St. Catherine University helps choose $1 million winner

| March 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

St. Catherine University’s mission: Traverse the globe in search of entrepreneurs who are quietly making a big difference.

The Opus Prize Foundation has partnered with the St. Paul women’s university this year to honor “unsung heroes” anywhere in the world who are “solving today’s most persistent social problems,” according to the foundation’s website.

One individual will be awarded $1 million, and two runners-up will each receive $100,000 from the foundation to further the work of their organizations. Finalists will be announced in the summer.

Every year since 2004, the nonprofit foundation established by the Opus Corporation has selected Catholic universities, including St. Paul’s University of St. Thomas in 2009, to oversee the nomination process, send scouts across the globe, and host an awards ceremony.

This year the awards ceremony will be Thursday, Nov. 8, at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on the St. Paul campus. Watch The Catholic Spirit for details.

Shared values

Opus Prize recipients, who can be of any faith, embody the foundation’s core values of entrepreneurship, transformational leadership, faith, service and respect for human dignity. The prize recognizes individuals who address the root causes of social problems.

“There’s a great deal of intersection between the values of the Opus Prize and St. Kate’s,” said St. Catherine professor Mary Ann Brenden, one of three co-chairs of the Opus Prize steering committee.

“We pride ourselves on educating women to lead and influence and to be transformative agents in their world.”

University president Sister Andrea Lee, IHM, appointed the steering committee, composed of faculty, staff and students, to oversee the selection process.

The steering committee selected 24 people living and working in different areas of the world to nominate individuals for the prize. The committee then chose 10 semi-finalists from the nominations.

Next, a jury of corporate, nonprofit and religious leaders appointed by Sister Andrea narrowed the pool to three finalists.

In coming months, three teams of two students and one faculty member will visit each of the finalists to ensure that the claims made on the nomination forms are accurate.

The winner of the $1 million grand prize will be determined by the Opus Prize Foundation board.

Inspiring others

“The work of the [nominees] cuts across a lot of sectors,” Brenden said. “Most of the people are working with communities that are living in severe poverty.

“One of the prize winners is somebody who is very engaged in helping communities to build roads and install water infrastructure — things that are very important to building community and helping it to flourish economically and socially. They all have very inspirational faith stories and journeys.”

The winners will be invited to speak to students following the Nov. 8 banquet, Brenden said, adding: “I’m so excited for these stories to be told because I think they will stimulate our students’ imaginations about their own future and inspire them to think in new ways about their own lives.”

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