Distinguished Alumni Awards
Established by the National Alumni Board, 1988
Nominate someone for one of these Distinguished Alumni Awards
Christian Service and Volunteer Work
Elizabeth M. “Libby” Birky (’97)
When you look at what Libby Birky was involved with at Loras, it is easy to see how she landed where she is today. Birky immersed herself as a mentor with Freshman Seminar, got involved with Right to Life efforts, participated in intramurals, dug into Campus Ministry and Peace & Justice and jumped into many roles in the Loras Players.
Birky left Loras with a degree in education and dedicated 12 years to teaching. Eventually she felt a calling to combine her love of teaching with her love of serving others and co-founded the SAME (So All May Eat) Café. The concept is simple, everyone gets a meal and pays what he or she feels is a fair price. If you cannot afford to pay, you can offer a helping hand in clearing tables, washing dishes and assisting in other ways. No one walks away hungry when they visit, and many leave inspired by their surroundings. The Birkys have been recognized nationally for their humble approach to changing the world, and many others have followed in their footsteps to make a difference in their community.
Birky’s passion has also extended to other volunteer efforts. She has helped at rescue missions, the Catholic Worker House, service trips to Appalachia, Special Olympics and Homeless shelters. When asked about the impact Loras had on her life she commented, “Loras was a place for me to spread my wings and grow as a person in a safe environment. I met lifelong friends who have been such a blessing to my life. It taught me about the power of community. I loved the activity of the campus and the focus on living your faith. Loras solidified for me the power of spirituality and my commitment to make the communities I lived in better.”
The Catholic social teachings and discussions surrounding a just society are reflected in in the daily efforts of Birky and her husband Brad. They both are living out the ideals and mission of Loras College.
When she’s not running marathons or competing in triathlons, she enjoys time with her husband in the Denver area, and is proud to have such loving parents and sisters, one of whom also graduated from Loras along with a brother-in-law.
Professional Achievements & Contributions Made to Loras College
William C. “Skip” Brennan (’64)
Raised in Monroe, Wisconsin, Skip Brennan would be quick to point out that his hometown is the Swiss Cheese Capitol of the USA. The pride he feels for his family, his alma mater and his business is palpable when you are speaking with him or in his presence. Brennan explained, while attending Loras he was “involved in intramural sports, fraternities and the general mayhem everyone experiences with classmates.” That involvement earned him a degree in Economics in 1964. He took this knowledge and quickly put it to use at his father’s grocery store business.
Brennan returned to Monroe to work with his father and to continue the tradition of providing the best possible quality product to Brennan’s customers. Less than a year later, in April of 1965, a tornado destroyed the family store, but they immediately put up a “shack” in the parking lot, and continued serving customers. That worked so well that they operated from that location for eight years and built the current building housing the Monroe store in 1973. In 1972, Brennan purchased the business and property from his parents and continues the family tradition today.
Once you meet Brennan it doesn’t take long to discover that he is a survivor and does not consider any adversity in his life as anything but another challenge. From the tornadoes that destroyed their store in the 1960s to a bicycle accident that caused damage to his spinal cord, Brennan looks at life as a blessing.
His humble nature and “grounded” personality are reflected in how he responded to a request of awards and acknowledgments that he has received over the years. To this he simply replied, “While all past awards and recognitions are appreciated, my preference is to live in the present and look to the future.” He credits his family and Loras for the life he lives each and every day, stating that his business, family and life are all beneficiaries and much richer due to the valuable years he spent at Loras. Noting that Loras deepened his faith, increased his self-confidence by allowing him to face fear head-on and produced many lifetime friendships.
Much has changed through the years, but one thing that will never change is Brennan’s father’s original philosophy, which continues: “Buying direct do you buy the best.” The Brennan’s family personally visits and inspects every farm, orchard, vineyard, microbrewery and cheese factory that they do business with all over the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, Chile, New Zealand and Ireland.
Brennan is the proud father of six adult children and 12 grandchildren and continues to play a significant role in Brennan’s Farm Markets, Inc.
Contributions Made in Public Service
Douglas J. O’Brien (’92)
Takoma Park, MD
The journey into public service is evident when you look back on Doug O’Brien’s time at Loras. He immediately immersed himself in campus spirituality, the Peace and Justice Center, Loras Players, choir, student government, English club and went on service trips to D.C. and Appalachia. O’Brien graduated in three years in 1992 and then pursued a law degree at the University of Iowa in 1996 and an LL.M. in Agricultural Law at the University of Arkansas School of law.
His career began as a Legal Specialist with the USDA, but he also managed to squeeze in working on a few political campaigns on the state and federal level. O’Brien’s talents were quickly tapped and at a young age he became the Senior Advisor to Governor Chet Culver, went on to be the Assistant Director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture and was eventually invited to D.C. to first serve as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and then move into the Deputy Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- all by the time he was 40.
O’Brien traces his roots to Loras for his journey in life, stating, “College taught me to read and write, and cultivated my zeal for equity and justice. While I had had a good education before college, the rigor of going through Loras with the significant reading and dozens of papers, finally taught me how to effectively communicate. The breadth of courses also exposed me to a broad range of ideas and gave me the tools to make connections between those ideas. Meanwhile, my experience with campus ministry and the numerous opportunities for service provided a new depth to my faith and the need to actively work to improve the lives of others, and in particular those who are less fortunate or disenfranchised.”
Perhaps one of his proudest professional moments connects back to this calling to help others. While at the USDA, he had the opportunity to serve as a point person for the secretary in resolving decades-old disputes with thousands of black, Hispanic, Native American and women farmers; disputes rooted in the government discriminating against certain farmers. He is proud to have been part of the effort to finally close this sad chapter.
Like Loras, his family inspires him to put his faith into action. O’Brien and his wife Alisa have two children and currently live in Maryland.
Service Provided to Loras by Staff, Faculty, or Administrator
Donald W. Freymann (’61)
Loras truly is home to Don Freymann. Most of his professional life has been spent on the Loras College campus; not to mention time enjoyed while attending Loras Academy and eventually Loras College for his educational training. His interests as a student extended to the Commerce Club, Young Democrats and Delta Sigma just to name a few. During his school days, you could always find Freymann in the gym immersed in intramurals or playing a pick-up game of basketball – which is still true today.
Freymann left Loras with degree in hand and began working for Dohrn Transfer before starting Freymann Insurance. But after 13 years, he felt a calling back to campus and returned to work in the Development Office where he found a home and stayed for nearly 30+ years. Throughout his career he was involved with the academy classes, growing the Heritage Society and serving on numerous campus committees, including dedicating many hours to assist in launching the National Catholic Basketball Tournament.
His passion and commitment for Catholic education extended into the community with his volunteer efforts with St. Joseph the Worker parish and eventually Holy Family Catholic Schools, offering advice and help with fundraising and planned giving projects. As one nominator stated, “Don’s career exemplifies the qualities that Loras instilled in its graduates decades ago and continues to uphold today.” Freymann has always approached his work at Loras as more of a ministry than a job, and thanks to his efforts helped build the planned giving program at the College.
Freymann shared his thoughts on some of the people who influenced him and how they impacted his life. He wrote, “Fr. Kutsch demonstrated discipline, Fr. Clancy - ethics, George Freund - truth, accuracy and hard work, Al Schramm – discipline and order, Frank Noonan – patience and confidence, Doc Krammer – compassion with simple expression, Msgr. Schulte – being a Renaissance person with humor and humility and Msgr. Friedl for his intelligence with practical application.” It could be said by Freymann’s friends, colleagues and family, that these qualities best describe him as well.
Freymann and his wife Jeananne, live in Dubuque and are the proud parents of eight children, seven of which either attended or graduated from Loras. In his free time he also enjoys traveling across the country to spend time with his grandchildren.
Distinguished Young Alumni
Wendy L. Schrunk (’07)
It has only been five years since Wendy Schrunk left the Loras campus, but when you discover all that she has done and all that she has accomplished, you will see why she was selected as this year’s Distinguished Young Alumni. Growing up in the small town of Lemars, Iowa, Schrunk had no plans to attend Loras, but once she came for a visit, she was hooked. As a student she became a Resident Advisor, active in Campus Ministry with its CORE Team, Service Trips and retreats, part of the Student Union, Honors Program and Study Abroad. Double majoring in Finance and Economics, Goldman Sachs recognized her talents and offered her a position straight out of college. Schrunk began as a Client Services Analyst/Associate and in 2011 was promoted to Team Lead in the Client Services area.
Reflecting on her Loras experience, Schrunk credits the people and culture that make up the campus, stating, “The faculty, staff and students I interacted with and got to know through my time at Loras and through my involvement in the alumni community have shaped the way I think, act and live. The people I met and the relationships I formed during my four years on campus helped me define what’s important in life and helped me discover my strengths.”
Her strengths have been witnessed in her volunteer efforts with the Loras Network of Chicago, the Young Alumni Advisory Board and now through the National Alumni Board. From organizing socials to promoting the importance of giving back to Loras, Schrunk does not miss an opportunity to make a difference.
Mention Loras and you don’t have to wait long for the stories to start flowing. Schrunk said it best when defining the Loras experience, “It really transcends generations. While Loras continues to grow and change, the experience and the impact it has on its students remains the same. It doesn’t matter if you went to Loras in the 60s, the 90s or if you’re still a student. There is a connectedness that can only be caused by the culture of the school and the importance of community that is prevalent there.”
While Schrunk has found a new community in the Chicago, she has not forgotten her alma mater and we are fortunate to have such a dedicated Duhawk among our alumni.
Service Provided as a Faculty/Staff/Administration Member
2011 Thomas Goodman '54
2010 Charles McCormick '52
2009 Sr. Bernadine Curoe MA '69
2008 Rev. John C. Friedell '51
2008 Joseph A. Schaefer '62
2007 Dr. Donna M. Bauerly
2006 Pat Flanagan '63
2005 Joseph Kapler '48
2004 Jay Kopp Ph.D. '59
2003 Kenneth Kraus Ph.D. '57
2002 Bob Pommerich, CPA '59
2001 Francis M. (Frank) Miller Jr. '55
2000 George Freund '41
1999 Monsignor Francis Friedl '39
1998 G.B. Noonan '51
1997 Reverend Monsignor James Barta, Ph.D. '52
1996 John F. Bamrick, Ph.D. '53
1995 Thomas E. Auge, Ph.D.
1994 Reverend Monsignor Robert R. Vogl '44
1993 Alphonse A. Schramm '39
1992 Francis J. Noonan '42
1991 Reverend Karl G. Schroeder '30
1990 Reverend Monsignor Timothy Gannon, Ph.D.
1989 Reverend Monsignor George Schulte, Ph.D. '22
Professional Achievements and Contributions Made to Loras College
2011 Albert P. Ruffalo '69
2010 John W. "Jack" Frasco ’60
2009 Robert Kaliban '55
2008 Jim Theisen '56
2007 Michael J. Conlon ’58
2006 Eldon Herrig '49
2005 Ray Green '51
2004 Donald Runger '58
2003 Merlin Manatt '50
2002 J. Paul Breitbach '60
2001 Earl G. Droessler, Sc.D. '42
2000 Edward Moldt '52
1999 John Joyce, M.D. '52
1998 Gregory G. Gumbel '67
1997 Edward J. Gallagher '48
1996 Thomas J. Tauke '72
1995 Joseph V. Graber '35
1994 John W. Eckstein, M.D. '44
1993 John V. Saeman '58
1992 William T. Lynch Jr. '64
1991 Thomas J. Cashman '60
1990 Donald P. Dupont '51
1989 Joseph J. Kroger '60
Contributions Made in Public Service
2011 Robert Roth '60
2010 Jennifer A. (Galloway) McDevitt '95
2009 Karen McNulty Enright '89
2008 Michael T. Blouin '66
2007 Paul J. Heer ’81
2006 Paul Logli '71
2005 William Lipinski '60
2004 Clair Blong Ph.D. '64
2003 Harry Mares '62
2002 John Mauss '68
2001 Paul J. Fitzgerald, Ph.D. '59
2000 The Honorable Michael Mihm '64
1999 Barbara Wand '73
1998 Ronald W. Manderscheid, Ph.D. '65
1997 William J. "Scoop" Doherty '39
1996 John W. Colloton '53
1995 John J. McGovern, '48
1994 Bernard J. Schlueter '63
1993 John G. Wingert, M.D. '52
1992 James L. Neppl '64
1991 Thomas J. Miller '66
1990 Edward A. McDermott '39
1989 Kenneth M. Quinn '64
Contributions Made in Volunteer Work and Christian Service
2011 Msgr. John ’56, Fr. Everett ’67, and Fr. Melvin ’55 Hemann
2010 Bernard J. Offerman (Alumnus)
2009 Rev. L. Paul Ouderkirk '55
2008 Thomas J. Green '63
2007 Dr. Mark R. Knabel ’74
2006 Tom Jehl, Alumnus
2005 Mike Valder '62
2004 Rev. John Gallagher '51
2003 Shelly Anderson '66
2002 Jacqueline Scherrmann '88
2001 Bernard J. Baltes, M.D., Ph.D. '42
2000 Joseph Mayer '57
1999 Fr. Leon Connolly '54
1998 Sr. Helen Marie Feeney, PBVM '49
1997 Reverend Martin P. Carr '66
1996 Irwin J. Frost, D.D.S. '41
1995 Reverend Monsignor James A. Supple '32
1994 Gregory A. Schrobilgen '86
1993 Reverend Mr. T. Joseph Schueneman '55
1992 Gregory R. Jury '79
1991 Thomas P. Mares '49
1990 Ernest N. Mysogland Jr. '64
1989 Anne M. (Stattelman) Mascarenas '83
Young Alumni Award
2011 Colleen Savory '09
2010 Elizabeth A. O'Connell '01
2009 Michael G. Adams, Jr. '99