Rosemary Gidionsen, ‘50, Jeff Flieg, ’96, and Kacy Blumenstock Thorton, ‘05, are among the 2011 Alumni Award winners that will be honored as part of the Friday night Awards and Recognition Program during this year’s Alumni Weekend. Read on to learn more about their careers and contributions to the Maryville community. Look for the announcement and profiles of the 2011 Dean’s Award winners in the August edition of Clocktower.
The 2011 Centennial Award from Maryville University recognizes a lifestyle best exemplifying the values of the Sacred Heart tradition. It will be presented during Alumni Weekend to Rosemary Gidionsen, ’50 – alumna, alumni parent, former director of various alumni and constituent relations, and past executive assistant to two Maryville presidents, Claudius Pritchard and Keith Lovin.
Gidionsen’s years of dedication to the University are, in some ways, the glue that binds one generation to the next. Greatly guided by long-held wisdom shared by then-president Odeide Mouton, RSCJ, who first welcomed her as student to Maryville, Gidionsen found herself in a unique position to help the University bridge major periods of transition, especially when the Religious of the Sacred Heart turned the institution over to a lay board in 1972.
“The Society was founded to meet the educational needs of the time and that’s what Maryville was doing in creating a lay board, changing programs and admitting men,” Gidionsen says. “One of the things I’m most proud of is being able to communicate these changes to alumni and help them understand and adjust.”
In honor of Gidionsen’s work with Maryville, the Sacred Heart Chapel in Hutting Chapel on campus is dedicated in her name. She was also awarded the Southern Region 2011 Cor Unum Award last spring by The Associated Alumnae and Alumni of the Sacred Heart.
Gidionsen is still involved in voluntary advisory roles with Maryville as a member of the National Leadership Councils for the University Library and the Duchesne Society.
“I’ve never considered my role at Maryville as a career – I consider it an extension of the life I had chosen as wife and mother and I loved every minute of it. Someone once told me that the role of a mother is to interpret members of the family to one another,” Gidionsen says. “That philosophy has guided me, and it carried over into my years at Maryville during those times of uncertainty and institutional change regarding the influence of the Religious of the Sacred Heart.”
The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes a volunteer who has made significant contributions to the University within the past year. Jeff Flieg’s recent contributions are a continuation of his spirit of service in volunteering that stretches all the way back to the beginning of his freshman year at Maryville.
Shortly after arriving on campus for his first semester, Flieg was wandering through the activities fair when he met a woman named Erin Verry at the Alumni Student Relations Council booth and decided to sign up and lend a hand. He served four years with that club as well as two years with student government and other campus groups.
After graduation, Flieg has made significant contributions to ground-breaking alumni relations initiatives, especially the annual phone-a-thon and Trivia Night events. Flieg served on the first questions committee for the inaugural Trivia Night in 2001, and 10 years later he is still coming up with clever questions for the popular event. Through Flieg and the many contributions of other organizers, Trivia Night has grown to consistently welcome nearly 250 alumni back to campus every year for a night of fun, friendly competition and fundraising for alumni scholarships.
Flieg has also served on the Young Alumni Advisory Committee as well as more than 10 years of continuous service with the Alumni Board. He has just finished serving a term as the Chair of the Alumni Association National Leadership Board. Through all his years and forms of service, Flieg says there is really one thing that makes the effort and sacrifice worth it.
“I have a lot of friendships that started here. Students, instructors, staff – it’s the people that you remember most, I think, at Maryville,” says Flieg.
The Young Alumni Award is presented to a Maryville graduate who brings distinction to themselves, their profession, the community and their alma mater. Kacy Blumenstock Thorton, ’05, has traveled to remote areas of the world to share the skills she learned while working toward her master’s degree in physical therapy.
“Physical therapy is a job you can easily do anywhere in the world,” she says. “In the U.S., you tell people ‘you need this brace or that treatment,’ but in other countries, you just have to gather the resources at hand to make a splint or a toy to get the principles of therapy across.”
While she first caught the travel bug during a spring break trip to Italy with a Maryville group, Thorton put that desire on hold while working in a post-graduation job at an orthopedic center in southern Illinois for several years. A visit to Zimbabwe with a church group, however, reignited her passion for travel and ultimately changed her life’s direction.
“I got to help out in a hospital in Zimbabwe and I loved it,” she says. “When I came home, I immediately started pursuing different ways to travel using my physical therapy skills.”
Through a community development organization, Thorton found a job managing a pediatric clinic in a rural village in the Middle East, where she also provided in-home treatment and education classes, learning Arabic along the way. She worked there two years, returning last spring.
Although it’s “tricky” to remain involved with Maryville from such distance, Thorton keeps in touch with Maryville friends. Her education, too, is a constant traveling companion.
“We didn’t learn by memorization, we learned how to do something because we understood the conceptual idea – we learned to think critically,” she says. “My training has taught me how to be a continual learner, especially in other countries.”