Benet Academy award recipients include: First row: valedictorian Sabrina Lichon, Ashley Murphy, Elizabeth Sanchez, Katherine Michalik, Kelly Hayes, Debbie Walters, Theresa Moen and salutatorian Kathleen Krawczyk. Second row: Mackenzie Moore, Emma Stewart,
Updated: June 26, 2012 9:33AM
Department and service awards
The Dr. James Lemense Leadership Award was created to honor Benet’s first lay principal.
Lemense began his tenure as principal in the 1987-88 school year. At the end of his first year, he was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which forced him to retire early in his second year. Although Dr. Lemense’s tenure at Benet was brief, his contributions left a lasting impact on his colleagues and those students who knew him. This award honors a member of the senior class whose leadership and contributions to Benet over his or her years here have contributed to making Benet a better place.
The Lemense Award honors one senior without whom Benet would not have been the same.
This year’s recipient is Kelly Hayes. Hayes established herself early on as a student willing to sacrifice her own time to ensure the success of her fellow classmates. Throughout her Benet career, she has dedicated herself to helping both her classmates and students outside of Benet’s walls succeed academically through her involvement in various peer tutoring programs.
Additionally, she has also committed countless hours to ensuring the success of Benet’s numerous social events through her involvement in student government. Beginning the year as student government’s publicity chair, Hayes started her senior year by contributing numerous hours to creating posters and announcements to make others aware of the various events that student government was hosting. Through her efforts, students always knew of upcoming events that they could attend to enrich their Benet experience outside of the classroom. As the year has progressed, though, she unselfishly stepped beyond the requirements of her appointed position and committed herself to doing literally whatever was needed to make each and every event a success. It is because of her efforts that events such as the Turkey Bowl, the Christmas Drive, Homecoming, Turnabout, Mr. Redwing and this year’s junior-senior prom became the successes they were.
At any point of the day, she could be found running errands, entering data, making signs, organizing permission forms, rallying her classmates, or approaching the student government moderators to simply ask what she could be doing to help in any way they needed. Hayes always went about her tasks with both a smile and a sincere desire to make each event a memorable one for her classmates. She has emerged as a model leader for her class, and this senior class’s experience would not have been the same without her.
Brad Webb, who is a member of the Benet Academy Class of 1978, a current Benet board member and the chairman of the board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, enjoyed a distinguished career academically and athletically while both at Benet and during his collegiate days at the University of Iowa. In fact, after being awarded conference, area and state distinctions in football while at Benet, he captained Iowa’s 1981 Big Ten Championship Football Team and its 1982 Rose Bowl Team. Even more significantly, in 1982, he was awarded the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor, which is presented annually to the outstanding scholar athlete of the Big Ten Conference.
Each year the varsity coaching staff nominates and selects a young man or woman to receive the Brad Webb Scholar / Athlete Award based on the criteria set forth by the selection committee. To be eligible for this award, the individual must be a senior, a varsity letter recipient senior year, have a cumulative grade point average of 85 percent or above, and exemplify integrity, loyalty and leadership. Preference is also given to multiple sport athletes.
This year’s Brad Webb Award winner is Nicholas Mankowski. Mankowski has been a four-year member of both the football and basketball programs at Benet, the last two years as part of the varsity squads. He was the starting quarterback on the football team for both his junior and senior years, earning all-conference honors during his junior year. He was also elected captain of the football team this year. In basketball, he was a member of the varsity basketball team that last year earned a record of 29 wins and only one loss and this year was a valuable contributor to the team’s overall record of 21 and 7. Both coach New and coach Heidkamp view him as a leader, a tireless worker on the field and on the court, and a great teammate. They especially admire his ability to fight through tough injuries to be a team leader. He has been a member of the National Honor Society, and he has earned first honors each of his semesters at Benet.
Upon his arrival at Benet Academy in 1958, Andy Marchese immediately brought an air of professionalism to the Benet band. For the next 37 years, Benet’s marching band was one of the finest in the suburban area, winning competition after competition in parades from Glen Ellyn to Naperville.
The fountainhead of all of this success was Marchese, who demanded hard work and sacrifice from two generations of St. Procopius and Benet students. This award is presented to the band member who has participated in band activities and performances for four years, who has earned four varsity letters, who has an academic average of 95 percent or above in band, and who is the outstanding band member in the graduating class.
This year’s recipient is John Okrzesik who has been active in the music program and has risen to positions of leadership in several ensembles. He has been a brilliant, responsible performer all four years and yet this magnificent musician has remained humble, helpful, and unassuming. He has demonstrated his dedication and leadership in the marching band, pep band, jazz ensemble and wind ensemble. He is also a scholarly musician with a deep and varied taste in music. He is loved by his friends, respected by his peers and appreciated by his teachers. In addition to playing in every instrumental ensemble at Benet, he was co-principal trumpet in the Youth Symphony of DuPage, plays in his family’s polka band, and plays in a ska band with his classmates.
Outstanding Religion Student Award
The St. Benedict Outstanding Religion Student Award is presented annually to the senior who best exhibits the Benedictine value of excellence in religion coursework and who embraces St. Benedict’s call for balance and the willingness to “pray and work so that in everything God may be glorified”.
This year’s recipient is Theresa Moen. She maintained a 97 percent average over her four years of religion coursework. In addition to excelling in the classroom, she has had a positive impact on her peers throughout her years at Benet.
Several individuals were asked to describe her in just a few words. This is a sampling of their remarks: “A great kid, positive, never negative, authentic, a superstar and the best we have.” She is a young woman who is “comfortable in her skin.” She has a gift for being fully present to whomever and whatever she is engaged with, whether it be singing the national anthem before a sporting event, performing on stage, serving as a student leader on Logos or quite simply walking into first-period religion everyday with a genuine smile on her face ready to share her heart and mind with all those around her.
Fr. Jude Randall, OSB, Outstanding Music Award
The Rev. Jude Randall, a 1951 graduate of St. Procopius Academy, a religion teacher at Benet from 1960-73 and its president from 1992 until his retirement earlier this year, has been a strong and tireless supporter of the Benet Academy music department. From 1999 to 2001 he spearhead the “Completing the Picture” capital campaign, the focal point of which was the construction of St. Daniel Hall with its excellent music performance and practice facilities.
This year’s recipient is Emma Stewart. Stewart is an instrumentalist who is a wonderful performer and amazing technician. She often conducts sectional rehearsals and, under her guidance, these rehearsals have been musically productive and efficient. She has proven herself to be an excellent musician, and this excellence has carried over into all of the ensembles in which she has participated. Musically, she possesses the technical ability to master any challenging passage and the emotional capacity to perform music with an interpretation beyond her years. She is humble yet is able to produce a confident, mature sound no matter the difficulty of music she is performing. She earned third chair in the Illinois Music Educators Association State Honor Band, and she has earned the principal flute chair in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Fr. Ronald Rigovsky Outstanding Christian Service Award
Over the course of 26 years as principal and president of Benet Academy, the Rev. Ron Rigovsky’sleadership consistently modeled care and concern for students and staff.
Rigovsky was most dedicated to the Benedictine values of Ora et Labora: Prayer and Work. Work he never evaded; prayer and spiritual leadership were always present as well. The Fr. Ronald Rigovsky Outstanding Christian Service Award is given to that senior who best models an active interest for and participation in the spiritual leadership programs and projects provided by Benet Academy.
This year’s winner is Debbie Walters. Walters can be described as cheerful, enthusiastic and always willing to help. In the halls, she is never seen without a smile on her face. In her role as vice president of NHS, she has been responsible for making the agendas for all Executive Board and General Assembly meetings throughout the year — a task she has managed without ever needing a reminder, with an amazing attention to detail, and in such an organized and efficient manner that she usually has everything prepared several days in advance of each meeting. Last year, as a junior member of NHS, she was one of two students who took it upon themselves to organize the NHS Slop Day, raising more than $2,000 for a cause that touched their hearts — the Desks with Dignity project in Alegna, Uganda. Her spirit of service to and concern for others exemplifies Rigovsky’s dedication to “prayer and work.”
Fr. John Cherf, OSB, Foreign Language Awards
The Rev. John Cherf was a Benedictine monk who dedicated many years of his life to the education of young people. He taught Latin at Benet from 1954 until his retirement in 1984 at the age of 89. In his years as a Latin teacher, he inspired both students and colleagues alike with his tireless enthusiasm and dedication. For all of those who knew him, Cherf served as a role model to admire and emulate.
In German, the Fr. John Cherf Award is presented to Morgan Birck, a most deserving student who loves German. Throughout her four years studying the language at Benet, she has demonstrated a sincere interest in German language and culture both in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. She has been a member of both the German Honor Society and the German Club, and in class she shows exceptional skill speaking and writing German using a rich vocabulary with astounding grammatical accuracy.
This year’s recipient of the Fr. John Cherf Award in French is Ashley Murphy. Murphy developed an interest in French language and culture before coming to Benet. As a freshman in French 2, she began a four-year commitment to the French Club, at first in hopes of meeting other students who shared the same interests, and then, as an officer, helping to plan various successful activities. This included securing authentic cakes for the Mardi Gras party and preparing heaps of crepes for Candlemas. At the beginning of class in French 4/5, it was not uncommon for her teacher to have to interrupt the free-flow of animated conversation in French initiated by this student and then redirect the focus back to class discussion. It could never be said she student was lacking in enthusiasm for French. Always searching for ways to augment French study with activities outside of the classroom, this student hosted a French exchange student and brought her to class.
The recipient of the Fr. John Cherf Award in Latin Award is Mary Beth Wagner. Wagner stands out as an outstanding Latin student. She excels academically in the classroom because of her understanding of grammatical concepts and her ability to comprehend the nuances and artistic style of the various authors studied over the past four years. Her interest and enthusiasm for the Latin language and culture is evident by her involvement in numerous Latin-related activities outside the classroom. For the past two years she has been a member of the upper level team in the Latin Certamen competitions for which she has received numerous awards. This year she and her three teammates placed third in the state competition. In addition, she has not only participated in the National Latin Exam for the past four years but has actually been a gold medalist each of those years. She is also a member of the Latin Honor Society and has been an active member of the Latin Club. Moreover, she hopes to continue her Latin studies at the collegiate level.
The recipient of this year’s Fr. John Cherf Award in Spanish is Austin Lantero. Lantero has been an active member of the Spanish Club and has been instrumental in making sure that the Spanish Club Breakfast each month has been a success. He has dedicated himself to speaking Spanish consistently in the classroom context and has been meticulous in his pursuit of correct grammar and usage. His proficiency with the Spanish language is among the top in his class. Moreover, his strong interest in Hispanic culture is evident in his enthusiastic participation in the cultural excursions of the Spanish Club.
The Br. Columban Trojan, OSB, Outstanding Christian Service Award
A graduate of St. Procopius Academy, Brother Columban Trojan, O.S.B., has served as moderator of the Benet Academy Mothers Club since 1981. He has humbly empowered the Mothers Club presidents and its board to effective and productive leadership. This award is given to that senior who best models a cheerful and enthusiastic willingness to lend a helping hand, who is attentive to the needs of others and who lives out the gospel directive to complete works of mercy on behalf of others.
This year’s winner is Elizabeth Sanchez. Sanchez leads quietly but effectively. As president of the National Honor Society, she has worked hard all year to organize new service projects (such as DuPage PADS), kept on top of all the ongoing activities being organized by other members of the Executive Board to make sure that nothing ever fell through the cracks, and many times also volunteered to coordinate service projects herself (including weekly tutoring at the Lisle Library). Her presence at NHS events has been constant, from hosting an ice cream social for members, to participating in the Breast Cancer Walk, selling Slop Day passes, decorating for Benet’s 125th birthday and even working backstage at the cultural assembly. She models the example set by Columban not only through her active participation, but also through her organized and efficient leadership at NHS meetings, perhaps most notably, through her constant effort to be fair and inclusive of all.
Sr. Constance Anne Social Studies Award
Sister Constance Ann Prather had a passion to learn everything she could about history and politics. She sought to ignite that same passion for history and for political participation in all of her students — even those who may not have been among the top ranked students in their class. She cherished teaching students who engaged actively in historical or political discussions with both their teachers and their classmates whenever these might arise.
This year’s recipient of the Sister Constance Anne Prather Social Studies Award is Nicoletta Knoble. Knoble has excelled in every history course she has taken. As a freshman in honors world history, she was noticed by her teacher for her joyful disposition, her active participation in class and her obvious desire to learn, which she displayed daily. During her sophomore year, in AP European history and during her junior year in AP U.S. history, she again stood out to her teachers because of her active interest and involvement in class. As one of her teachers commented, “When she is in your classroom, you get the impression that this is the only class that matters to her.”
This year, as a student in “America Since 1945,” she again displays daily a simple love for learning. “Always positive about school, always prepared, always insightful in her responses, and always engaged for 45 minutes, bell to bell, in the learning process,” is how Mr. Nagis describes her.
Ron Baumgartner Physical Education Award
The physical education department award is named in honor of Ronald Baumgartner for his 39 years of service, dedication and enthusiasm to Benet’s athletic programs and physical education department.
This year’s recipients, Katie Michalik and James Guarascio, have displayed outstanding physical achievement, sportsmanship and effort in a variety of physical fitness assessments. They have also both shown outstanding efforts in team and individual sports. The President’s Council for physical fitness sets a high standard that our award winners must meet.
Theresa Wiora Outstanding Christian Service Award
Theresa Wiora, the mother of our dean of students, Marty Wiora, consistently and cheerfully volunteered her time and talents at Benet Academy for over 30 years. She never had a title, seldom had an office and never went off duty during the summer months. She cheerfully showed her dedication to Benet by doing anything and everything extraordinarily well. This award is given annually to that senior who lives out the works of mercy by modeling a cheerful and enthusiastic willingness to lend a helping hand and to be attentive to the needs of others.
This year’s recipient is Allie Maglio. Maglio has been an active participant in Benet’s Outreach program since early in her sophomore year. She has participated in events at St. Patrick’s Residence, Feed My Starving Children and volunteered on many Saturdays at Our Lady of the Angels Food Pantry. She also participated in multiple Christmas Drive shopping and gift delivery days and in the SEASPAR game night. As a sophomore, she took on a leadership role in DuPage Habitat for Humanity and was selected for Benet’s Appalachia Service Trip both junior and senior years. As a two-year member of the Outreach Board, she has consistently been one of the first to offer her assistance whenever there was a call for help, no matter how tedious the task. She has been the face and voice of Outreach at Benet Open Houses, enthusiastically sharing with prospective students all the opportunities they have to volunteer in the local community and telling her own stories of experiences she has had. She is also a go-to person for recruiting current students to participate in outreach activities. She can be counted on to do anything and everything.
Fr. Justin Spoden Award
The Fr. Justin Spoden Award is given annually in honor of the Rev. Justin Spoden, who taught biology at St. Procopius and Benet Academy for many years. The science department selects the recipient of this award because he or she exemplifies Spoden’s outstanding qualities: an enthusiasm for science, high science scholarship and an eagerness to help others learn science during all four years as a Benet science student.
This year’s recipient is Lauren Cziesla. The science teachers who have taught Cziesla describe her as a great student and person, who is super enthusiastic and truly interested in scientific knowledge, not just high science grades. When she enters a science classroom or laboratory, her energy and commitment create a contagious force that inspires her classmates. Thus, her integrity and leadership often serve as a catalyst for further exploration and learning. She has excellent communication skills along with the patience, work ethic and insightfulness necessary to progress toward identified goals. Last year, she won the tower-building physics competition. Moreover, as a lab aide for biology the last three years, she has demonstrated a keen ability to work independently and reliably to prepare materials and set up labs.
Sr. Mary Bratrsovsky, OSB, Outstanding Christian Service Award
Sister Mary Bratrsovskytaught at Benet Academy from 1967 to 2005. During her years at Benet, she was committed to the ministry of religious education and the welfare of the whole student. In addition to being the religion department chairperson, she is remembered for her presence at extracurricular activities, especially retreat programs and for her passionate concern for and involvement in areas of social justice, both in her Benedictine community and at Benet Academy. The Sr. Mary Bratrsovsky Outstanding Christian Service Award is given to that senior who not only believes that action on behalf of justice is a biblical imperative but who is actively involved in pursuing that justice.
This year’s recipient is Blair Sherry. Sherry has been showing this kind of dedication for the past three years through her involvement in a variety of outreach activities, particularly those that benefit the poor. She has packaged food at Feed My Starving Children over 10 times, distributed food and clothing through Our Lady of the Angels Mission month after month; shopped for and delivered Christmas gifts both for multiple Benet Christmas drives and for the St. Elizabeth Seton parish SHARE program. In addition, her sophomore year she secured a leadership position with DuPage Habitat for Humanity, which opened the door for Benet students to participate in Habitat builds. Through Habitat, she went on a summer build in 2010, and she has also participated in the Benet spring break service trip to Appalachia twice. This past fall, she coordinated a schoolwide clothing drive to benefit the Mission at Our Lady of the Angels. She was both a Logos and Catalyst participant, a two-year member of the Outreach Executive Board, and, as a member of the NHS Executive Board, coordinated Ronald McDonald House trips all year, organized the Blood Drive, greeted prospective students at the Welcome to Benet program, ran the Christmas Drive movie night and bake sale, and served as the NHS historian.
Albert Rychtarik Mathematics Award
This award, which goes to the outstanding senior mathematics student, is named after Albert Rychtarik, who for 37 years, taught mathematics at Benet with a wit and style that inspired three generations of students and colleagues alike.
The recipient of this award is Tom Gannon. Gannon’s accomplishments speak for themselves. He has been named to the North Suburban Math League All-Conference Team for the past two years. Moreover, he has been a member of 4 Math Teams that have qualified for the State Finals. These teams have finished in the top 10 at State all four years, winning a regional championship this past February and winning the math state championship. At this year’s state finals, he had one of the best days in Benet math team history. He began the day winning the state championship in the oral competition. He then teamed up with junior Brendan Caseria to finish second in the two-person contest. He wrapped up his day with a seventh-place finish in the senior individual written competition. He had a hand in 109 of the team’s 688 points. Over these past four years, our Rychtarik recipient has won several regional championship awards, including second place in this year’s individual senior written competition. At the state finals, he earned the distinction of finishing in the top 10 in seven individual or team events.
Thomas White English Award
The Thomas White English Award honors the longest tenured lay teacher on Benet’s staff. Thomas White served for over 50 years as a member of the English department. This award is given to that senior who best exemplifies and reflects White’s enthusiasm and love for literature and the English language and who has shown an interest in pursuing language and communications as a career.
This year’s recipient is Mackenzie Moore. Last year, as a junior in the senior elective course titled “Cinema and Composition,” Moore demonstrated a unique passion for film study. Her written work and overall grade were the highest in the class. She has always gone above and beyond what is required in her English classes. From the “extras” sections of her portfolios for which she spends hours collecting images and data to the conversations she has before school or during study halls about plays she has seen or books she is reading, she is consistently thinking about, embroiled in, or learning more about literature, language and the humanities. She is a reflective student, spending as much time thinking about the process of writing as she does actually composing written texts. She embodies an “old soul” because she sees the world through the eyes of someone much older and wiser than her 18-year-old self. Her unique perspective, continual drive to do better, and her consistent acknowledgement that she can always do more, make her writing and her leadership within the classroom a refreshing reminder to her classmates of just how joyful learning can be.
Ernest Stark Leadership Award
Ernest Stark came to Benet Academy in 1972 as a religion teacher and cross country coach. For the next 17 years, he influenced a generation of students, especially those in his Religion IV classes for seniors. Then, in 1989 Stark became principal of Benet Academy, a position he would hold for 15 years until his retirement in 2004. This award is presented annually to that Benet Academy senior who reflects the values that Stark held so dear. More specifically, the senior must be an exceptional leader in word and deed, a person of deep faith and an individual of strong character.
This year’s recipient is Matt Clements. Clements has established himself as a leader in almost every aspect of the Benet community. From a service standpoint, he has dedicated and divided his time between serving on NHS and engaging in peer tutoring programs here at Benet. From an athletic standpoint, he established himself as a leader both on and off the court as a member of the basketball team. From a community standpoint, he graciously and unselfishly committed himself to improving Benet Academy through his participation in this year’s accreditation process. And, while all of these achievements in themselves are impressive, he took his leadership capabilities even further through his involvement in Benet’s student government. As a senior, Clements was selected to operate as student government’s treasurer, a position that required countless hours of dedication to ensure that student government was able to fund each event that it put on. As treasurer, he was the individual responsible for keeping track of the money that came in during the Christmas drive and for coming up with the grand total presented at the Christmas assembly. Additionally, he was responsible for coordinating and planning this year’s senior outing to Mattheissen State Park. Over the course of his years at Benet, and especially during his senior year, he has impressed both his classmates and members of the Benet faculty with his hard work, enthusiasm, maturity and commitment to his classmates and his school. He has become a model of leadership for others.