Alumni thankful for brotherhood, leadership, discipline

| Jennifer Janikula for The Catholic Spirit | May 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Catholic Spirit asked three alumni from different decades what still resonates from their years at St. Thomas Academy.

Stephen Kelly, class of 1986, lawyer

A biology class taught by Joe Reymann epitomized Stephen Kelly’s high school experience, he said. Kelly called it the most difficult class in his academic career, including college and law school.Teachers like Reymann, he said,  taught him how to learn, how to prepare for class and how to be a good student.

Along with academic rigor, Kelly values single-sex education and the brotherhood created by shared experiences in an all-male, military environment.

“The sense of community is really strong at STA,” said Kelly, an attorney and parishioner of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul. “Shared experiences and traditions, like daily formation, create a connection between students. The connection extends beyond current students to past students.”

It’s a connection he shares with his law partner, Kelly Rowe, who graduated from STA in 1979.

Kelly also appreciates the progression of each student from freshman cadet privates to confident, responsible young men. This progression begins, Kelly said, when school military leaders inform freshman: “Your mothers should not be ironing your shirts or shining your shoes! That’s your job. You are responsible.”

STA still permeates every part of Kelly’s life, and he spends much of his free time supporting STA in various volunteer capacities. Kelly and his wife, Colleen, who graduated from the Convent of the Visitation in 1986, have two daughters and three sons. One of the boys graduated from STA in 2013; the others are slated to graduate in 2017 and 2027.

Dr. Nicholas Wills, class of 1994, surgeon

An orthopedic spine surgeon at Summit Orthopedics in St. Paul, Nicholas Wills credits much of his success to the military and college prep emphasis at St. Thomas Academy.

“The military component of STA is and always should be interchangeable with leadership,” explained Wills, who attends St. Joseph in West St. Paul and Lumen Christi in St. Paul. “Leadership translates to every part of my life — the way I raise my children, the kind of husband I am and how I manage the operating room.”

High personal, academic and athletic expectations paved the way for Wills’ acceptance to the University of Notre Dame and put him on the path to becoming a surgeon. When he looks back on his experience, he especially appreciates the dedicated STA staff who inspired students to work hard.

“We really had great teachers and great coaches who gave so much time and energy to us,” Wills said. “They spent hours and hours teaching us the right way to do things as human beings, students and athletes. There were no nerds; no one thought it was uncool to be smart and work hard.”

Aside from his college experience in Indiana, Wills hasn’t strayed too far from STA. He lives in Mendota Heights with his wife — a Visitation graduate — and three kids. Wills still connects with his STA classmates on a regular basis and counts many of them as his best friends, he said.

Matthew Goldammer, class of 2012, seminarian

Seminarian Matthew Goldammer describes his four years at STA as a privilege and a blessing that formed him solidly with strong Catholic faith, rich intellectual life, lasting friendships, discipline and leadership ability.

Confident in his calling to the priesthood before high school, Goldammer admits initially feeling intimidated and somewhat skeptical about the value of military program. His feelings changed dramatically by the time he graduated.

“The military program was so helpful in establishing within me a deeper resolve for leadership and discipline — taking the seeds of these important virtues and cultivating the ground so they might grow and blossom,” Goldammer explained. “Thanks be to God, they did blossom, and I entered seminary very well prepared because of the influence of STA’s military program.”

A parishioner of All Saints in Lakeville, Goldammer also appreciates how STA helped him to grow into a confident, well-rounded young man aware of his gifts and ready to use them to serve God.

“I had the opportunity to be involved with many activities during my four years,” said Goldammer, who is studying at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul. “The product of all this activity was a greater appreciation for going forward in life with confidence, knowing that God has given each person gifts and talents that he wants him to use for his service.” After SJV, Goldammer intends to enter major seminary.

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