USM Honors Students and Faculty at Spring Convocation

5/1/2013 12:00:00 AM

(Leavenworth, Kan.)—With Commencement and the end of another successful academic year rapidly approaching, the University of Saint Mary gathered to recognize the impressive achievements of the undergraduate class of 2013 at USM’s annual Spring Convocation Honors & Hooding Ceremony on Tuesday, April 30, in Annunciation Chapel on the university’s main campus in Leavenworth.

Watch highlights from the Spring 2013 Convocation ceremony

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Reflecting on the students’ academic journeys—from admission to the present day—USM President Sr. Diane Steele said “you are now young professionals, liberally educated men and women ready to take your place in our global society, advancing the cause of peace and justice—the very Kingdom of God…. You have learned to think for yourself, to evaluate ideas and concepts against your firmly established value system. In short, you have become Saint Marians.”

The University of Saint Mary is one of the few universities in the U.S. that continues the time-honored tradition of hooding its undergraduates. The hoods are worn over the graduation robes and denote a student’s specific academic discipline and are presented to the graduating students by Sr. Steele.

“The hooding ceremony at the University of Saint Mary is one of the things that makes us unique,” Dr. Bryan Le Beau, USM’s academic vice president, told the attendees on Tuesday. “Very few colleges and universities have a hooding ceremony for undergraduates. In fact, at some places, the actual hooding ceremony is only for Ph.D.’s. At Saint Mary, hooding has always been for all of our graduates, and we consider it a very special way to honor your achievement in a personal way.”

Among the student and faculty members honored at the event:

Opetaia Tuiava, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won the top student service honor—the Mother Mary Ancilla Award for Service. During his four years at USM, Tuiava was involved in multiple social justice projects. He served as a volunteer coach for local sports programs, took part in an elementary school reading project, and served in the prison ministry at Lansing Correctional Facility. He also was a stand-out and leader on the Spires Football Team.

“His selfless acts of kindness go beyond words,” said Dr. Wendi Santee, USM vice president for student life. “While a student at the University of Saint Mary, he has been a great example of servant leadership by living a life of integrity and service to others.”

Dr. Cassy Cozine, assistant professor of biology at USM, won the Sullivan Award for Teaching Excellence. The award, plus $1,000, is presented to a full-time faculty member who has made a distinct difference in the teaching climate at USM. The Sullivan Award was created in 1990 and named for the late Sister Mary Louis Sullivan, former academic dean. The winner is nominated by students, faculty, and staff.

Dr. Le Beau said students who nominated Dr. Cozine said “’She truly cares if we succeed,’… ‘What makes (her) such an excellent teacher is her ability to make students learn all the necessary information by building that bridge between her knowledge and our knowledge,’… and ‘Her classroom is one with laughter and the feeling of community.’”

The university also honored a retiring faculty member at Tuesday’s Convocation event.

Sr. Mary Pat Lenahan, a professor of both undergraduate and graduate education programs, was named professor emerita recognizing her 23 years of service to the Saint Mary community.

“She has been an exemplar of fine teaching, marked by hard work and dedication… Her colleagues and students consider her a true Professor of Education, the very definition of ‘teacher,’” Dr. Le Beau said.

“A hallmark of Sister Mary Pat’s teaching is her love for her students and colleagues… As a person who forms a community in her classes, she helps students find ways to be as understanding of each other as she is of each of them.”

Other USM student awards presented at Spring Convocation included:


  • Students Appreciating Students Award: Kristina Wuthrich-Hoffman, of Cubbuck, Idaho

  • The Chase Student Award in Biology: Kristina Wuthrich-Hoffman, of Cubbuck, Idaho

  • The Outstanding Business Student Award: Shelby Titus, of Ottawa, Kan.

  • All-University Honors (requires a 3.70 cumulative grade point average, participation in honors work within the major and in Honors Seminar, and Recommendation of the Honors Council for All-University Honors.)

    • Nicholas Alford, of Topeka, Kan., Departmental Honors in Biology and All-University Honors

    • Tawana Evans, of Kansas City, Kan., Departmental Honors in Mathematics and All-University Honors

    • Emily Gripka, of Tonganoxie, Kan., Departmental Honors in Biology and Chemistry and All-University Honors

    • Starian Porchia, of Bonner Springs, Kan., Departmental Honors in English and All-University Honors

    • Mariah Vaughn, of Lawrence, Kan., Departmental Honors in Biology and All-University Honors

    • Samantha Wernicke, of Overland Park, Kan., Departmental Honors in Global Studies and All-University Honors

  • Departmental Honors (requires a 3.50 GPA in the major, completion of at least two honors-in-course or honors-in-field in the major, and recommendation by the departmental faculty.)

  • Allyson Coy, of Basehor, Kan., Departmental Honors in English

  • Alma Habib, of Leavenworth, Kan., Departmental Honors in Nursing

  • Carole Kato, of Atchison, Kan., Departmental Honors in Nursing

  • Jacquelynn Kerr, of Colmesneil, Texas, Departmental Honors in English

  • Katheryn Mooney, of Prairie Village, Kan., Departmental Honors in Nursing.