Alums chat up Catholic education

| December 6, 2009 | 0 Comments

alum-frankpilneyA plastic surgeon, Frank Pilney, 74, founded a surgical program in 1981 to treat Peruvian children requiring reconstructive surgery.

He attended St. Luke’s School and Cretin High School (now Cretin-Derham) in St. Paul before going to college at Marquette University and medical school at Marquette School of Medicine in Milwaukee.

He has been going to Peru for 29 years and his program, Programa San Francisco de Asis (Program of St. Francis of Assisi), has treated more than 4,000 children. He attends St. Peter in Mendota.

What role did your Catholic education play in shaping who you are today?

My Catholic education started at home as my parents had strong ideals, which supported those in the school. It made me aware of all of those gifts that we were endowed with and the social responsibilities that accompanied them. We were taught to respect others — especially our elders — along with their properties.

What role did Catholic education play in your career choice or the way you approach your career?

My Catholic education provided a strong academic program, which allowed me to succeed in a very competitive environment. I learned the value of life and considered medicine an avenue to express that belief.


alum_nicolehess While attending Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, Nicole Hess prayed with her team at practice and games. Now Hess, 29, is the head volleyball coach at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. She attends Divine Mercy in Faribault and is also an alumna of Consolidated Catholic Schools (Now Divine Mercy Catholic School) in Faribault.

What role did Catholic education play in your career choice or the way you approach your career?

The environment in which I participated in athletics helped me become the athlete and now coach that I am today. Without a doubt, it influences the way I approach my career. I work with a lot of recruits, and when I talk with them about realistic opportunities that I have available I am using those core Christian values that I learned while in school. I also pride myself with recruiting student-athletes that I feel will better our program both as a player and as a person. I look for those qualities and standards that I was held to in the students that I recruit. I want honest and hard-working athletes that value doing the right thing.


alum_frericksonFather John Paul Erickson, 30, went to St. Mark and St. Agnes in St. Paul before pursing his bachelor of arts at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif. After studying at the St. Paul Seminary, he was ordained a priest in 2006. He now directs the archdiocesan Office of Worship and is in residence at St. Agnes — the same parish where he sang in the High School Chorale.

Describe your favorite memory of Catholic school.

Leaving aside my memories of college, which are perhaps the most significant, I remember distinctly my freshman year of high school at St. Agnes and a moment that impacted me deeply. Every week, I sang in the High School Chorale during the celebration of school Mass. One Tuesday, we sang the “Alleluia Chorus” by Handel and, suddenly and unexpectedly, I was profoundly moved. I remember thinking, “If this incredible music is what happens when faith and reason meet, if this beauty is what happens when the Gospel infiltrates culture, than perhaps the life dedicated to God is not such a bad thing after all.”


alum_marthaturnerWhile attending the Convent of the Visitation, Martha Hughesdon Turner, 61, was inspired by the Salesian charism “liberty of spirit” and became a nurse for the U.S. Air Force. She retired in 2006, and now she is the assistant director of the American Nurses Association for Ethics and Human Rights. She is a parishioner at St. Thomas Becket, Eagan.

Why do you value Catholic education?

My Catholic education was the greatest gift my parents could have given me. It inculcated consistent values, it surrounded me with those who lived virtues, and it developed my self-discipline. For me and many others, it provided rigorous academic training and robust scholarship. Finally, it gave me a lasting lesson from St Francis de Sales: I learned to respect the dignity of all persons, to embrace the mission of Jesus, to have a compassionate concern for all those who lack basic human needs, and to reach out to the global as well as the local community.

Describe your favorite memory of Catholic school.

Friday morning Mass in the convent chapel, with doughnuts and milk for breakfast; afternoon discussions with one of the sisters in the library; helping with lunch in the refectory; moving about the building from classroom to art studio to science lab; interacting with seniors when I was in first grade, and with first-graders as a senior.


alum_jeffconlinJeff Conlin’s mom wanted him to become a priest, but he found another way to bring people together — making a good meal. A graduate of St. Bernard’s School in St. Paul, Conlin, 49, became a chef and owns Anita’s Café and Catering and True Tastes Event Catering in St. Paul. He attends St. Bernard in St. Paul.

What role did your Catholic education play in shaping who you are today?

It has helped me to make the right decisions and it shaped the way I raised my five kids, [and] to open my eyes to the world around me and always try to become a better person. I have learned to live every day as if it were my last!

What Catholic school teacher had the greatest influence on your life and how?

[Benedictine] Sister Jeron [Osterfeld] — she was always the tough one. She helped me to push myself to become the man I am today. She never let us settle for anything less, and I carry that with me in my personal life and my career.


alum_joshuahollieJoshua Hollie’s favorite high school memory is being named football captain and winning the conference football championship his senior year. Hollie, 24, attended Ascension School in Minneapolis and Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park. A non-Catholic, he is now a principle youth counselor at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Minneapolis.

What role did your Catholic education play in shaping who you are today?

The Catholic education I received helped develop me into a better student. I truly believe that had I attended a public high school, I wouldn’t have graduated from college or be pursuing my MBA. Structure was the most important teaching I got out of my Catholic education — it helped me organize my goals of becoming a better individual. From my Catholic education, I am a goal-orientated, dedicated, driven person today.

What Catholic school teacher had the greatest influence on your life and how?

Mr. [Michael] Hawkins, my sophomore and junior year English teacher, saw potential in me and pushed me to strive for more out of my life. He encouraged me to try new things outside of football and introduced me to other options outside of sports that would bring fulfillment. Thanks to him I found an interest in psychology. I received my bachelor of science in psychology from Western Illinois University in three and a half years while on full football scholarship.


alum_annmariehansenThe Spanish Anne Marie Hansen learned while attending Totino-Grace High School in Fridley inspired her to pursue the language at Marquette University in Milwaukee, after which she volunteered in Honduras for two years. Also an alumna of St. Vincent de Paul School in Brooklyn Park, Hansen, 26, is the director of admissions at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis and is pursuing an MBA at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. She attends Assumption in Richfield.

What role did Catholic education play in your career choice or the way you approach your career?

As part of the global perspective that I gained at Totino-Grace, my teachers constantly encouraged me to develop my foreign language skills. I can remember Señorita [Anita] Schroeder reminding us time and time again of the importance to learn Spanish. She told us that speaking Spanish would provide many great career opportunities. Because of her encouragement, I continued to learn Spanish and pursued it after graduation. After volunteering in Honduras for two years, I not only speak Spanish, but I have a great understanding of Latin culture.

Why do you value Catholic education?

I value Catholic education for the sacrifices that my own parents made so that I could have it . . . [and] for the opportunities it has created in my life. And most importantly, I value Catholic education for the people with which it has blessed my life and the Christian examples it provided that have influenced the woman I am today.


alum_tomgelbmannTom Gelbmann, 61, fondly remembers the passion his teachers had for their subjects. He attended St. Bernard’s School in St. Paul and Hill-Murray School in Maplewood before going to college at St. John’s University in Collegeville. As an information technology professional and owner and principle of Gelbmann & Associates, he consults with corporate counsel law firms. He attends St. John the Evangelist in Little Canada.

What role did your Catholic education play in shaping who you are today?

My Catholic education has instilled in me a strong sense of integrity in every aspect of my life — family, career and community. A core component of this foundation is the importance of treating people with respect and honesty. Somewhere along the way, I came upon a simple phrase that seemed to put it all in perspective for me: Do the right things for the right reasons. Life is full of opportunities to take the short cut, go for the short-term gain, take an unfair advantage at the expense of others. Doing the right things for the right reasons always results in the best outcome for all concerned.

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