Benedictine’s Annual Scholarship Ball is another Million-Dollar Night

Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis addresses attendees at the college’s Annual Scholarship Ball. (Photo courtesy of Benedictine College)

Moving speeches, impressive videos, and an outstanding set of honorees in the Thompson Family surrounded another record Fund-A-Raven auction during the 48th Annual Benedictine College Scholarship Ball. As the college has continued to grow in size, success and influence, so has the Scholarship Ball, and this is the second year in a row the Ball has brought in more than a million dollars.

“It is my pleasure to announce that we raised $457,700 in the Fund-A-Raven tonight, a new record,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis at the end of the night. “That meets and exceeds our anonymous challenge, so we can add another $300,000 to that, and added to sponsorships, that brings the overall total for the night to $1,052,550! That is so awesome! Thank you so much for your generosity.”

A few weeks before the Ball, The Independent magazine named the Scholarship Ball as a Top 10 Philanthropic Event in Kansas City. This year, the event set records in attendance, sponsorships, Fund-A-Raven giving, and overall funds raised.

President Minnis dedicated the night to the memory of the late James O’Brien, alumnus, former board member, chair of the board, and major donor to the college. He passed away in December.

“I wouldn’t be here right now without Jim and the college would not be in the place it is without him either,” Minnis said. “He brought with him a vision of excellence. He was committed to a beautiful campus and had a burning desire to recruit students and to financially stabilize the college. And that is just what he did.”

Senior finance major Miguel Rodriguez, the featured student speaker of the night, gave a moving speech about how his Benedictine College experience opened him up to broader success than he had ever anticipated.

“I thank you for your generosity, which has allowed me to be here, but I stand here advocating for those students who will be the future of Benedictine, those who need greatness thrust upon them,” Rodriguez concluded. “I was that person once. And I received more than I can ever repay. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for your yes. Thank you for making Benedictine College Great.”

Leading into the president’s speech was the college’s first short film, Lemke: A Founder’s Miracle. The film told the story of Fr. Henry Lemke, who came to the American frontier in the 1850s and called for the foundation of a school to teach the arts and sciences in the Benedictine tradition.

During his “state of the college” presentation, President Minnis told the story of the National Football Championship game and how the football team, the students, the employees and the alumni all demonstrated the strength of community, faith and scholarship throughout that event. He told how the team made history on the field — as the first football team to reach the championship game – but he said it was more than just what happened on the field.

“Because of them, an enhanced spirit enveloped the entire Benedictine community. The wave of Benedictine Spirit that washed over the country was impressive,” he said. “The team is strong in community and faith and this team and college achieved all of this while still offering a top-notch academic program.”

The evening featured a special message from coaching legend Lou Holtz, who has a strong relationship with Benedictine College. Holtz holds an Honorary Degree from Benedictine, is a Cross of the Order of St. Benedict recipient, was the first donor to Mary’s Grotto and has endowed a scholarship for Benedictine students.

“I realize how difficult it is to get to a national championship and I know you’re disappointed in the outcome, but just think what a great accomplishment you had,” he told them in a pre-recorded video. “One thing I know – if you have a team that had that much success, then the love and the feeling on that team between the players and the coaches is really special.”

Minnis got a rousing round of applause for his announcement of the new Center for Constitutional Liberty.

“The mission of the Center is to promote and deepen understanding of the founding principles of America – constitutionalism, self-government, individual liberty and civic virtue,” he said. “We are putting a stake in the ground. Where many other schools around the country are sometimes teaching anti-American history, we love our country and believe in the values set forth by the founding fathers—thus this new center.”

The Raven Regiment, the college’s new marching band, introduced their new uniforms and performed for the crowd leading into the Fund-A-Raven event. Benedictine College seniors Molly Tynan and Shaefer Schuetz hosted the Fund-A-Raven and brought their youthful spirit to the donor auction as well. Schuetz, the starting quarterback for the Ravens and conference Offensive Player of the Year, had the honor of announcing a new endowed scholarship in the name of Frank O’Malley.

“Our co-chairs, Kevin and Colleen O’Malley, are excited to create a new scholarship at Benedictine College to honor long-time supporter Frank O’Malley, Kevin’s father! Frank is a college alum, football alum, former board member and an enthusiastic supporter of Benedictine College and I know he will be pleased to have a scholarship in his name to support student-athletes,” said Schuetz. “Thank you very much.”

Emceed by John Holt, anchor at Fox4 TV, and co-chaired by Lené Westerman ’85 and Kevin’79 and Colleen (McGraw) ’81 O’Malley, the event featured the presentation of the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict to the Byron and Jeanne Thompson Family.

Eight of the nine living Thompson children were in attendance. Dr. Greg Thompson, who is a brain surgeon in Michigan, was unable to be there due to weather and flight delays. Chris Thompson spoke for the group, which included Mary O’Connor, Kathleen Brown, Mark Thompson, Paul Thompson, Tim Thompson, Ann Eckels and Scott Thompson.

“We are deeply moved and humbled by this recognition,” Chris said in his presentation. “But in truth, it does not belong to us. We are merely the caretakers. This solemn tribute is for Mom and Dad in recognition of all they did for us and their community, this Benedictine community – yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s. What a joy it is to have such parents to love and treasure. We stand here today, not so much on this stage, as upon their unrelenting shoulders. They were the pillars on which we built our lives.”

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Tuesday
July 23, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph