Four to be honored with alumni awards at February banquet


Cardinal Newman Banquet and Awards Ceremony Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010
Dugan-Gorges Conference Center

The National Alumni Association will honor four alumni for their achievements and service at the Cardinal Newman Banquet and Awards Ceremony, Feb. 27, 2010. According to Awards Committee member Margaret Knoeber, ASC ’61, this year’s selection process was a challenge.

“When we instituted the alumni awards in 1982, we were told by our consultant that there should be a field of at least five candidates for each award,” Knoeber said. “With 29 excellent nominees this year, we certainly see that our alumni are empowered by their education and
are making a difference in our society through their personal and professional lives.”

Sacred Heart Junior College graduate Elaine (Doll/Aaron) Hemmen ’51 will receive the Beata Netemeyer Service Award for her lifelong efforts to enhance liturgy for others. As the mother of a deaf daughter (who also began having visual problems), Hemmen realized the need to enhance the liturgy for persons with special needs. Long before the Catholic Diocese of Wichita launched its ministry for persons with disabilities, Hemmen championed the cause of the hearing impaired. As a result of her efforts, Masses at several Wichita parishes have included sign language interpreters since 1970. A church organist for more than 40 years and a piano teacher for 56 years, Hemmen said the addition of interpreters has allowed the “music” of the words of the Gospel to be accessible to people who have special needs.

Leon McNeill Distinguished Alumni in Education award recipient C. Matt Seimears, Ph.D. ’02 says being a “teacher of teachers” is his passion. For that, he credits two of his most influential teachers, Associate Professor of Education Karen Rogers, Ph.D., and Professor of Education Don Hufford. Ph.D., who were instrumental as he defined his own pedagogy. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Newman, Seimears taught at Pleasant Valley Middle School, then earned his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction at Kansas State University. Currently assistant professor of early childhood and elementary teacher education at Emporia State University, Seimears has published four textbooks supporting teacher education, and is a well-known speaker, most notably as one of only 34 invited to present at the Oxford Round table in Oxford, England.

Although this year’s St. Maria De Mattias Award recipient James Macias, Ph.D. ’81 left Wichita after graduation, he has been exemplary in finding ways to remain active in the Alumni Association. He currently lives in Houston, Texas, where he supports Newman’s recruitment efforts by representing the university at Catholic high school career fairs and making personal contacts with prospective students’ families. He was instrumental in launching and fostering a Texas alumni chapter, was a member of the alumni association Board of Directors, and served as vice president in 2007 and president in 2008. Macias also works to support Houston underprivileged youth, and has had a very successful career in development and technical support of chemical and petroleum products in the Royal/Dutch Shell Group, particularly in the area of lubricants and fuels technology.

Spirit of Acuto Transformational Leadership Award recipient Kevin Suzette (Biltz/Danler) Ruegg ’94 attended Kansas Newman College in 1972-73, but as a single mother with seven children was unable to complete degrees in business and theology until 1994. Ruegg is a living example of personal transformation from poverty to empowerment, which she credits largely to influence by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. She will be honored for her service and leadership within non-profit agencies. Ruegg began as a direct service provider to the homeless and victims of domestic abuse, and is now CEO of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education in Phoenix, which under her leadership has tripled its financial support to schools, legal aid for persons of modest means, and projects undertaken by several agencies.

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