A Record Night for the 2016 Scholarship Ball | Benedictine College

A Record Night for the Scholarship Ball

Published: Monday, February 29, 2016

From the red carpet walkway to the spectacular Broadway-caliber performance, the record crowd of more than 800 attendees enjoyed a special night at the 45th Annual Benedictine College Scholarship Ball on February 27. Annually one of the largest and most successful fundraising events in the Kansas City metropolitan area, the Scholarship Ball again raised over $550,000. Co-chaired by Lene Westerman and John and Leslie Humphrey and emceed by John Holt, news anchor at Fox4 television, the night was dedicated to Byron Thompson, Benedictine alumnus and former board member who passed away last summer. The evening also featured entertainment by alumnus and Broadway star Kingsley Leggs (Miss Saigon, The Color Purple, Sister Act), with piano accompaniment by alumna Kathie Dalzell. Leggs and Rick and Kathie Dalzell were honored with the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict during the evening’s program.

“We swell with pride when we watch Kingsley Leggs perform on Broadway,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis. “And we have been bragging all year about being named an All-Steinway School thanks to board member Kathie Dalzell and her husband Rick.”

In his state-of-the-college address, Minnis talked about Benedictine’s success in achieving the goals set forth in the school’s strategic plan, Benedictine2020: A Vision for Greatness. He referenced the college theme of “Called to Greatness” and said the college is building for greatness. Benedictine is in the process of completing a new Student Recreation Center, set to open April 2.

“Its 40,000 square feet will include a welcoming atrium; three courts, one of which is turfed; an elevated track; a 4,500 square foot fitness room; and plenty of space for our students to build community,” he said.

He went on to mention that Benedictine College is one of only three schools in the country that are both a top twenty U.S. News & World Report school and a top twenty Cardinal Newman school. He also mentioned that the college will begin an Architecture program in the fall.

“There are 250 Catholic colleges in America and in the fall there will be only 4 that have architecture,” said Minnis. “Those are the University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America, Detroit-Mercy University…and Benedictine College.”

He said the college’s board of directors had voted to begin the first phase of a new science building project that will feature the re-facing of Westerman Hall in limestone and brick and the construction of a new building behind Westerman Hall that will house biology and chemistry labs and the fast-growing Engineering Department. This is an important step as Benedictine College recognizes its first Century of Science (Bachelor of Science degrees were first awarded in 1916) and looks to the next century.

“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.”

He expressed dismay that the 1960s era science building did not outwardly reflect the great education and the outstanding faculty it housed. He said he was concerned that Benedictine was losing top science students because of outdated labs and an Engineering Department that was predominantly housed in trailers behind the building.

“The time to act is now,” he said. “We must not be afraid. We must be courageous and we must bold. We must be called to greatness.”

Minnis said the board had authorized the expansion phase, but there was still much money to raise for the $26 million overall project.

“We are looking for a new band of brothers and sisters who will hear the call to greatness and usher in an even greater century of science at Benedictine College,” he concluded.

The president went on to introduce the student speaker, senior James Nistler. Nistler is from a large family in Montana and worked hard both to get in to a good college and be able to pay for it. A high school basketball champion and class valedictorian, he gained acceptance to the University of Notre Dame. He was thrilled, until he discovered he could not afford it. He thought he had lost his dream, but then he found Benedictine College.

“If I knew then what I know now, Benedictine College would have always been my dream,” he said. “At Benedictine College I had opportunities I could never have received anyplace else.”

Nistler noted that he would lead an engineering mission trip to Ghana to build a water tower for a large village over Spring Break, he had created a “pub theology” program on campus, he had been able to help found lacrosse as a new varsity sport at the college, and he had built relationships with peers and professors that will last a lifetime.

“The scholarships you provided here at the Scholarship Ball made it possible for me to attend Benedictine College,” he said. “Without your help, I would not be the person I am today. Not only that, but the students you see tonight and many others back in Atchison are also at Benedictine College because of you. It is your generosity that is literally changing the world.”

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 Rick and Kathie Dalzell ’80 and Kingsley Leggs ’83. Click here for more.

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.