James Nistler Named Benedictine Young Alum Honoree

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018

(L-R) James Nistler, Dr. Scott Newbolds, President Stephen MinnisBenedictine College honored James Nistler ’16 with the Young Alumni Award during the Senior Champagne Brunch on May 11. The award recognizes alumni who are under 35 years old, have distinguished themselves in their community and profession, and who support the values promoted at Benedictine College. Each year the honoree returns to address the graduating seniors at the Senior Brunch the day before Commencement.

 

“When President Minnis called me about this I immediately began asking what I could possibly say that would mean anything to you,” Nistler said. “But the more I thought about it, the more I became excited to share with you the love I have for this place and for the people—the community built here.”

 

Nistler grew up in Helena, Montana, where he attended St. Andrew School for grades K-12 and ultimately graduated as Valedictorian of his high school class. Not only was he an outstanding student, he also played basketball and soccer in high school and was very involved with other school activities and his local parish.

 

The Engineering Department drew him to Benedictine and he completed a double major in Mechanical Engineering and General Engineering on an accelerated track. He was very engaged on campus, serving in Residence Life, participating in numerous intramural sports, and even playing on the first ever varsity lacrosse team at Benedictine College. He was active in the faith community, forming the Pub Theology program and starting the Stations of the Cross in Guadalupe Chapel. However, it was on the Engineering Mission Trips that he found real purpose. He served on two trips, one to Guatemala and one to Ghana.

 

“We loved these trips because they gave us the opportunity to put our engineering skills to use while encountering the people we were serving, which is rare in our line of work,” he said. “This encounter allowed us to see that at the heart of every engineering problem is a human need.”

 

Nistler found that they struggled to fund the trips each year. If not for special donors each time, the trips could not have happened. Once he graduated and had a job as a product design engineer at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he felt like he could begin to give back. He joined with four of his engineering friends, Nick Suhr, Jackson Baca, Mario Skertchly and Sean Loew, and decided to take direct action.

 

“Because of the impact these mission trips had on me personally and on my friends, I had the idea to start a fund to support the mission trip,” Nistler said. “I reached out to Mario, Sean, Nick, and Jackson and we all agreed that we wanted to help the Engineering Mission Trip become self-sustaining so that other students could have the same experiences we did.”

 

The group of young alumni fully funded an endowment in support of the mission trip, contributing $25,000. All they needed was a name. And the person who came to mind was the man who had taught, encouraged and accompanied them on the mission trips, Dr. Scott Newbolds, assistant professor of Engineering at Benedictine College. Nistler surprised Newbolds with the honor during his speech at the Senior Brunch.

 

“I am honored today to announce the establishment of the Dr. Scott Newbolds Engineering Missions Endowment, and thank him for the example of gratitude, community and service to others,” he said. “Hopefully the establishment of this endowment will make the trip available for many more Ravens in the future.”

 

Nistler told the graduating seniors to find something to support and never forget it.

 

“My challenge to all of you now, after graduation, is to find something you love – whether that is something you are grateful for and want to share or something you are passionate about,” he said. “Support that, and, if you can, bring someone with you.”

 

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.