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2016 Alumni Award Winners

Each year brings with it a new opportunity to honor a few select alumni who have made a significant difference in the lives of others. We celebrate those honored this year. 

Terry KellyTerry Kelly ’68

Docere Verbo et Exemplo” – to teach by word and example – is the St. Norbert College motto.

It is more than just an exhortation to the college’s faculty and staff; it is also something we strive to instill in our students as guidance for living their lives.

Terry Kelly lives his life in just that way.

As an English teacher for nearly half a century, Terry has quite literally taught by word; but in every aspect of his life, he has also taught by example – and in the process, has influenced innumerable other lives.

In his teaching, Terry has displayed a passion for the profession and a deep commitment to his students. One of those – now an attorney – cited his former teacher’s pithy remarks about genuineness as a source of guidance in his professional writing today. Another marveled at the amount of time Terry invested in commenting on his essays, and credits Terry as the inspiration for his own career as an English teacher.

So great is Terry’s desire to make a difference in the classroom that he has volunteered to work with the most challenged students at Marquette High School, to help them succeed in a college-prep curriculum.

Terry’s contributions to athletics have been similarly exceptional. Coach of one of the most highly regarded track programs in the state, he is a lifelong student of coaching methods.  Now retired from coaching football, he was elected to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008. Far beyond the techniques of a given sport, Terry also teaches his athletes important life lessons about discipline, commitment and character.

Perhaps even more important are the lessons Terry helps his students learn off the field and outside the classroom. At his school, he has since 1981 been director of the Senior Shared Life Project, through which some 250 students each year are immersed in service for two weeks – in nursing homes, shelters, schools and social agencies throughout Milwaukee. It is a program that transforms the lives of the participants – and, by virtue of the astonishing 400,000 hours they have devoted to the cause over 25 years – the lives of those they serve, as well.

The list of additional contributions made by Terry to his school, his community, his church, his friends and neighbors, and people in need is exhaustive. He is quick to point out it has not been a solo effort: Terry credits Peg, his wife of 47 years, as a steady source of support and guidance.

Terry Kelly has been, in every respect, a teacher by word and example, and for that reason, we are pleased to present him with the Alma Mater Award.

Judy TurbaJudith A. Turba ’76
Judy Turba’s service to the college and to the greater Catholic, Norbertine community is as remarkable for its variety as it is for its quality.

Her career has taken her from Abbot Pennings High School to Notre Dame Academy to St. Norbert College, and ultimately to St. Norbert Abbey itself. She has distinguished herself at every stop.

At the high schools, Judy was an educator, an administrator, and a loving and caring counselor, roles she later continued at St. Norbert College. There, she worked in the counseling center, taught in the Freshman Seminar program and directed the PEER Educators program, guiding students in developing vitally important programming for their peers on difficult subjects like substance abuse and sexual assault.

Judy later became coordinator of the women’s center at the college, and later still, its director of alumni and parent relations. In every role, Judy brought not only a strong set of skills – exceptional interpersonal communication leading that list – but personal qualities marveled at by everyone who wrote in support of her nomination. They cited her sensitivity … compassion  … humor … commitment … inclusivity … grace … poise. One spoke of the feeling of joy he experienced whenever Judy welcomed his return to campus.

Nowhere were those qualities more in evidence than in the next phase of Judy’s career, when she assumed a variety of roles at St. Norbert Abbey. She serves as the highly skilled editor of the abbey magazine and the public relations coordinator for the abbey itself, in addition to her primary role within the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, initially as program coordinator and eventually director. Her impact has been profound: Under her leadership, the number of programs offered by the center blossomed from 18 to more than 200 individual programs and retreats. More than 10,000 visitors now come to the center each year. There, they are greeted with warmth and love by Judy and her staff, and invited to engage in programs dedicated to mind, body and spirit – many led by Judy herself.

Not surprisingly, Judy’s good works extend beyond the professional realm. She has served on the boards of Notre Dame Academy, the YWCA, Heritage Hill and St. Mary’s Hospital’s “A Woman’s Place,” and has visited Zambia twice, giving generously of her time and energy to the Friends of Zambia Project, working to meet the educational needs of Zambia’s poorest of the poor children.

Catholic education and Norbertine outreach in the Green Bay area owe Judy Turba a great debt. St. Norbert College, itself a blessed beneficiary of Judy’s work, gratefully bestows on her the Distinguished Service to the Norbertine Community Award.

Leanne KnoblochLeanne K. Knobloch ’96
Success in academia is measured by achievement in three areas: scholarship, teaching and service. Many college and university professors can point to impressive accomplishments in all those areas, but it is rare to find one who performs at the very highest level in all three.

Leanne Knobloch, professor in the department of communication at the University of Illinois, is one of those uncommon performers. In a relatively young academic career (it is just 14 years since she earned her Ph.D.), she has done work her colleagues say is exceptional and, in many respects, unparalleled. Her research and teaching topics focus on how people communicate during times of transition within marriage and family relationships.

Her scholarly output is prodigious. At recent count, she had published more than 40 journal articles, 15 book chapters and seven encyclopedia entries. The work is also simply excellent. A colleague offers a succinct observation on the awards Leanne has received for her scholarship:

“Leanne has received the highest honor at each career stage from every professional organization she belongs to and from the college and university she has served since receiving her doctoral degree.”

Leanne’s teaching record at the University of Illinois is equally distinguished. Her name has appeared on the roster of teachers ranked by their students as “excellent” in every single course since earning tenure in 2008, and she has received the University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In addition, as the director of graduate studies, she has created new undergraduate courses and graduate seminars, and provided invaluable mentorship for numerous graduate students.

Her service to her discipline is also stellar. Leanne has chaired a division of the National Communication Association, sat on numerous committees for the International Association for Relationship Research, and served on the editorial boards of five academic journals.

Such is the strength of Leanne’s performance in all her professional endeavors that, this year, she was named a University Scholar – one of only seven so honored among 1,900 tenure-system faculty.

Not to be lost among the plaudits Leanne has received for her work is the nature of that work itself. Leanne’s scholarship focuses on how people communicate in close relationships – in particular, couples facing transitions such as military deployments, or mental-health challenges such as depression. She is in the midst of a research projected funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to understand how military couples navigate the transition from deployment to reunion, and she serves as a science advisor for the Military Child Education Coalition.

St. Norbert College is proud to celebrate this exceptional alumna with the Distinguished Achievement Award in Social Sciences.

Ian KleinIan M. Klein ’10
“The selective and catalytic hydrodeoxygenation of lignin in model components and intact biomass” is hardly a staple of cocktail-party conversations.

What is conversation-worthy, though, is the direction in which research on that topic has taken Ian Klein ’10.

Ian’s work in the Ph.D. chemistry program at Purdue University can be expressed in more layman-friendly terms as “turning waste products that result from wood processing into useful things.”

The work has global environmental implications, as Forbes Magazine recognized in 2015, naming Ian one of its “30 Under 30 in Manufacturing and Industry” while he was still pursuing his doctorate.

Also before graduation, Ian helped form Spero Energy Inc., a start-up company aimed at refining the processes from his research and applying them to the creation of everything from food additives to biofuels. He currently has two patents pending and has written five papers in support of this work.

Ian has won several competitions for seed money for the venture, and most recently Spero was awarded a $1 million grant to expand its research into technologies that have a “significant economic and societal impact.”

That impact is eagerly anticipated – not just at home but abroad: In 2015, Ian was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Powered Africa Conference in Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa.

One of those writing in support of Ian’s nomination is a St. Norbert professor who, while acknowledging Ian’s classroom excellence, also said he felt Ian was “fueled by something beyond natural academic talent.” He attributed Ian’s success to a remarkably strong work ethic and the understanding that it was his responsibility to get everything he could out of his education.

Committed to making the most of every bit and piece, and letting nothing go to waste: Ian’s work is a fitting reflection of his life, and for that reason, we are proud to bestow on him the college’s Young Alumni Award.

The alumni awards program was established to honor alumni and members of the community who have demonstrated a spirit of personal growth and achievement. If you know someone who is deserving, please consider submitting an Alumni Awards nomination form. Nominations for the 2016-2017 awards year will be accepted until March 1, 2017.

Nov. 14, 2016