career-high 261 kills and helping the Cardinals reach the semifinals of the conference tournament.

An Accounting/Finance major with a 3.94 grade-point-average, Haley finished his collegiate career as one of the Cardinals top runners—both on the cross country trails and on the track, earning honorable-mention All-MIAC, First-Team All-MIAC and All-Region honors during his illustrious career.

A Biology major with a 4.00 GPA, Stolz broke her own six-kilometer school record in the 6K at the 2014 NCAA Regional, stopping the clock in 22.51—nearly 30 seconds faster than her previous mark, set at the 2013 Central Regional—en route to a 35th-place finish and her second straight all-region performance. Stolz, who has earned First-Team All-MIAC honors in both cross country and track and field during her four-year collegiate career—not to mention the 2013 MIAC Elite 22 Award—Stolz remains the school record-holder in the 6K (cross country), indoor 5,000, and outdoor steeplechase.

Take a look at the photo gallery from ‘M’ Club Weekend.

3 Outstanding athletes added to Hall of Fame during ‘M’ Club Weekend

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 11:20am

The Cardinal ’M‘ Club and the Alumni Association inducted three members into the Saint Mary’s Sports Hall of Fame during Cardinal ’M‘ Club Weekend Sept. 11-13.

The 2015 Saint Mary’s University Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony honored former student-athletes Missy (Westergren) Kuntz ’02, Missie Meemken ’03, and Corby Manes ’95.

The trio were honored during an awards ceremony on Sept. 11. Along with the induction of this year’s Hall of Fame class, the ceremony also honored Saint Mary’s 2014-15 postseason award-winners, and recognized the 2014-15 Outstanding Male and Female Athletes, and Outstanding Scholar-Athletes.

Missy (Westergren) Kuntz ’02

A member of the first-ever Saint Mary’s women’s varsity hockey program, Kuntz enjoyed a stellar four-year collegiate career, earning First-Team All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors all four seasons, while also being named to the AHCA/JOFA All-American Second-Team following her junior season. A member of the Cardinals’ MIAC regular-season titles in 1998-99 and 1999-00—as well as the 2001-02 MIAC playoff championship team—was also a member of the Cardinals’ two national tournament teams her junior and senior seasons. Kuntz sits atop the career record books in points (154), assists (74), power-play goals (16), short-handed goals (6), and plus-minus (+138), while her 80 career goals rank No. 2.

Missie Meemken ’03


Meemken was also a mainstay on the early Cardinal women’s hockey teams, helping guide the Cardinals to a regular-season conference championship her freshman season, an MIAC playoff championship a year later, and back-to-back AHCA national tournament appearances as a sophomore and junior. A two-time AHCA/JOFA All-American—a Second-Team selection following the 2000-01 season and a First-Team pick the following year—Meemken graduated from Saint Mary’s as the team’s career leader in saves (2,360), goals-against-average (1.87), wins (54), ties (11) and shutouts (18), while her .932 career save percentage ranked No. 2. A two-time First-Team All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pick, Meemken owns the single-season school record for wins (16, 2001-02), ties (6, 2002-03), and saves (684, 2002-03).

Corby Manes ’95


Manes proved to be among the most prolific offensive threats in Saint Mary’s men’s hockey history, earning All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors in each of his last three seasons with the Cardinals. Manes saved his best season for last, recording his fourth straight season of 30 or more points—finishing with 48 (16 goals, 32 assists)—in leading the Cardinals to an MIAC playoff championship and NCAA Tournament berth, while also earning AHCA/JOFA Second-Team All-American honors. Manes’ 106 career assists rank No. 2 all time, while his 172 points and 66 goals put him sixth and ninth all-time.

Take a look at the photo gallery from ‘M’ Club Weekend.

Alumni in Action: Robert Donahue ’29

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 8:00am

Robert Donahue ’29

Radio & television personality, volunteer for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind
Hometown: St. Charles, Minn.

After a long career in radio and television, Robert Donahue began a second career as a volunteer. In 1999 he was presented the Jane Falk Award for outstanding volunteer service by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, after 16 years of dedicated volunteer service, where he began as a driver and escort for clients going to appointments. As a former broadcaster, his rich voice and clear diction led him to do readings for people with disabilities, first in-person and later by recording materials on cassette. One of his early reading assignments was to read mail every week to a young man with a learning disability.

Over the years, he read and recorded cookbooks, a typewriter manual, magazines and medical textbooks. It gained him a reputation as a man who could be counted on to do an excellent job as a reader and recorder, whatever the assignment, and his age never stood in the way of his willingness to assist those who were in need of his vision and his voice.

Read more Alumni in Action stories.

Saint Mary’s invites vendors to Oct. 15 career fair

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 4:33pm

WINONA, Minn. — Employers, graduate schools, and other vendors are invited to register now for the second annual Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Career Fair, to be held 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.

Last year the university welcomed 40 employers, graduate schools, and organizations to campus for the career fair, and this year organizers are hoping to expand and improve upon the event.

Saint Mary’s students were described by previous vendors as “professional,” “very well prepared,” “articulate,” and “very talented.” Saint Mary’s graduates gain the advanced knowledge, skills, and critical thinking abilities necessary to be lifelong learners, successful workers, good neighbors, and ethical citizens—in other words, ideal candidates for employment at your company or enrollment at your school.

The event will be held in the Toner Student Center on Saint Mary’s Winona Campus. The registration fee is $95 and includes up to two lunches. To register, go to

For more information, contact Michael J. Hagarty, 507-457-6695 or

‘Bach at Leipzig’ to be staged Sept. 24-27 at Saint Mary’s

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 10:55am

WINONA, Minn. — The Saint Mary’s University Department of Theatre and Dance will present the comedy “Bach at Leipzig” by Itamar Moses 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 24-26, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, in Page Theatre. A brilliantly funny “fugue-like” farce by one of the most successful and respected young American playwrights around, “Bach at Leipzig” is set in 1722 Leipzig, Germany, and directed by Jimmy Bickerstaff.

The stage is set as the most ambitious and talented organist composers hurriedly gather to compete for the position of music director at the famous Thomaskirche. Intrigue, deception, comic complications, and discovery ensue in this fast-paced comedy, building to an all-out swashbuckling climax. The verbal and actual swordplay in this hilarious play is both witty and wacky.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and are available at or at the box office, 507-457-1715, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Alumni in Action: Sarah Bellingham Laitinen ’07

Thu, 09/10/2015 - 3:00am

Sarah Bellingham Laitinen ’07

Middle school teacher, Lasallian educator, Lasallian Volunteer
Hometown: Harmony, Minn.
Major: Childhood/Early Adolescence Education K-8

From August 2007 to June 2009 Laitinen was a Lasallian Volunteer at San Miguel Middle School for urban boys in the Greater Providence, R.I. area. This school is dedicated to the belief that education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty, a philosophy Laitinen strongly embraces. In June 2009, she was hired full-time as a 6th grade teacher and was asked to co-moderate the Lasallian Youth Group and the school dance team. Her desire to be part of the Lasallian world continues as a participant in the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies and work on an M.A. in Education. In 2010, Laitinen was invited to participate in the Regional Young Lasallian Formation Program for the United States and Canada, and in 2011 she was asked to be a delegate at the District of Eastern North America’s Mission Assembly.

She is currently a member of the coordinating committee of the Rhode Island Lasallian Association. Laitinen is a proud 100 FOR 100 daughter of a 1979 alum, Jane (Doyle) Sagen.

“I feel blessed for having received a Lasallian education from Saint Mary’s. I am proud to be a Lasallian educator in association with the Christian Brothers and Lasallians all over the world who provide a human and Christian education to the children entrusted to our care.”

Read more Alumni in Action stories.

First Generation Initiative provides opportunity, names new leader

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 5:52pm

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is a university that prides itself on empowering individuals through education and a key to doing so is making that education accessible. Through our First Generation Initiative (FGI), a Saint Mary’s education is made possible for some high school students who otherwise could not afford it.

Saint Mary’s is home to an FGI Scholars program that today includes 21 individuals who have graduated from our undergraduate, residential College in Winona, as well as another 35 current students—five students who are seniors, six juniors, 12 sophomores, and 12 first-year students. These students as FGI Scholars receive scholarship and support throughout their time at Saint Mary’s to thrive in school and beyond.

Also home to a summer program, called Countdown to College (C2C), Saint Mary’s brings 25 high school students to the 400-acre Winona Campus for two weeks each year for four years to help them experience a college campus firsthand and receive college preparatory instruction. It is hoped that these 9th through 12th grade students one day become FGI Scholars at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona.

These FGI programs formally began in 2010 with the initial FGI Scholars at Saint Mary’s. This fall, the Saint Mary’s FGI Scholars and C2C programs will be under new leadership. Alisa Macksey will serve as Executive Director for the First Generation Initiative at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona. Macksey has most recently been interim executive director and regional programs director for the Christian Brothers Conference, based in Washington, D.C. Macksey served at the Christian Brothers Conference regional office for 12 years. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., Macksey also served as a Lasallian Volunteer and later director of that program.

Alisa Macksey

In her role at Saint Mary’s, Macksey will work with FGI and C2C students and faculty in the academic and co-curricular areas. She will also work with current and future benefactors to ensure ongoing support of these programs that provide the opportunity to experience a Saint Mary’s University education that empowers.

About Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
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

Saint Mary’s ranked in top tier of U.S. News “Best National Universities”

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 11:09am

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is once again ranked in the top tier of the annual U.S. News & World Report ratings of best colleges and universities.

Saint Mary’s is ranked 180th in the National Universities category of the U.S. News Best Colleges 2016 guidebook. Saint Mary’s is one of only three public or private schools in Minnesota ranked in this elite category. The annual rankings were released today, Sept. 9, and are available online at

“Saint Mary’s is nationally recognized for its excellent educational experience on an ongoing basis,” said Brother William Mann, President of Saint Mary’s. “As a top-tier university, we meet the needs and exceed the expectations of our students at every level, from undergraduate and master’s to doctoral. At Saint Mary’s, we provide students of all ages with a person-centered, relationship-driven education. Plus, we believe education empowers individuals to ethical lives of leadership and service, which benefits them, their families, their communities, and the world.”

U.S. News ranks Saint Mary’s in the “National Universities” category, which includes schools that offer a wide range of undergraduate majors, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees. Saint Mary’s is in good company as top honors in the “National Universities” category were Princeton University, Harvard University, and Yale University.

Other main U.S. News institutional groupings are “National Liberal Arts Colleges,” “Regional Universities,” and “Regional Colleges.” U.S. News categorizes schools primarily by mission and region, and ranking data is gathered from each institution on indicators of academic excellence.

About Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
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