A Record Night at the Benedictine College Scholarship Ball

A Record Night at the Benedictine College Scholarship Ball

Largest Attendance and Most Money Raised in History of Event

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The 2014 Scholarship Ball Honorees

2014 Cross of the Order of St. Benedict Honorees:

Lady Patricia Kearney Elder, LHS ’85 and the Benedictine Raven Soccer Booster founding members: Dennis Ayer ’77, Tom Gorczyca ’77, Craig Klos ’76, Dan Stewart ’80 and the late John Casey ’74

The annual Benedictine College Scholarship Ball, held on February 22, is one of the largest and most successful fundraising events in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and this year it set the bar even higher. The Ball eclipsed the 800 mark in attendance for the first time and raised over $600,000, the most in its history. Planning ahead to allow for continued growth, event co-chairs Lene Westerman and Stephen and Joan (Koechner) Charbonneauhad moved the 43rd annual event to the Overland Park Convention Center, and the crowd filled the ballroom. 

The evening started with a special Mass, celebrated by both Abbot James Albers, OSB, of St. Benedict’s Abbey, and Bishop John Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City. In addition to a musical performance by students, dinner and dancing, the night also included presentations from President Stephen D. Minnis and senior Joey Gruenwald.

In his speech, Minnis talked about Benedictine’s success in meeting its mission. He mentioned the campus-wide consecration to Mary and the fact that the college was one of only five invited to participate in an ongoing committee with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also mentioned new buildings, new programs, and record enrollment. He talked about successes in academics, like chemistry students helping to fight drug-resistant superbugs and the use of iPads as a learning tool. He also talked about the dream of expanding Westerman Hall, the science building, to accommodate growth in the engineering program as well as upgrade biology, chemistry and physics labs.

“We believe that faith, morality and ethics are just as important in the sciences as in every other part of our lives,” said Minnis. “And that is why it is so important to train future doctors, engineers and scientists in a place like Benedictine College that understands the essential role of faith, morality and ethics in the sciences.”

Gruenwald, who is the president of the Student Government Association, was the featured student speaker for the night. He talked about his desire to attend Benedictine College when he was in high school, but how the family had been affected by his mother’s struggle with cancer. When he told his recruiter that he couldn’t afford to come, the college worked hard to find additional scholarship dollars that would enable him to come.

“Because of those scholarships, people like you, in this room, changed my life,” he said.

Each year, the Ball features the presentation of the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict to a select set of honorees. Benedictine College established the Cross in 1969 as a way to recognize alumni and friends who have supported charitable institutions, provided civic or religious leadership, and demonstrated professional excellence. This year, the prestigious award went to Lady Patricia Kearney Elder, LHS, Class of ’85, and the Benedictine Raven Soccer Booster founding members:  Dennis Ayer ’77, Tom Gorczyca ’77, Craig Klos ’76, Dan Stewart ’80 and the late John Casey ’74.

Lady Patricia Kearney Elder, LHS

A homemaker, teacher, mother and wife, Patricia Elder is known as a quiet yet strong proponent of faith and family values in all things she touches.   Her college education started at Benedictine College, but, ironically, she was forced to go elsewhere after her freshman year due to the cost and the lack of available scholarships at the time. She went on to get two Bachelor’s Degrees and a Master’s Degree.  She is very active within St. Michael the Archangel parish, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and the Catholic Church. She is active with Project Rachel, Kansans for Life, the Catholic Committee on Scouting, Project Hunger and the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association. 

As a testament to her devotion to the Catholic Church, she was invited to join the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2011. She embraced the opportunity and the organization, supporting two students in school in Jerusalem as well as making pilgrimages to the Holy sites and financially supporting Christianity in the Middle East. Throughout it all, she has demonstrated the excellence, charity and leadership that are the hallmarks of an outstanding Cross of the Order of St. Benedict honoree.

“The ‘duty to serve’ was part of the language I consistently heard on campus in the 80s and that message has carried me to various ministries in our diocese,” she said. “I humbly accept this award on behalf of all moms who are educating their children, ensuring vocations are regularly talked about in the home, and volunteering in our diocese, schools, hospitals, and food kitchens.”

Benedictine Raven Soccer Boosters

In 1989 John Casey, a 1974 Benedictine graduate and former head soccer coach, and a few former players wanted to form an organization where Benedictine College soccer alumni and staunch supporters of the Benedictine soccer programs could gather under one name for social events. It had been crystal clear for some time that former players had immense passion and pride in Benedictine soccer that transcended generations. It was also obvious Benedictine soccer was struggling and needed alumni support. So, Casey wrote what became the Benedictine Ravens Soccer Booster club (BRSB) bylaws.  In 1991, Casey, Dennis Ayer , Dan Stewart and Craig Klos formally became officers along with Tom Gorczyca and others as class representatives. It was decided to utilize BRSB to gather for events and raise money for the soccer program.

The group did small things at first with the small amount of dollars they generated. New soccer balls, travel uniforms for the team, team jackets, and other equipment were purchased by the Boosters. The group eventually decided the playing surface was really the top priority for both teams, so this became the primary BRSB focus. The group started with seeding, fertilizing and watering the field and each year they set money aside while still funding other aspects, like World Cup style goals, player benches and a public address system. 

In time, the Boosters were able to help add stadium seating to the soccer complex, improve the PA system, add new fencing, improve the scoreboard and add lights to the field. On top of that, they helped fund the college’s effort to install Field Turf in 2009. Finally, the soccer complex was blessed with the opening of the John Casey Soccer Center in 2013, providing locker rooms for the men’s and women’s teams, offices for the coaches, and a new press box. Over the years, this all had a very positive impact on recruiting. The men’s and women’s teams began to have more and more success. They were winning conference championships and both teams earned trips to the NAIA national playoffs.

“BRSB is not just these five founding members,” Klos said. “This award is being given to the entire BRSB organization and to all those who donated as little as $10.00 to our dream. Those $10 dues forever changed the landscape of Benedictine College.” 

The Soccer Boosters have demonstrated their moral, emotional, financial and physical fortitude, always working in the best interest of the school and its students. They, as individuals and as a group, epitomize the best aspects of a Cross of the Order of St. Benedict recipient. And to conclude their acceptance that night, the group donated $25,000 to establish the Benedictine Raven Soccer Booster Endowment.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.