Each year, the Mount Marty Alumni Association selects the following alumni awards:
- The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes a recent graduate (last 10 years) for demonstrating loyalty to MMU, involvement in Church and Civic activities, and the expression of the MMU mission in his or her life.
- The Distinguished Service to Church and Community Award is given to an alumnus who exhibits notable leadership abilities in service to their Church and/or community at the local, state, regional, or national level.
- The Distinguished Service to Mount Marty University Award is given to an alumnus who is loyal to the Mission of the University, has shown continued interest and support, and reflects honor upon the school with his or her Christian lifestyle.
- The Distinguished Professional Achievement Award is given to an alumnus who consistently demonstrates leadership, competence, dedication, integrity, and a commitment to continued education in their chosen profession.
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Congratulations to the 2023 Alumni Award Winners!
OUTSTANDING YOUNG ALUMNA
Holly (Byrkeland) Carter ‘13, ‘17
After graduating from Mount Marty College in 2013, Holly and her husband, Keaton, moved to Ames, Iowa where she began her teaching career. While teaching, she began her Masters Degree through Mount Marty in Curriculum and Instruction, where she graduated in 2017. Holly has been a special education teacher and has taught 2nd, 4th, and 5th grades. Today, she teaches 4th grade at Fellows Elementary School.
In her teaching career, she has been blessed with so many different students with different ability levels. When students walk into her classroom, they see a warm and welcoming environment where each student can feel a sense of belonging. Students in her classroom are encouraged to “come as they are” and to be willing to help those around them at all times. When asked what her favorite subject is to teach, Holly responds, “I love teaching students to be kind and loving people to everyone they meet and interact with. You can always learn how to do various math problems or even learn how to read more complex texts. However, you will never be able to learn unless you are kind to one another.”
In 2022 and 2023, Holly’s 4th grade class was awarded a Pay it Forward - Project Jack grant from the Iowa Realtors Association. The money received from this grant in 2022 was used to purchase new books to be given to a local reading intervention group called Raising Readers of Story County. In 2023, the class used the grant money to purchase fleece fabric, and they created tie blankets for the pediatrics floor at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames. In both of these experiences, the students truly were excited to give back to the community and to see what their humbleness and kindness did to help make the community a better place.
While teaching is a very big part of Holly’s everyday life (and was the major contributor that led her to Mount Marty in the first–and second–place), the two most important experiences and accomplishments she has had in her life since leaving Mount Marty are the growth of her faith life and the creation of her family. Holly and Keaton have three children – Josie (6), Rosie (4), and Christopher (newborn). The Carter’s goal and mission in life has been to lead their children to heaven and to help foster a relationship with Jesus. (A quote that Holly has always kept close to her heart was one S. Candy Chrystal ‘73 said to her right before she and Keaton were married: “Your mission in life is to lead Keaton to Heaven.”) The family is actively involved in their Catholic church in Ames by being a part of the Faith Formation Advisory Board, teaching faith formation, helping to lead and participate in a small group in our adult faith formation, and being a part of the Pastoral Council since 2021. They also participate in the mass on the weekends as greeters, collection helpers, Eucharistic ministers, or sacristans–Holly and Keaton strive together to show their children that everything they have can be and should be offered back to God.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO CHURCH AND COMMUNITY
David Schmidt ‘76
After graduation in 1976, David hadn’t really thought about the future. He was happy to be working in the Mount Marty Admissions Office, and the idea that there was something beyond campus never really crossed his mind. Sister Martin Mergen ‘59 suggested that David apply for a parish music director job at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Aberdeen, SD. The two drove to Aberdeen on a hot day in July for a mass and David’s interview. He was offered the job and stayed there until January of 1980. During that time, David became affiliated with the SD Arts Council and gave several organ recitals in various locations throughout South Dakota.
David then moved to Sioux Falls for a short time where he began his work with Burger King. While there, he played the organ at St. Lambert’s parish and directed a large choir for the city-wide Holy Saturday service in the Sioux Falls Arena in 1981. He was also instrumental in helping Fr. Jim Doyle and Sr. Margretta Doyle with the early stages of St. Michael’s parish CCD program.
In 1980, David moved to Lincoln and began playing for services at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, eventually becoming the music director and principal organist. He still plays at the Cathedral every weekend and for almost every service. In his 41 years of being the principal organist, he has played for 41 deacon/priest ordinations, approximately 1200 funerals and weddings, over 1600 weekend services, 31 religious final professions, 3 new building dedications and many Lincoln Diocesan Seminary graduations. In 2011, he was honored by Pope Benedict via the recommendation of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and received the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award, the highest award given to lay people for service to the church by the Pope.
David credits S. Jane Klimisch H’38, ‘41 for his work in church music. She was instrumental in teaching him about the Mass, playing for it, and making sure the music was an addition to the mass–not a detraction.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO MOUNT MARTY
Sandra (Neuroth) Brown ‘72
Sandra was born the second of ten children in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She attended three different parochial schools (Little Flower, Cathedral and O’Gorman High School) and four different public schools (Beadle, Cleveland, Irving and Axtell Park Junior High) in Sioux Falls. She graduated as Salutatorian of her class from O’Gorman High School. Sandra did a lot of babysitting growing up and got her first real job at Frosty Treat in Sioux Falls.
Even though she was a good student, Sandra did not have plans to go to college as her family did not have the finances to help her. However, she was offered scholarships and good financial aid from Mount Marty, and so she graduated with honors with a major in English and a minor in mathematics. After graduation, Sandra and her husband, James, decided to remain in the area while he finished his degree at Yankton College. Sandra accepted a position in the library at Mount Marty. She was encouraged by the library director to get her master’s degree in library science. So, while working full-time and also having a baby, she received her Master’s in Library Science and officially became a librarian.
Sandra has always been a fan of reading, learning and libraries. As a child, she regularly went to (what was) the Children’s Library in downtown Sioux Falls, the bookmobile that came to the neighborhood, and the Carnegie Library in downtown Sioux Falls when she outgrew the children’s books. When she was a little older, Sandra volunteered in the libraries at Axtell Park Junior High and O’Gorman High School. She also worked and volunteered as the librarian at Sacred Heart School in Yankton for over thirty years. In 2021, Sandra received the Jean Hunhoff Courage, Faith, Love Award from Sacred Heart for her years of service.
Sandra was also always looking for ways to help in her communities. In high school, she was a Candy Striper at McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls. As a mother, she was a Brownie leader for her daughter and her friends. When her son joined Cub Scouts and worked his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, Sandra served as treasurer for his troop for many years. She also served on the Board of the Yankton Area Literacy Council while tutoring numerous clients in reading and mathematics. She also taught second grade religious education classes at Sacred Heart for several years and received the Volunteer of the Month Award from United Way in Yankton in March 1998.
Sandra has served as the librarian at Mount Marty for over 50 years. She has especially enjoyed working with the patrons of the library to make sure that they found the library materials they wanted either for their research or just to enjoy reading. She has worked with students (undergraduate, graduate, and from the Federal Prison), faculty, staff and people from the community. She also helps serve library patrons all over the world by supplying materials that they want via Interlibrary Loan. Sandra says, “I seem to always learn something when helping others.” She is a fan of lifelong learning and plans to continue that for the rest of her life.
DISTINGUISHED PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT, UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE
Victoria Walker ‘93
Dr. Walker graduated summa cum laude from Mount Marty with Biology and Chemistry majors in 1993 and magna cum laude from the University of South Dakota with her medical degree in 1997. She completed her family medicine residency at Washington Hospital in Washington, PA. She has been a member of the physician Honor Medical Society, Alpha Omega Alpha and the American Academy of Physicians since medical school.
She began her career as a family physician with Sioux Valley Vermillion Clinic in 2000, where she continued to practice until 2008, with a hiatus to work as a locum tenens physician in Victoria, Australia in 2005. In 2008, Dr. Walker transitioned to practice in Yankton at the Human Services Center. It was in this setting that she discovered a deep interest in understanding the complex issues that impact the experience of health care when aging. This inspired her to complete a Health and Aging Policy Fellowship in 2014-16, where she was the national coordinator for the Family Caregiver Platform Project and worked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to partner with the provider community to reduce adverse events in post-acute and long-term care.
She transitioned to executive medicine when she accepted a role as the first Chief Medical Officer for the Evangelical Good Samaritan Society and served in this position for 7 years, during which time she had the opportunity to champion many quality initiatives as well as to serve on the Steering Committee for a CMS Innovation Center study of a transformative telehealth model serving elders living in nursing homes. She eventually joined this program, Avel eCare Senior Care, as the Medical and Clinical Director in 2020. She led the South Dakota Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network in 2020-21 and supports Avera Health system as their LTC Medical Director.
Dr. Walker enjoys teaching as a clinical associate professor at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and faculty for the Healer’s Art program. She served on the board of the South Dakota Academy of Family Physicians for several years and then as President in 2016. She also has served on the boards of the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care and AMDA the Society of Post Acute and Long Term Care Medicine. She currently serves on the board of Advancing Excellence in Long-Term Care Collaborative and Bethany Lutheran Foundation. Dr. Walker is an active member of AMDA The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, currently chairing the Public Policy Steering Committee and serving as a reviewer for JAMDA, and on the state chapter board.
Her husband, Lanny, is also a graduate of Mount Marty. Their family served as residence hall directors while they attended college, spending three memorable years living in Corby and Whitby with their young family. They have been married for 36 years and have 3 children–Dr. Heather (David) Kapperman, Alexa (Broc) Gauer, and Michael (Jen) Walker–and have been blessed with 10 beautiful grandchildren.
DISTINGUISHED PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT, GRADUATE DEGREE
Chris Bender ‘95, ‘05, ‘19
Chris is a three-time graduate of Mount Marty University. He received a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 1995, a Master of Science in nurse anesthesia in 2005, and is extremely proud to be the first person to receive a doctoral degree from Mount Marty University in receiving a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice in 2019.
After receiving his BSN, Chris embarked on a ten-year registered nursing career at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton, SD. Chris also worked as a travel nurse in California, Colorado, and Texas. Upon graduating anesthesia school in 2005, Chris worked as a staff anesthetist at Sanford USD Medical Center & Hospital, Sioux Falls, SD. In 2013, Chris joined Vance Thompson Vision, Sioux Falls, SD as its anesthesia provider. He has managed an anesthesia practice that started with providing anesthesia services for three surgeons and approximately 3500 cases annually that has now grown to seven surgeons and over 7000 cases annually. Rather than providing anesthesia for ophthalmic surgery in the traditional manner, Chris helped develop an innovative, novel solution for providing sedation and continues to be the foremost expert of its use.
Chris serves in several different leadership capacities outside of his work. He serves on the Mount Marty University Benedictine Leadership Institute advisory board and has served on the Ophthalmic Anesthesia Society’s board of directors, executive leadership committee, and has served as co-chair of its annual scientific meeting planning committee. Chris is a member of the Ophthalmic Anesthesia Society (OAS), the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiologists (AANA), the South Dakota Association of Nurse Anesthetists (SDANA), and the Society for Opioid Free Anesthesia (SOFA).
In his free time Chris and his wife, Andria, along with children Margot, Gavin, Skyler, daughter-in-law Jennifer and grandson Lennik enjoy spending time at the lake boating, barbequing and spending time together.
2022 Jessica (Jurgensen) Clark, Claire (Sung) Reiss, Dave & Marcene (Tomjack) Dickes, Dr. Kevin Kennedy, Dr. Taylor Rehfeldt
2021 Robbie Neswick, Joan (VanWell) & Fred DeRouchey, Andy and Stephanie (Sieler) Bernatow, Adrienne (Bielenberg) Rochleau, Nicholas Wenande
2020 Johanna (Scheich) Jablonoski, Joel Schwiesow, Mary Abbott, Dr. Cecilia Rokusek
2019 Jordan Pater. Katie (Heine) Pesicka, Kathy Harens, Ruth Bryant
2018 Jesse Bailey, Amy Majeres Bailey, Joanne Wagner Osnes, Greg Wagner, Carol Brummels Stewart, Javier Murguia
2017 Daniel Filsinger, Robert Kappel, Sister Madonna Schmitt, Amy Brady Lein, Daniel Wagner
2016 Raelynn Coldwell, Frank “Bink” Crisler, Father Thomas Wordekemper, Sister Matthew Wehri, Shawn Gallagher
2015 Mary Pistulka
2014 Jill Orton, Deb Fischer-Clemens, Brock Sundall, S. Penny Bingham
2013 Dennis Heine
2012 Sister Candyce Chrystal, Dan Specht
2011 Deidre Flaherty, Jon Swegarden
2010 Sister Aidan Bourke, Norm Kunselman, Marilyn Pates
2008 Sister Patricia Heirigs, Marvin Veasy, Francis G. Tramp, Dagen Valentine
2007 Sister Cynthia Binder, Phyllis Kneifl Getz, Janet Holzman Beattie, Corey Wittrock
2006 Mary Elizabeth Eisenman Carson, Rev. David Korth, Kayleen Tyrrell Lee, Dr. James Dufek, Nathan V. Johnson
2005 Mary Lois Hunhoff Gibson, S. Ramona Fallon, Dr. Janet Serie, Bernadette Standaert Obert, Doris Parisien Fiedler
2004 Christine Lang Pharr, Carol Kippes Pistulka, S. Marcine Quintus, Gene & Angela Holmes Elder
2003 Alice Jensen Hoesing, Shirley Skrdla Musich, S. Consuelo Chavez, Jason Pistulka
2002 Carol Schmitt Bennett-Dorsey, Myrna Brennick, Denise Proctor, Theresa Swier
2001 Frances Murray Flaherty, Suzanne Reisch Dufek, Marilyn Van Gerpen Ter Maat, S. Kara Payer
2000 George Munn, Marian Dendinger Pyper, Ruth Kornely, Tom Buckmiller
1999 Charles Stastny, Janet Holzman Beattie, Kelly Heller
1998 Rosaleen Doom Krames, Cheryl Commers Hanks, Kayleen Jorgensen Deacon, Scott Swier
1997 Lucille Kribell O'Connor, Kathryn O'Leary Higgins, Norma German Doyle, Dave Abbott
1996 Dr. Mary Shon, S. Jacquelyn Ernster, Alice Baumberger Gannon, Tim Dingman
1995 Kent Lethcoe, Alice Jensen Hoesing, Kathleen Spitzenberger Roehl, Dorothy Stoll
1994 S. Marie Helen Werdel, Barbara Hickey Kramer, Christine Lang Pharr, Michelle Peak
1993 Thomas K. Harmon, Nancy Werner, Brigid Flanagan, David Allen Lyons
1992 Jolene Schwarz Sokol, David Knips, David Fletcher, Michael Klimisch
1991 Joan Rossiter Burney, S. Inez Welchert, S. Adrienne Kaufmann, Matthew Dvorak
1990 S. Mary Arthur Schramm, JoAnn Stransky Thistlewood, Mary Alice Lacey Feltham, Fran Davey Hassler
1989 S. Virgil Koch, Kay Johnson Deacon, Frances Biegelmeier Lowenstein, Sue Boyum Ressler
1988 Arliss Johnson, Joy Hentges Jenkins, S. Rosalie Sitzmann, Br. Nick Feyerisen
1987 Jess Wolf, Donna Meirose, S. Rosaria Kranz (deceased), John Glidden
1986 S. Roswitha Zavadil (deceased), S. Harriet Gobel, Kathleen Lahr Keller, Geri Weiland Loecker
1985 S. Rhoda Foecke (deceased), Norman Kunselman, Cecilia Rokusek, Gary Wagner, Katie O'Donnel Wagner, Terry Wensing, Pam Oberembt Wensing
1984 Adeline Andersen Morck (deceased), Connie Mentele Kass, Janice Joffer Thompson, Tim Glidden
1983 Paula Kertzman Tacke, Rev. Guy Gau, Mary Anne Post Rhomberg, Jeanne Pride Parker
1982 Bernard Hunhoff, Cleopha Fanslow Gumbinger, Viola Breen Bauder, James Dufek
1981 Ruth Landsberger Vickers, S. Kevin Irwin, S. Laurina Kaiser, Dan Wagner
1980 Francine Dold, Ceil Connelly (deceased), Gloria Tysl, Norman Kunselman
1979 Jeanette Dangel, Cecilia Rokusek
1978 S. Phyllis Hunhoff, Fred Ertz
1977 Kathleen Bouska, Dennis Fokken
1976 Florence Rossiter, Paula Kertzmann Tacke
1975 Rita Amberg Waldref
1974 S. Evangeline Anderson
1973 S. Julia Hunhoff
1972 S. Wilma Lyle