Congratulations to Thanos Zyngas, recipient of the 1998-99 William B. Malevich Award; and the Rev. Michael Joncas, 1998-99 Distinguished Educator. They received their awards at the Opening Mass and Celebration Sept. 16.

Students nominated candidates for the awards, which are sponsored by the All College Council.

A special Mass, which included a piece of music composed for this occasion by Joncas, and a picnic lunch followed the presentation.

Here are the recipients’ acceptance remarks:

Thanos Zyngas, William B. Malevich Award

A simple thank you wouldn’t be enough to express to the students of St. Thomas how proud and grateful I am receiving this year’s Malevich Award. I am very humbled to be this year’s recipient and it’s very difficult not to get emotional when I am embraced and surrounded by so many students and fellow colleagues here today.

As many of you know, I get to see my family only once a year, if that, and for the rest of the year I am here with this family, each and every one of you.

I truly enjoy and appreciate my service and every moment that I spend on campus. Quality relationships, friendships, hard work, people, life, are very important to me and I am happy to be around so many beautiful, precious and generous people at St. Thomas and to be able to share all that, in many meaningful ways.

During my three years at St. Thomas I have met hundreds of students from whom I have learned quite a bit, whom I have cherished and shared a plethora of wonderful memories with, and who have impacted my life like a brother, like a sister. Many of you are probably standing here in front of me today.

As we begin this new year and prepare to enter the year 2000 in a couple of months, it is my hope that we, the St. Thomas community (students, staff and faculty) will continue contributing to the common good, striving for excellence, respecting human dignity, cultivating and building quality relationships with one another, and supplying each other with some simple ingredients of life, such as love, care, kindness, compassion and humor, in order to help us overcome the challenges ahead.

My dear students, thank you once again for this honor and I am proud to be associated with each and every one of you who bring your own ray of light here at St. Thomas making this place brighter and greater. Thank you.

The Rev. Michael Joncas, Distinguished Educator Award

What a couple of weeks! First, the MTV music video awards, then the Emmies, and now the honors associated with the beginning of a new school year. I feel that I should emulate Sally Field, clutch my plaque, and tearfully announce: "You like me, you really like me"!

But just as the honorees at those other award ceremonies accept "on behalf of" others, the truth of the matter is that by honoring me today, you are actually honoring three other groups. First, you honor the long line of educators who educated me, and educated me about education; without their inspiration and modeling I’d have even less clue about what to do in a classroom than I do today. Second, you honor all those auxiliaries who make education possible: the secretaries and security guards, the maintenance workers and the mail sorters, the librarians, and the computer technicians, and the food service employees; without their faithful and often unacknowledged care, the work of any educator, no matter how distinguished, could not take place. Finally, you honor yourselves, because it is impossible to be a distinguished educator without distinguished “educatees”: students who hail what is true, honor what is good, and hallow what is beautiful.

I conclude with a personal confession: I have always wanted to be able to dance. But those who know me well know that this ungainly Polish body will never have the athletic grace of a Rudolf Nureyev or a Mikhail Barishnikov; I always will be fated to flounder like Barney the Purple Dinosaur. I still dream. I dream of being captivated by some wistful music, linking arms and coordinating footsteps with others similarly captivated, losing ourselves and finding ourselves in a dance: no one worried about who leads or who follows, who looks foolish and who shows off, who is distinguished and who is a novice — for what counts is the music that has captured our hearts. What I cannot do on the dance floor, I am blessed to do in a classroom. Together we have made room for each other in the dance of learning. Together we are practicing the choreography of authentic human life. Together we are responding to God’s ancient music. Thank you. Thank you for filling my dance card. Thank you for letting me dance with you in the tangles of our minds, the desires of our hearts, and the prayers of our souls.