Senior Awards brunch: Community joyfully resumes a cherished tradition

Highlights, sometimes emotional, include seniors-chosen speaker Professor Reza Ramazani, remarks from President Sterritt, award presentations and a wonderful meal

May 12, 2022
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer
lorraine

President Sterritt and her new gift “puppy.” (photos by Lauren Read)

“We last did this in 2019,” said Sydney Rybicki ’18, the master of ceremonies for Thursday morning’s Senior Awards Brunch in a packed Green Mountain Dining Room. The powerful emotions of returning, finally, to such an important campus tradition after the toll-taking challenges of two-plus pandemic years surfaced throughout a joyful ceremony punctuated with laughs and not a few tears.

Before the speeches and awards presentations, the hundreds of students, faculty and staff packing the large Alliot Hall dining space enjoyed a fine meal put on by Sodexo that included ham, turkey, pastries, quiche and other treats. Sodexo staff drew a well-earned extended ovation.

To open the program, Vicki Castillo ’20, assistant director of MOVE, offered the invocation:

In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Loving God, we ask that you bless the class of 22 during their time of celebration, watch over them in this time of great transition in their lives, and guide them along their journey. Bestow upon them the courage to embrace new beginnings, the strength to persevere through difficulties, and the perspective so that they may always return to what is right & honest within their hearts. Loving God, we ask that you bless this meal today and fill this room with heartfelt connection and jubilation.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The emcee Rybicki ’18 spoke of the formidable resilience of this class in such unprecedented times. President Lorraine Sterritt happily showed off a gift from the class, a stuffed puppy signed by class members, and spoke of how this was “her class” since she arrived with them their first year on campus. She promised having more to say to them at Sunday’s Commencement.

Reza Ramazani blows a kiss to an appreciative audience.

The Senior Class faculty or staff speaker, chosen by class members, was Reza Ramazani, a beloved longtime economics professor who is retiring this year. Ramazani, or “just Reza, like Madonna” as his introducer Rybicki said,  told the seniors that as educated and therefore fortunate people, they have, with him, an obligation to be spokespeople for the less fortunate and a “voice for the voiceless.” His advice, taken from his own wise father, included to be humble, to have passion for what you do in life, and to remember that everything is relative and always there are people far better or worse off than you in many ways, so be grateful. He passed on advice from the college banners all over campus to “do well and do good,” told them to lead by example, and “most important, practice what you preach and always try to do the right thing.”

“We are all called to become champions for social justice,” he said. He showed emotion recalling the 7,250 or so students he has taught in 36 years, and he thanked them for being such an important part of his life. The crowd gave him a standing ovation at the end of his talk.

Following are the major awards with winners, presenters and text of award citations where available:

2022 Saint Michael’s College Senior Awards

Dr. Marie J. Henault Award:
Megan T. Schneider
Presenter: Nicole Noce ’17, Center for Women & Gender

megan S

Megan, left, and Nicole.

Citation text: “…. My name is Nicole Noce and I am the Graduate Coordinator of the Center for Women and Gender on campus. I have the distinct honor of presenting the first award this morning. This year’s Henault award recipient has made her mark here on campus and will certainly be missed. This individual has an infectious smile, a kind heart, and a passion for social justice. As an active member of Feminists for Equality, she has worked tirelessly to contribute to women’s issues both on and off campus.

As president of the club, she has led the charge in many outstanding programs and initiatives on campus, including a giving tree to benefit Steps to End Domestic Violence, club hikes up Mount Philo, a trip to the Montpelier Women’s March, bringing State Representative Taylor Small to campus, and more. And as my work study in the CWG, she has collaborated to advocate for women’s issues and gender equity. I am incredibly honored and proud to present this year’s Marie Henault award to Megan Schneider.”

Elizabeth A. Durick Award
Daneroy A. Lawrence
Presenter: Jerome Monachino ’91, associate director of Edmundite Campus Ministry

Citation Text: “For his entire four years, Daneroy has been one of the most consistent members of the Saint Michael’s College Liturgical Ensemble that I’ve seen in my 30 years here. Always on time and 100 percent engaged, Daneroy’s enthusiasm for making music was contagious and inspiring. It didn’t matter what the weekly happenings were… finals, papers, rain or even snow, he always showed up with his game on, and with a huge smile on his face.  His talent on the congas, kit and various percussion  helped to add beauty, meaning and purpose to our liturgies.

Jerome and daneroy

Jerome, left, and Daneroy with his award.

Our rehearsals were certainly uplifted by his sense of humor, as we often had interruptions of joyful laughter for several minutes between tunes. And thankfully that joyful residue would sometimes make its way into the tunes themselves. But it wasn’t just his musical talent… Daneroy’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for Sacred Scripture was always a highlight at our Liturgy Evaluation Meetings and Scripture Reflection time. He challenged all of us to look deeper into our faith, keeping us on track, and bringing us closer to the mystery of God’s great love for us.  Earning the nickname, “The Great Sanitizer”, we all received a healthy dose of his appetite for deliverance.  God knows we needed it! Throughout his entire four years here, Daneroy Lawrence has demonstrated a confidence in the Catholic Mission of Saint Michael’s College. His Christocentric nature brought direction, purpose and meaning to our entire community. Daneroy, we are going to miss you!!! Congratulations, and thank you so much for all you have done for us!”

 

Frank G. Mahady Award
Anna M. Beach
Presenter, Lara Scott, MOVE director

Citation text: “… This award honors the senior who best demonstrates the qualities of moral leadership and social justice and who shows potential to contribute significantly to peace and justice. On behalf of Edmundite Campus Ministry and MOVE, I am honored and more than excited to present this year’s Mahady Award to Anna Beach. Initiative, thoughtful, intentional, passionate, and kind are words that come to mind immediately when we in MOVE, and likely many others here, think about Anna. She is an individual whose values are foundational to all she does and they show themselves through her actions. Anna’s integrity shines and her care and respect for the people in her life and the space she shares with the natural world is something special.

anna lara

Anna, left, and Lara.

Anna’s care for creation, a foundational value in Catholic Social Teaching which also underpins our OVE program, shows up naturally in all she does and is nothing less than beautiful and inspiring. She has been an authentic champion of MOVE’s mission “to inspire the SMC community to appreciate and respect the natural environment through participation in service work and learning” – she’s done this through the opportunities she’s created for volunteers as well as experiences she’s made possible for herself on the farm, in courses, with advocacy work, and soon in a position at Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.  Anna is an example and incredible model to those around her. Her respect for and stewardship of the land is remarkable and is a wonderful example of both “service of presence” and “justice through service” – both values MOVE holds dear.  Anna literally walked into MOVE to propose a re-launch of Outdoor Volunteer Efforts (OVE) because she loved the program and what it stands for. From there her initiative and commitment to the environment, more specifically the land and all it offers, has propelled MOVE forward in significant ways. We are grateful for her moral leadership, her determination, and her reliable follow through.  Congratulations, Anna, you will be deeply missed – thank you for all you’ve contributed, your commitment to environmental equity and justice, and for all you are leaving us to shepherd.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Society Award:
Juana S. Lopez
Presenter: Sarah Childs, associate dean of students/director, Center for Multicultural Affairs & services

Citation text: “… I have the absolute pleasure of presenting the MLK Jr. Award to a student I have come to respect and care for deeply in my tenure at St. Michael’s. In August of 2020, one month after I started at the College, I was fortunate to be lent student staff from my colleague friend, Kerri Leach, of Student Activities as I was new and she anticipated that I would need the help of student employees in CMAS.  Juana was one of those three students and since the very beginning, she has been an inspiration and incredible role model.  Fortunately for me, I have come to know Juana very well as her supervisor but also as one of her advisors.  Our relationship has allowed us many opportunities to converse about a variety of things in her life and different things that we connect on. For as long as I have known Juana, she has been engaged in matters related to her local community here and in her home city, the SMC community, racial justice, migrant justice and environmental causes of some sort.

juana and sarsh

Juana, left, and Sarah.

I have seen her broach brave and difficult conversations in order to advocate for other and herself.  See has used her platform as a young scholar, on and off campus, her role as an intern in two different positions, member in student organizations she has been involved in, community organizations, classes to research and write about causes related to minoritized communities and bring awareness to injustices across a spectrum.  She has served students with compassion, kindness, and mindfulness to include everyone.  I must say that she has done a lot of this with a great deal of integrity and courage as doing the right thing and going against the status quo is difficult—as we well know from Dr. King’s example and the life he lived.   Juana is also originally from Bogotá, Colombia and has this whole history and language that everyone might not be aware of.  She has had to navigate life in the United States.  She has juggled responsibility to her family while simultaneously figuring out how to navigate through college.  She remains civically engaged in meaningful ways because it is important to her and worked hard to find her place in a predominately white community where she has been one of few, if not the only student of color in multiple spaces she has been in on this campus.  Considering Juana and what I know of her story, a quote from a wise Latina comes to mind.  The honorable Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated, “There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested. Whether it’s serious illness, financial hardship, or the simple constraint of parents who speak limited English, difficulty can tap unexpected strengths.”  Juana truly is the salt of the Earth.  She is a genuine person.  She has a big heart.  She is incredibly sharp and hard working.  Humble.  Funny.  Open-minded.  AND this year’s recipient of the MLK Jr. Award.  Felicidades, Juana!!!!  Keep up the good work.”

Roger F. Keleher Memorial Awards
James A. Downs
Ellen K. McKenna
(See article on our Saint Michael’s Purple Knights athletics feed)

Presenter: Chris Kenny ’86 M’98, director of athletics

John D. Donoghue Award:
Sarah E. Knickerbocker
Presenter: Michael Donoghue, lecturer, Journalism Department, executive director, Vermont Press Association

Citation text:  “It is an honor to be asked to present this annual award named for my father, whose birthday – by coincidence — is today. He would have turned 113 years old today. I would ask Sarah Knickerbocker from the class of 2022 to please come forward. She is majoring in media studies, journalism, and digital arts with a minor in art and design. Sarah is passionate about creative expression through photography, social media, marketing, and graphic design.

sarah and mike

Sarah, left, and Mike

Sarah served as an important member of The Defender during her time at St. Michael’s.  She wrote news, features and opinion pieces as a member of The Defender. Her presence was especially felt when she signed on to be the Design Editor in 2020 when the pandemic was in full, unvaccinated swing. The department in selecting Sarah for the Donoghue award noted her outstanding work in both reporting and design made a notable difference for an audience that craved compelling, well-reported stories at a time of uncertainty. As I looked back at her body of work I also was struck by it, including a touching personal piece about COVID. COVID has touched all of our lives. Her pandemic stories ranged from the isolation of international students during this time to the state’s tracing of our biggest outbreak, and the availability of testing for SMC employees.  Among other stories, Sarah covered the Burlington Black Lives Matter protest and an opinion piece about the impact of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Sarah enhanced many of her own stories and those by other staff members and contributors.  She used her creative, carefully crafted illustrations and designs in ways both subtle and bold. A quiet leader, Sarah represented the best of responsible, innovative journalism and she delivered with good humor, sensitivity and an enthusiasm that inspired the entire editorial team. She is one hard-working young lady with several jobs throughout college and even an Internship in the MC Marketing Department.  Sarah even had time to be on the SMC Tennis team and sing with Sleepless Knights Acapella Group. Sarah, my father – for his seven decades here at the college – would have been proud of all the work you did for and about Saint. Michael’s. On behalf of the Department of Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts I am proud to present the 2022 John D. Donoghue award to Sarah Knickerbocker  — the  pride of Essex, Vermont.”

Hilltop Yearbook Dedication:
Father Raymond J. Doherty S.S.E. ’51 (posthumous dedication). Accepting the award were Edmundite Frs. Marcel Rainville ’67 and Fr. Brian Cummings ’86 of the resident Edmundite community that Fr. Ray was a beloved part of for much of his long life.

Reverend Gerald E. Dupont Awards:
Student- Daniel W. O’Malley (presenter Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86, director, Edmundite Campus Ministry)|
Faculty- Greta Pangborn
Staff- Timothy Mackin
(presenters Kelechi Onuoha, Isabella Saracco, Student Government Association president/vice president respectively)

Malley fr frian

Dan, left, and Father Brian.

O’Malley citation text: I am honored to present this 2022 Rev. Gerald E. Dupont Award to graduating senior Dan O’Malley. Dan has a long list of accomplishments and activities through which he has demonstrated the ideals of courage, vision, devotion, and faith upon which Saint Michael’s was founded. Dan has put his Catholic faith into action in a variety of ways in serving our campus community and the greater communities of Burlington and his hometown of Syracuse, New York. On campus, Dan has been a committed faith leader in a variety of Edmundite Campus Ministry programs including leading several retreats and witnessing to his faith journey in a series of talks.

He has also coordinated peer ministry activities in our VITA program in facilitating weekly faith sharing discussions among his contemporaries. Dan also co-hosted a weekly sports radio talk show from 12 midnight to 2 am with his classmate James Downes and was also involved in the Ultimate Frisbee Club and served on the Judicial Review Board. In both Burlington and Syracuse, Dan worked with local Catholic communities serving this past year as the Youth Minister at Saint John Vianney parish in South Burlington and directed teams of college students for the last three summers administering weekly parish missions for young people in 13 parishes throughout the Diocese of Syracuse in the Totus Tuus program. Dan was also elected as student representative of the strategic planning team for Birthright, which is a pregnancy resource center located in Burlington.

Greta

Professor Greta Pangborn holds her award plaque.

A member of the Honors Program, Dan has consistently been on the Dean’s List and was inducted into the national honor society for Religious Studies Majors as well as the National Honor Society for Catholic Colleges. Dan will continue his studies at the University of Notre Dame pursuing a Master’s in Education through the Alliance for Catholic Education program. As part of the degree requirements, Dan will teach for two years in an inner city Catholic elementary school beginning this fall in San Antonio, Texas. Dan is a prayerful person with a strong faith and conducts himself with a high degree of integrity. He is a selfless giver and a true follower of Jesus Christ.”

Pangborn and Mackin citations text: “These awards are named for former president of the college, Rev. Gerald E. Dupont, SSE. These award recipients demonstrate dedication to the ideals of courage, vision, devotion and faith upon which Saint Michael’s College was founded. They are given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the Saint Michael’s community. This year’s faculty recipient of the Dupont Award is Professor Greta Pangborn. A professor of Computer Science and the co-director of the Engineering program, the brilliant Professor Pangborn is being recognized by the Class of 2022 for her supportive and accessible approach to teaching.

Tim

Tim Mackin, left, with presenters Kelechi Onuoha and Isabella Saracco of the SGA.

Outside of the classroom, she is the advisor to the Ultimate Frisbee club, after having been promised in an old-English style proclamation “a ridiculous slate of things like bedtime stories and pancakes.” In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the community, the faculty recipient of this year’s Dupont award is Professor Greta Pangborn.

This year’s staff recipient of the Dupont award is Tim Mackin. Over his many years here, he has taken on a variety of roles on the academic side of campus, including English instructor, overseeing the Writing Center, and in the Academic Dean’s office, with the last three years as the Associate Dean of the College. Faculty, staff, students, and even families appreciate him for working tirelessly to support students with his thoughtful and caring approach to teaching and advising. In recognition of his dedication to the ideals of courage, vision, devotion, and faith, this year’s staff recipient of the Dupont award is Tim Mackin.”

Saint Michael’s Award:
Antonio M. Finsterer
Presenter: Dawn Elinwood, vice president for student affairs/dean of students

Citation text: “This year’s recipient of the Saint Michael’s Award is Antonio “Oni” Finsterer. While you might know him as this year’s Student Government Association President, Oni has been a dynamic Purple Knight over his four undergraduate years. A double major in business administration and international relations with a minor in accounting, his academic course load kept him quite busy. However, this did not stop Oni from getting involved in various on-campus activities from the outset. He has been highly engaged in clubs such as the acapella group Mike Check and the Ultimate Frisbee team, where he held leadership roles such as vice-president and co-captain. Oni has also given his time to campus ministry, including to the MOVE Best Buddies program as a first year student and to the LEAP retreats as a Talk Team member during his senior year.

Oni and Dawn

“Oni” Finsterer, left, and Dawn Ellinwood

Even as an underclassman, he was notorious for his contributions at SGA meetings. Acting as a class senator during his first and sophomore years, he was always the first to make a motion or second that of another Senate member. It should come as no surprise then that he sustained his enthusiasm for student government and contributed in more significant ways in his last two years. Oni was elected vice-president for the SGA as a junior and then SGA president as a senior. In both roles, he proved to be an exemplary leader for the student body as he navigated the various struggles that come with attending a higher education institution during the onset of a global pandemic. In addition to all of this, Oni is a rare “three-peat” Orientation Leader, and when applying for the role during his junior year, he cited his desire to “create a welcoming atmosphere for incoming students to introduce them to the amazing community that welcomed [him] when he first came to Saint Mike’s.” It is undeniable that Oni himself has accomplished this in countless ways, having worked tirelessly towards the betterment of the class and having demonstrated an unselfish commitment to others and to the development of community at Saint Michael’s College. It is an honor to present Oni Finsterer, class of 2022, with this year’s Saint Michael’s Award.”

Class Appreciation Awards:
Shefali Misra (political science faculty)
Trevien Stanger (environmental studies/science faculty)
Sarah Childs (associate dean of students)

Community Service Awards (seniors — see large photo below):
Sierah N. Miles
Hayley E. Jensen
Shannon E. Murray

Donald Sutton Community Service Award:
Richard A. Siracusa (Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue)

classservice

Class service award winners (three women out front, from left Jensen, Murray and Miles) with presenters Myron Prograis, senior class president, and Sean McGurn, senior class vice president, in the background.

Follow us on social.