The St. Thomas community gathered March 2 to celebrate its annual St. Thomas Day and to honor the recipients of its Distinguished Alumnus, Humanitarian, Professor of the Year, Tommy and Monsignor James Lavin awards.

This year’s awards and their winners are:

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Quentin Hietpas ’53: "God has blessed this university with two great presidents — Terrence Murphy and Dennis Dease."

Established in 1971, this award is presented for leadership and service to the university, to the community, and in the person’s field of endeavor.

Hietpas, 70, stepped down last fall as St. Thomas’ senior vice president for external affairs. He graduated from St. Thomas in 1953 and later earned a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. He directed the public relations programs at International Multifoods Corp., Apache, Control Data and Pillsbury before returning to St. Thomas in 1983 to lead the university’s fund-raising efforts.

The two campaigns he directed, "Century II" and "Ever Press Forward," raised more than a third of a billion dollars and helped to transform the university. Hietpas also taught public relations at St. Thomas and in the early 1980s co-founded the university’s master’s degree program in business communication.

As senior vice president emeritus, he is semiretired and continues to raise funds for St. Thomas’ new School of Law.

Excerpts from his speech:

"Most important is leadership continuity. The average tenure among university presidents in America is about five years. Contrast this with St. Thomas. God has blessed this university with two great presidents — Terrence Murphy and Dennis Dease — who have guided this institution over the last 36 years. These are leaders who have stuck doggedly — and unswervingly — to our 117-year Catholic liberal arts mission. [They are] two entrepreneurs with vision, willing to take calculated risks."

Humanitarian Award

Dr. Benjamin Owens: "Teachers treated you like their own children."

Established 33 years ago, the Humanitarian of the Year award is presented by the university’s Alumni Association.

Dr. Benjamin Owens, 76, of Hibbing, was honored for his service as a physician and benefactor to families on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Owens attended St. Thomas in 1942 before joining the Navy and later transferred to the University of Minnesota to earn his medical degree. He is known for his passion for providing personal care and in the early 1980s was named Family Physician of the Year by the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians. Beyond the field of medicine, he has long supported sports teams, scout troops and worthwhile causes in Hibbing and throughout the Iron Range. St. Thomas awarded Owens an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 1992.

Excerpts from his speech:

"I met Dr. John Giesen and Dr. William Larson. They were in charge of the pre-meds and they were just marvelous teachers.

"The government, in its great benevolence — there must be somebody intelligent in Washington — was going to pick out the medical crew of classes four years ahead of time. So they sent us over there and tested us vigorously for two days. And a month later four of us got accepted to medical school.

"And my mother said, "You were only there four months and you were accepted to medical school; it’s a good deal." But they [the teachers] cared about us. They treated you like their own children."

Professor of the Year

Dr. Peter Parilla ’72: "Service is vital and indispensable to the well-being of this university."

The 41-year-old Professor of the Year award recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and inspiration to students.

Parilla, 51, joined St. Thomas’ Sociology Department in 1977. Early in his academic career, he taught at both St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota. Becoming a full-time St. Thomas faculty member in 1982, he was promoted to associate professor in 1989 and full professor in 1999. A former chair of the Sociology Department, Parilla now directs the university’s Criminal Justice Program.

The Chicago native received his master’s and doctorate in sociology from the University of Minnesota in 1978 and 1982. He is a past president of Sociologists of Minnesota; his community-service work includes serving as co-chair of the Minnesota Supreme Court Visitation and Child Support Enforcement Task Force. He also has served on the Social Justice Commission of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and was a crime-policy consultant to the staff of the U.S. Catholic Conference. At St. Thomas, Parilla has chaired the College Senate and served on a host of academic councils, committees and task forces.

Excerpts from his speech:

"The first time I set foot on this campus was 32 years ago. I was a transfer student from Chicago, entering the program at St. John Vianney. One of the first persons I met when checking into Loras Hall was the seminary rector, Monsignor John Roach. Not too long after that, a new spiritual director was assigned to Vianney — a young priest by the name of Dennis Dease. Even then I knew, if these two guys stick with me, they will go places.

"I find that service forces me to think concretely about what St. Thomas must stand for. … Service is vital and indispensable to the well-being of this university."

Monsignor James Lavin Award

Dr. William Carter III ’74: "The tradition of this learning has continued for me."

Established in 1994, the Monsignor James Lavin Award annually honors a volunteer for service to the University of St. Thomas Alumni Association.

Carter, 49, is the only alumnus to hold St. Thomas degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. He received his bachelor’s in social work in 1974, his master’s in public safety administration and education in 1981 and his doctorate in educational leadership in 1995. In addition, he received a certificate from the university’s Master of Business Communication Program.

Carter has taught at St. Thomas, Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis Community and Technical College and the University of St. Francis in Illinois. Currently he is director of the Police Leadership Administration and Education Program at St. Thomas and manager of Training and Organizational Development at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Earlier in his career he was a police officer and fire fighter and was executive director of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

Carter has been an active member of the St. Thomas Alumni Association for two decades. He served on the association’s board for many years and was its vice president and president.

Excerpts from his speech:

"Since I’ve been at St. Thomas there has been a constant focus on quality learning, quality care, quality compassion and quality service. I’ve experienced it in the classrooms from quality faculty members, especially in the doctorate program, where I learned in-depth about sexism and racism, history and ethics. The faculty would turn things on their end and allow us to slice them apart and continue to go deeper and deeper into the ills, and the changes we need to make, and how leadership affects those kinds of changes.

"The tradition of this learning, this type of learning, has continued for me as an alumnus."

Tommy Award

Brian Brenberg: "We guard our St. Thomas identity with fierce pride."

The Tommy Award has been given annually since 1931 to a senior who exemplifies the ideals of the university. The award is sponsored by The Aquin student newspaper and the St. Thomas Alumni Association.

Brenberg, of Wyoming, Minn., a finance and marketing major with a G.P.A. of 3.982, is active in athletics, community service and faith-related activities. He was co-captain of the St. Thomas football team and lettered twice in track and field. He was one of 11 players nationally named to the 2001 Good Works Team by the American Football Coaches Association.

He is a volunteer with VISION (Volunteers in Service Internationally Or Nationally), Habitat for Humanity, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and community clean-up days.

Brenberg is active at the St. John Neumann Catholic Church, campus Bible study and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He received his team’s Monsignor James Lavin Award for Christian approach, service and dedication.

Excerpts from his speech:

"I believe the strength of our identity as Tommies is commensurate with the strength of three core principles of our university: focus, accountability, and pride. … Finally, we guard our identity with fierce pride. Pride is an asset contained, but not hidden, in our hearts, whose value can surely compensate for the sacrifices we will make in seeking truth, and preserving and building a great university."