Clarke University Magazine 2023

Page 1



is published annually for alumni, parents, and friends of Clarke University.




Fletcher Lamkin, Ph.D. Interim President

Bill Biebuyck Vice President for Institutional Advancement


Amy Errthum ’17M Director of Marketing

Megan Hinderman Content Strategist

Gayle Langel ’08, ’17M Director of Communication & Creative

Courtney Leonard Executive Director of Development

Kaley Rigdon Burgmeier Director of Annual Funds and Alumni Engagement


Brooke Carroll ’06 Graphic Designer


Clarke University 1550 Clarke Drive Dubuque, IA 52001-3198


Fax: (563)588-6300





The Clarke Magazine cover photo showcases these inspiring students: (left to right) Francoise S. ’26 from Marion, IA; Montana L. ’25 from Maquoketa, IA; Fernando C. ’25 from El Salvador; Rachel H. ’25 from Plainfield, IL; and Samuel S. ’24 from Oak Creek, WI.

Clarke University does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or disability in its educational programs, admissions policies, employment practices, financial aid, athletics, or other universityadministered programs. Clarke University complies with all pertinent state and federal regulations concerning affirmative action, non-discrimination, and equal employment opportunity.

Valedictorian Matthew Priola ’23

clarkeMAGAZINE | 1
In this Issue 9 14 19 20 24 26

2022-2023: A Year of Progress and Planning

Ever since five Catholic sisters arrived in Dubuque with little more than a piano and a vision, Clarke University has been steadfast in our core values and commitment to the common good. For 180 years, we have educated young women and men to not only have prosperous careers, but to be active and engaged citizens.

With our values as our guide, we heed our foundress’ call to stay progressive with the times. In nearly two centuries as an institution, the ways we deliver a high-quality education may have changed, yet the mission and values have remained the same. As Clarke welcomes new generations of students from around the world, the need to continue that adaptation and growth comes with them.

When I began my presidency in January, I laid out a five-phase plan to ensure that Clarke could perform this important work well into the future. I’m proud to say that phase one is already complete, including a new vision statement that will direct our progress:

Clarke University will be distinguished as a compassionate and inclusive community. We educate and inspire through our core values of Freedom, Education, Charity, and Justice. Together we thrive through our Catholic, BVM, and liberal arts traditions, graduating leaders who make a positive difference in the world.

As we finalize our strategic plan, we will focus on the recruitment, retention, and success of both our students and employees, and how to do so in a fiscally responsible manner. While the formal plan is still under development, the themes are clearly present in the stories throughout this magazine. Take Darius Hernandez, who created a sense of family at Clarke while far away from home for the first time (p. 9). Retention and success are also key to the story of sisters Brooke, Gracie, and Meghan Douglas, who had the Clarke community rally around them when their family faced a medical crisis (p. 20). The impact of a Clarke education also stands the test of time, as demonstrated by our legacy families, like the Blomquists (p. 24).

These stories are possible because of Clarke’s values and our commitment to care not just for students’ minds, but their bodies, spirits, and whole selves. Under our strategic plan, which will be finalized in the 2023-2024 school year, we will continue to invest in our residence halls, support services, and other initiatives to ensure we can share many more of these incredible stories for years to come.

the President A MESSAGE FROM Learn more about our Strategic Plan and view Presidential Campus Updates by scanning the QR code

George R.R. Martin Author Visits Campus

Clarke was privileged to offer a special luncheon event where students were able to meet with novelist and screenwriter George R.R. Martin on April 26, 2023.

George, who wrote the popular Game of Thrones book series and was instrumental in their adaptation for television, shared his insights and answered questions about the creative process, the influence of technology on storytelling, and more with 13 students interested in writing, filmmaking, and other artistic endeavors.

“It’s really cool to know that he worked here, continued in his field and became this huge literary figure,” said Psychology major Lauren Spangler ’24. “I love to write and would like to become a professor one day, so to meet someone who took that path is inspiring.”

“To meet someone who has found success on that level, to hear their creative process and get an idea of how they think is so valuable,” added Music major Sam Wright ’26 “It gives you insight and ideas of how to bring your own visions to life.”

George was a professor at Clarke College from 1976-1978 and has maintained an affinity for Clarke and the city of Dubuque. He shared with students how Dubuque landmarks made their way into his writing, such as Pickett’s Brewery or the Fenelon Place Elevator.

“Pulling from your own experience helps make your setting come alive. It’s especially important in science fiction where you have to help your audience imagine this place,” George said. “Sure, you could write about a guy living out in the suburbs, but when your character lives in an abandoned brewery and you can describe the look and feel of the bricks, that helps people connect.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 2


179th Commencement Ceremony

Clarke University held its 179th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 2023, at 2 p.m. in the Robert and Ruth Kehl Center on campus.

The ceremony honored 226 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree candidates for their accomplishments in front of honored guests, faculty, staff, classmates, and family.

This year, several students received special honors for their outstanding achievements at Clarke University.

Isabelle Barefoot, an Education major, and Matthew Priola, a Philosophy major, were named valedictorians.

Nathan Seutter, a Biology and Philosophy major, led the invocation for this year's ceremony. Upon graduating, he will be entering the Dominican Order, showcasing his commitment to serving others and pursuing a higher calling. Additionally, Biology and Pre-Med double major Giana Michels received the Francis J. O’Connor Memorial Award, the most prestigious award given to a graduating senior. The award recognizes Giana’s demonstrations of leadership, cooperation, generosity, kindness, and academic achievement throughout her time at Clarke.

Sr. Catherine Dunn, president emerita of Clarke University, gave the commencement address honoring her 50 years of service to Clarke University.

“Mary Frances Clarke, the Foundress of the BVM Congregation and Clarke University, left us much to ponder with her quote, “Leave the future to God. I do not worry about you as long as you are working unitedly,” Catherine said. “As a student you have discovered its meaning, as an alum you are called to live it … it is your generation who is being called to work unitedly, to make better workplaces and to create strong communities.”

Prior to commencement, Clarke’s graduation candidates and their guests took part in a Baccalaureate Mass at 10 a.m. in Sacred Heart Chapel, followed by brunch in the Dining Hall.

The class of 2023 would like to extend a special thank you to all who celebrated with them and supported them on their journey. To watch a recording of the ceremony, scan the QR code.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 3


DAIJA BATES | Business Administration

Daija Bates completed her undergraduate degree at Clarke in just three years thanks to earning dual credits from Des Moines Area Community College while still in high school, but that doesn’t mean she’s shortchanged her college experience. While maintaining her spot on the dean’s list, she worked alongside Casey Tauber in Clarke Athletics, offered tutoring services in the Margaret Mann Academic Resource Center, and planned events as part of the Clarke Activities Board. Beyond her many jobs, Daija is an All-Conference softball player. We’re happy to say she’ll be joining us for another season in 2024 as she completes her Master of Business Administration with Clarke.

ANTHONY KING | Psychology

Psychology major Anthony King may not have known much about Dubuque, Iowa when he arrived from Denver, Colorado, but that didn’t stop him from going all in on the college experience. Anthony was a member of the football team, a resident assistant, a prayer partner with Sisters Joan Lingen ’61 and Catherine Dunn, and the President of the Black Student Union – the list could go on and on. Most importantly, Anthony prided himself on being a smiling, welcoming face to all on campus, a positive attitude that is sure to aid him throughout his time in graduate school and his intended career as a sports psychologist.

With another wonderful commencement ceremony in the books, get to know a few members of the class of 2023!

GIANA MICHELS | Biology and Pre-Med

Giana Michels certainly had a cheering section in attendance at the ceremony. This double major in Biology and Pre-Medicine hails from just down the road in Bellevue, Iowa, and her mom, Jennie Michels, is a proud alumna from the Class of 2011. During her time at Clarke, Giana was a leader for the Women’s Basketball Team, an active member of Dance Marathon and other student organizations, and a proud participant of Into the Streets – all of which earned her this year’s Francis J. O’Connor Award. Her next steps will take her to medical school, and she hopes to serve Dubuque as a doctor one day.

DANNY ZANGER | Liberal Studies

Danny Zanger earned a degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Music Composition over the last four years, yet his relationship with Clarke started long before that. He’s grown up running the campus hallways alongside his mother, Vice President for Student Life, Kate Zanger, and his sister Mary Zanger ’15 He built his own connections to campus through classes and performing in The DZ Combo with classmate Nathan Seutter ’23 and other musicians from the Dubuque area. His ties to Clarke will also serve him into the future as he begins his career as a composition instructor at Centrally Rooted, a local nonprofit run by Callie (Mescher) FitzGerald ’07

MEGHAN SMITH | Social Work

While enrolling in Clarke’s social work program felt like an easy decision for Meghan Smith, that doesn’t mean the program was without challenges. As a nontraditional student, she worried about fitting in with her younger classmates. She also had to balance raising her two daughters and working at a yoga studio while completing her studies. Thankfully, with the help of her faculty and classmates, Meghan exceeded her own expectations. She graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor’s degree and will be returning to Clarke in the fall to begin work on her Master of Social Work.

Hear more from our students and some of our newest alumni at

Inform, Entertain, and Inspire All Year Long Arts at

Join us in reliving presentations from our students and faculty as well as national performers, musicians, and artists who graced the stages and galleries of Clarke during the 2022-2023 academic year.

Dare to Speak

August 23

Spoken word artists

Carlos Andrés Gómez and Katie Kramer’s powerful performance spurred campus dialogues on equity and inclusivity.

Blessed Christmas

December 3 & 4

A beloved tradition at Clarke, Blessed Christmas is a touching portrayal of the Christmas story through music and scripture.

Breaking Waves: A Conversation with Schuyler Bailar

October 19

Athlete and activist Schuyler Bailar kicked off the annual Mackin-Mailander Lecture Series with a discussion on living with integrity and authenticity.

Reconstructed: A Theatrical Celebration of the Tenth Muse Literary Magazine

November 18 & 19

Students in Art + Design, English, and Drama selected works from a decade of the Tenth Muse Literary Magazine and shaped them into a powerful theatrical performance.

A Night in Hawaii

February 15

A Night in Hawaii celebrated Polynesian culture with an evening of music, dance, costumes, and stories – along with Polynesian cuisine from Clarke University Dining Services.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 6

Ellen Henkels: Views of The Mississippi River Paintings

February 12-March 18

This exhibition of 22 oil paintings represents the Driftless region of the Mississippi River Valley, where artist Ellen (Hartmann) Henkels ’ 74, ’ 99, BFA and her family have resided for five generations.

“Complete the Good Work You Have Begun in Us”: Lessons from BVM Sisters on Living the Clarke Core Values

March 1

In a continuation of the Mackin-Mailander Lecture Series, Professor Paulette Skiba, BVM spoke on how the values of freedom, education, charity, and justice remain a part of Clarke's culture today.

March 22

Jessica DuBord ’ 17, ’ 20M shared how she used education to improve her life and how this continues to inspire her work in the Dubuque Community School District as part of her Mackin-Mailander lecture.

Musical Menus

March 23 & 24

Musical Menus featured Clarke alumni, faculty, and students in a cabaret-style program highlighting music from the Golden Ages of jazz, theater, and film.

PersonA – A Play

March 31 – April 2

Professor Joe Klinebriel, Andrea Bednar ’ 74, and a cast of student performers took audiences on a journey of self-discovery through some of literature’s great works.

Clarke Fest

April 29

The third annual block party brought students, alumni, and the community together to enjoy music and art from local and national performers.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 7
“Work in Progress” with Jessica

Greater Good A Degree for the


Many of Clarke’s alumni talk about the sense of family and community you feel from the classrooms to the Dining Hall and beyond. For Darius Hernandez ’22 , those feelings took root before he ever set foot on campus.

“A guy I grew up with, Aaron Fernandez ’23, had come here and wanted me to consider playing football at Clarke,” Darius said. “Then Coach Miguel Regalado called, and he drew me in immediately. One phone call and I knew this was the program and the school for me.”

There was only one hiccup in Darius’s plan. Growing up in the small town of La Feria, Texas, Darius had long dreamed of majoring in criminal justice and serving on the U.S. Border Patrol. He had seen both good and bad examples of how law enforcement interacted with his community, and he wanted his college education to be a force for good – not just for his own benefit, but for all around him.

“I’m a first-generation college student and I’ve got four younger siblings at home. I really want to be a good role model for them,” Darius said. “Where I’m from, state patrol and border patrol have a big impact on the community and while I can learn from what they are doing now, I also think I can use my education to make those organizations better.”

Clarke does not have a criminal justice major, but through careful planning with his advisor, faculty, and staff at Clarke, Darius was confident he could gain experience that would prepare him for a future in law enforcement.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 9


With a plan in place, the running back committed to Clarke sight unseen. When he arrived in Dubuque in the fall of 2017, he said there was only one moment of hesitation.

“Growing up in South Texas, I was used to a diverse community and Dubuque was 97 percent white. I thought, ‘what did I get myself into?’” Darius said. “Thankfully CONNECT orientation helped a lot. Having all that time with other new students broke the ice and helped me bond with people right away. Then, walking into class that first day and seeing how small the classes were, I knew I could get one-on-one experience with professors.”

Darius quickly became an integral part of the community at Clarke. As a double major in Business Administration and Sport Management, he was able to take courses focused on data analysis and relationship building that could relate to his future career. He maintained a spot on the dean’s list while earning a starting spot for the Clarke Pride. He was heavily involved in the Clarke Student Association, Black Student Union, and other groups on campus. He even earned a bit of a reputation as the “campus barber” by offering haircuts to his friends and teammates who didn’t have reliable transportation off campus. One of his favorite activities was his work as a Peer Mentor through a partnership between the Margaret Mann Academic Resource Center (MARC) and Campus Inclusion.

“We guided these students in every aspect, whether that was mentally, physically, or emotionally; we were there to help,” Darius said. “I tried to push other students – not just my mentee – but all students to take advantage of places like the library, the MARC, even Mary Ellen and people in the Financial Aid Office and Student Accounts. People are always willing to help and students should never feel worried about asking a question. I worked with four students as a Peer Mentor and that’s something I will never forget.”


In Spring 2022, Clarke Social Media Manager Bailey Strait recommended an internship with the Monticello Police Department to Darius. From June to August of 2022, Darius worked as a Police Intern, taking part in everything from administrative tasks and traffic stops, to providing security for the Great Jones County Fair, which brings thousands of visitors to Monticello over just a few days. Though he was only with the team for a few weeks, the sense of trust and camaraderie was instant.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 10

“I also gained greater communication skills, a knowledge of how to approach people, and how to keep my composure. With all the different types of situations you deal with in policing, having composure allows you to facilitate and navigate situations in a correct manner.”

“Even though this was an unpaid internship, I spent the summer doing something I enjoyed, and it was the best decision of my life,” Darius added. “I learned so much and experienced things I never thought I would.”

After graduating in December 2022, Darius returned to Texas. He started work in a barber shop and tattoo parlor as he prepares for the police academy. Even from afar, he keeps his connections to Clarke close through visits and phone calls, and he returned to campus to walk in the May Commencement ceremony. No matter what lies next in his path, Darius said he will always be grateful that Clarke was part of the journey.

“As far away from home as I was, I loved Clarke and I wouldn’t change my experience for the world,” Darius said. “I loved the community around me, my coaches — everyone was there for me. I took a chance on a big ‘what if’ decision but choosing Clarke is something I take a lot of pride in and I won’t ever regret.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 11
Darius (center) completed an internship with the Monticello Police Department in the summer of 2022
“They allowed me to be a part of everything. Knowing I had their confidence and trust, it helped me have confidence in myself, and in this field, that’s key,” Darius said.

Our annual #ClarkeDay event took place March 22-23, and as always, it proved to be a wonderful celebration of Clarkies near and far. Together we raised $160,00 through the kindness of 517 individual donors for the people and projects that allow our university and its core values to thrive. We also extend special thanks to all who shared their stories online, attended our #ClarkeDay social at Jubeck New World Brewing, and connected on campus. Your support makes Clarke University a truly special place!

and Grants

Over $3 million dollars was raised for our students and campus community this year. Please join us in celebrating some of the projects that support Clarke and its mission.

On Thursday, November 3, Dimensional Brewing Company hosted “Clarke Night” from 5-9 p.m. as a fundraiser for the Clarke University Student Emergency Relief Fund. The Clarke Admissions team served as guest bartenders for the evening, with 100 percent of all tips going to purchase essentials for students in need. Along with live music, a silent auction, raffle, and bake sale, the Clarke community raised over $1,000 to help students as they transition to college.

The Dubuque Racing Association continues to be a terrific partner to Clarke and many non-profits in the Dubuque area with its generous grants program. This year, Clarke received two major gifts from the DRA, including $15,000 to support CU Linked, an initiative led by the Social Work department to connect students in need with transportation, food, health care, and other resources. These services have become more important in recent years, as we continue to attract students who are new to Dubuque and need assistance in building their support networks.

Additionally, Clarke partnered with Loras College and the University of Dubuque to propose the Dubuque Promise Program, a scholarship designed for local students. An initial $200,000 from the DRA created a pool of scholarship funds open to all three schools. Eligible area students can receive up to $5,000 per year for up to four years. In turn, the students agree to live and work in Dubuque and surrounding counties for the length of time they receive the scholarship. Should they move away, the remaining balance converts to a low-interest loan. The scholarship will be available to students starting in the 2023-2024 school year.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 12
Mark Zalaznik ’18 Clarke Alumni Employees celebrating on #ClarkeDay

Thanks to a series of grants from the Iowa Private Academic Libraries and the leadership of faculty across a variety of disciplines, Clarke University is contributing to the greater landscape of education through open educational resources (OERs), a low or no cost option that can replace traditional textbooks.

Some of the projects developed at Clarke include: Associate Professor of Art Jessie Rebik ’02 created professional videos to demonstrate techniques for her Painting I and II courses. The videos, found at “Jessie Rebik Studio” on YouTube, have been beneficial to students who need to miss class for athletics, illness, or other events, as well as those who simply want a refresher outside of class hours.

As part of their 50th Reunion Celebration, the Class of 1972 led a charge to reinvigorate the Lion’s Den in Mary Benedict (formerly West) Hall. Board of Trustee member Cathy Schulze ’72 kickstarted the improvements with a generous matching gift of $50,000 and together the class raised a total of $100,000. With additional support from Clarke alumni, friends, and the Clarke Student Association, the newly renovated Lion's Den was unveiled in Feburary.

Since then, the Lion’s Den has been abuzz with game nights, music, and other live entertainment, as well as serving as a kitchenette and gathering place for all students. The Class of 1972 was also able to visit the space in April 2023 and get in on some of the fun themselves!

Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology Tim Boffeli has been able to share his materials for his Introduction to Psychology course with colleagues at Northeast Iowa Community College and Michigan State University under an OER license.

In November 2022, Clarke received over $330,000 to upgrade security systems across campus as part of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program authorized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Iowa Department of Homeland Security

Professor of Biology Andrea Bixler and Associate Professors of Biology Laura Birch, Shaun Bowman, and Laura Hecker were able to pull OERs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and tailor them to the needs of their own first-year students as they learn the rules of scientific writing. In turn, their guidelines are now being adopted by local high school teachers to prepare students for college.

The awards will fund security enhancements and activities in Eliza Kelly Hall, Catherine Byrne Hall, and the Miske Center for Science Inquiry, including the addition of access controls, security cameras, lighting, and chip readers as recommended by the City of Dubuque Police Department.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 13
Before After
Are you or your organization interested in supporting Clarke? Make a gift at


The tale of the Clarke Women's Basketball Championship season actually begins in 2022. The team was on their third consecutive trip to the National Tournament and coming off back-to-back conference tournament wins.

The story could have ended with their loss in the Round of 16 to second-ranked Marian University, but according to Head Coach Courtney Boyd, that loss only fueled the fire.

“In a way, getting beat by Marian was the best thing that could have happened to us,” Coach Boyd said. “Their expectations were higher, they thought they could achieve more. So, them all being on the same page, knowing that they had unfinished business, set us up to be in a really good spot.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 14
Left to right: Nicole McDermott ’24, Skylar Culbertson ’23, Giana Michels ’23, Emma Kelchen ’23, & Tina Ubl ’23

The Pride returned all five starters for the 2023 season, including three fifth-year seniors Tina Ubl, Skylar Culbertson, and Emma Kelchen, true senior Giana Michels, and junior Nicole McDermott. While having these leaders return brought consistency to the squad, they and all their teammates were going through transitions with classes, work, practices, and other aspects of life. After a six-win run to start conference play, the team found themselves humbled by back-to-back road losses to rivals Central Methodist University (CMU) and MidAmerica Nazarene University.

“That was a punch in the gut,” Coach Boyd said. “It made us ask, ‘who are we and what are we going to do this season?’ While those leaders were back, life around them and all of us had changed. We had to think about this team differently.”


With those early losses, there was a clear need to recalculate. The coaching staff called the team together for an open discussion of what was — and wasn’t— working.

"I didn’t come back because I love basketball so much. I came back for the people and the relationships and how important this group is to me, but we just weren’t as close,” said Emma. “Coach organized a ‘kumbaya’ and it turns out I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. I think we realized that as hard as we work, we’re also a silly group and we weren’t making time for fun.”

In many ways, the team needed to recommit to their motto for the season “#RunAs1.” It wasn’t about one individual, but instead one goal and one team. The conversation started a swing. The team spent more time together outside of games and practices and checked in with one another. The team reached out to their community as well. For instance, Skylar helped organize volunteer days with the

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dubuque and seasonal toy drives with “Oh Happy Play!” a nonprofit run by Clarke Education professor Jacqueline Hunter. These initiatives brought a spirit of fun and togetherness the team needed.

“I’ve always wanted to get more involved in my community but was afraid of putting myself out there. With the help of my team, family, friends, and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and ‘Oh Happy Play!’ I was able to face my fears and do something I have always wanted to do,” Skylar said. “At Clarke, that sense of community goes beyond the people on your team, or just the sport itself. I grew up 15 minutes away in East Dubuque, so I know that what I learn here, be it from my professors, coaches, volunteer opportunities, or the amazing group of friends around me, I can use to make my community better.”

In turn, the community embraced the team. Throughout the regular season, the Pride enjoyed a boisterous student section and packed stands, including super fan Don “Woody” Dunwoody whose call of “make it happen, captain!” accompanied every tipoff. Fans often traveled for games or tuned-in online – just ask them to recount Coach Boyd’s “shoe technical,” where when demonstrating a move, her high heel accidentally flew off and landed on the court. Even when the team was down, the Clarke community rallied with them.

"I remember late in the season, the Cheer & Dance Team held a Pink Out Game as a fundraiser for breast cancer research,” Nicole said. “We knew it was going to be packed because it was against CMU but seeing that sea of pink was something else. Even when we were down, our student section stayed standing. No one was leaving. The community was there for us, no matter what.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 15

As they bonded off the court, the team’s competition improved as well. After those early losses, the Pride went on a 14-game winning streak and ended the regular season 25-3. Three players —Giana, Nicole, and Emma—would reach the 1,000-career points milestone, and Tina later shattered the school career points record at 1,992. Skylar added over 400 assists, ending the season as an all-time assists leader for Clarke University. Along with the starters, players coming in off the bench put up impressive numbers, adding depth and flexibility to the coaching staff’s play calling. A league-high seven players were named to the Heart of America All-Conference Team, with Nicole earning NAIA All-American honors.

“You don’t find teams with that kind of success, fifth-year seniors or not,” said Coach Boyd. “We were able to game plan around a lot of people and were very fortunate in that. I don’t think they realize how good they are. These individuals put it all together to make something special.”


After receiving a No. 2 seed in the NAIA tournament, Clarke also won the bid to host opening rounds one and two in the Kehl Center. Just as they had all season, the Pride played before standing-room-only crowds in back-to-back wins against Indiana University Northwest and Freed-Hardeman University. The team was finally back to Sioux City, ready to take care of that unfinished business. “Now Sioux City hits and it feels like we’ve found that missing piece. When we got there, it was almost like a weight was lifted. They could play their game and be themselves,” Coach Boyd said.

While the players were clicking, the coaching staff also had a few tricks up their sleeves, bringing in five new plays and a range of sets for the tournament play. The only thing that seemed slightly off was their schedule.

“It seemed like no matter where we went, we were three minutes late. Shoot arounds, breakfast, you name it –we'd be ready to go and there would be some small delay,” said Coach Boyd. “The only thing we were not late for was our visit with the Special Olympics athletes, and I think that says something about our team. If they are doing something for others or the community, they are not going to let you down.”


The Pride carried this momentum into a spirited run in Sioux City. In the Round of 16, their new gameplay threw Lewis-Clark State College off balance. Paired with a career-high 28-point showing from Tina, Clarke won their way to the Quarterfinals. In the next game, five Clarke players would score double figures, handily beating the No. 1 seeded Campbellsville University 76-51. For the first time in school history, the team had reached the semifinals.

In their 79-69 win over Dakota State University, the team’s ability to make plays from all areas of the court gave them a distinct advantage. The highly physical game saw starters momentarily benched for injuries, yet Taylor Haase ’24 stepped in with a season-high 24 points to secure the Pride’s path to victory. Now the only thing standing in their way was the defending NAIA National Champions, Thomas More University.

“People were playing through injuries – Tina and Emma played with hurt knees, Skylar had a broken finger, I went down, Nicole went down, but everyone was still playing because you don’t quit,” said Giana. “I think we all had this moment where we realized that we were about to play for a National Championship against last year’s champ, but there was never a doubt.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 16

In a true showdown, Clarke and Thomas More went nearly shot for shot, with the lead changing readily in the first half. The third quarter saw each team score an even 16 to keep Thomas More within one point of the Pride. Finally, late in the fourth, the Pride was able to break away. Free throws from Giana, Skylar, and Nicole solidified Clarke’s lead. With just under a minute to go, Coach Boyd cleared the bench, allowing her youngest players to share in the moment as the team finished 63-52.

“Coach looked at us during that first game at Nationals and said, ‘we’re clearing the bench,’” said Lilly Schilling ’25 “Then she did it again in the Quarterfinals, against a number one seed. In the National Championship game, I was already crying on the bench when she put us in. Being out on the court when the buzzer went off and the confetti fell and everyone’s running at you — it’s an amazing feeling.”

When the caravan arrived on Clarke Drive, they were welcomed by hundreds of their fellow students, as well as faculty, staff, family, and community members. Many had painted signs, and over 50 more received screenprinted posters from Professor of Art Louise Kames ’77 The celebration culminated in a speech from Coach Boyd that reaffirmed the national championship was not won on the court alone, but with the support of each and every fan, family member, and friend.

Later that week, the university hosted a formal celebration to hang the national championship banner, and Interim President Fletch Lamkin declared a special holiday, giving students, faculty, and staff a day off. Celebrations continued off campus as well, with the team receiving a special proclamation from the city, hosting an event at Kennedy Mall, and meeting with Governor Kim Reynolds on May 2 at the State Capitol Building.

However, championship celebrations were not the only major events for the team this spring: they also said goodbye to seniors, Giana, Skylar, Tina, and Emma.

“Then the confetti falls and we’re in awe of that moment. It felt like we were supposed to be there.”


The glow of their national championship has yet to fade, even after the team safely boarded the bus home with the trophy in tow. First, they received a police escort, with the Anamosa Police Department playing an emotional role in the event. Emma’s father, Mitch Kelchen had served with the department before passing away unexpectedly in 2017. Officers remain close to the Kelchen family and helped organize the parade of squad cars to welcome Emma and her teammates home – with a picture of Mitch proudly riding along.

“One officer had trained my dad, and my dad had trained the other officer in the lead car. They sent me a photo of my dad in the seat and it was so sweet, it made me cry,” Emma said. “We had a police escort starting nearly 45 minutes out of town. It was surreal.”

“Being the recipient of the Francis J. O' Connor Award is such a humbling honor. Without the support of my professors, friends and teammates, and family, I would not have been fortunate enough to have such an amazing college experience,” Giana said. “It is pretty easy to be yourself, stay involved, and build relationships when Clarke feels like home. The memories created during my entire Clarke experience, especially those created during my senior year, are some I will never forget.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 17
Experience the energy of a championship run! Scan the QR code for the 3 minute video story.
“It’s one of the best feelings in the world and to have the bench come in and experience it — we were ready to go. It started sinking in and when everyone ran to the court, it felt like floating,” added Tina, who was named Tournament MVP.











Timothy Meyer ’23








Allena Rowland ’26


clarkeMAGAZINE | 18
Carter Ruegsegger ’24

Art The of

Healing Power

With support from a Special Projects Grant from the City of Dubuque, the work of Clarke artists reached new members of the community this spring. The $5,800 award from the city allowed six students to bring custom artwork to the halls of Crescent Community Health Care and the homes of its patients.

Beginning January 2023, patients at Crescent Community Health Care were encouraged to draw in sketchbooks while they waited for care. The sketches were then collected, digitally scanned, and used as design elements for screen prints in Clarke’s Spring 2023 Printmaking course.

“This project not only increased access to and participation in the arts for historically underserved populations, but exposed students to a community-based collaborative art form and extended their practice beyond individual image generation,” said Art + Design Program Director and Professor of Art Louise Kames ’77. “Each participant saw how the power of art can relate to and engage all members of a community.”

Several prints now hang in the Crescent Community Health Care Clinic, and 200 more will be distributed to patients as part of the clinic’s National Health Center Week Celebration in August. Additionally, Crescent Community Health Care will incorporate design elements from the screen prints into a mural as part of a larger renovation of their community space. That work is set to begin this summer, with Clarke students and others from the Dubuque community taking part.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 19
Louise Kames ’77 & Jake Persenico ’23

Wisconsin Sisters Part of the Clarke Family Become

When you sit down with sisters Brooke ’25, Gracie ’24, and Meghan Douglas ’23, it doesn’t take long for the stories to start flowing. From showing cattle at the county fair starting at just four years old to tales of the last hunting trip, you can tell they are a family who loves being together. Some of their favorite stories revolve around their Grandma Rose.

“Grandma worked as a lunch lady, and I remember she told this story about a boy losing his tooth at recess. He was so upset because he couldn’t find it in the snow,” Meghan said. “Well, grandma grabbed a teacher, and they went digging for it and found the tooth. She was so happy to have made that kid’s day.”

“She was always doing stuff like that – she was one of the kindest and most compassionate people you’d ever meet,” Gracie continued. “When her health began to decline, our family took care of her. That made me want to explore nursing, and I was drawn to Clarke because Meghan was already here and spoke highly of the program.”

Gracie and younger sister Brooke both earned their CNA while working at Lafayette Manor in their hometown of Darlington, Wisconsin, and would soon follow in Meghan’s footsteps. All three are now pursuing nursing degrees at Clarke – and these tight-knit sisters wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s really cool to be able to take our classes or clinical experiences and bounce ideas off each other,” Brooke said. “At home, we’re constantly talking about nursing. Our parents probably get a little annoyed, but they love how happy we are here.”

They’re also hoping all the healthcare talk rubs off on their youngest sister, Paige, who is in eighth grade. “We joke that she needs to become a doctor so we can be her nurses,” Gracie said. “She keeps us all in line.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 20
Left to right: Meghan, Gracie, & Brooke Douglas


While the sisters were grateful to have academic support from one another at Clarke, in 2020 they would face a challenge that would strengthen their bond even more.

“I was in quarantine and was having some chest pain off and on. I thought it was anxiety, but one of my professors told me I should get it checked out,” Meghan said. “On November 2, 2020, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and overnight, my whole world changed.”

Rather than preparing for finals and kicking off the season with the women’s basketball team, Meghan found herself developing a treatment plan with specialists at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. She soon began months of chemotherapy targeting a lump between her chest and heart, as well as cancer in her lymph nodes.

With an aggressive treatment plan, Meghan had to take some time away from her education but her connections to Clarke remained strong. Her basketball teammates wore purple warmups with her initials on the sleeve and the women’s softball team found ways to honor her on and off the field. The Clarke Association of Nursing Students raised $3,800 in her name to fund lymphoma research. She also developed a special connection with members of the nursing faculty that would continue beyond her treatment.

“Kris Tiernan checked in on me a lot, even when I wasn’t taking classes. Ashley Cleary has also been so supportive,” Meghan said. “Ashley has a different perspective because she worked in pediatric oncology in Iowa City for 11 years before coming to Clarke. I came back to school in January 2022, and I wanted to be back so badly, but I was having — and still have — trouble with my thought processing following chemotherapy. No one sees that and it can be hard to explain, but Ashley understands. She’s always there. The support I’ve had here, you would never find at another school.”

The staff would check in too, like Heather Urbain and Scott Kruser on the maintenance team. They always asked how we were – even though Scott also loves to give us a hard time. It’s just different here. Clarke cares.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 22
“Really, the Clarke community surrounded us all,” Gracie added. “My professors would check in with me to see how Meghan was doing, but also how Brooke and I were holding up.
Clarke Women's Basketball showing their support for Meghan

Now cancer-free, Meghan and her sisters have striven to stay positive and take from it what lessons they can.


“You always think you’re invincible, like it can’t happen to your family. With Meghan’s diagnosis, I feel I have more compassion,” Brooke said. “The other day I was at the hospital getting someone ready for bed and helping them apply some lotion, and I realized they had a port. You’d never see it from the outside if you weren’t looking for it, and it just makes you appreciate that people can go through so much without you ever knowing.”

“Some people don’t realize what a hello or a smiling face can mean to someone else, and I think I’ve learned that through my experience with cancer but also through my clinicals at Clarke,” Meghan added. “I cared for someone going into hospice at 58 years old because of cancer. Some people aren’t able to go back to their normal lives, yet here I am. I get to finish school, and I get to do it with my sisters. That’s an amazing gift. I’ve learned you have to take life as it comes, and I want to spend my life helping others.”

Meghan is also welcoming another amazing gift into her life this summer – after graduating with her BSN in May, she and her fiancé Scott Wolf are set to welcome their first child in July.

While faculty, staff, and their fellow students have made an impact on the Douglas sisters during their time at Clarke, there is another group whose support was critical: Clarke’s alumni.

Each of the women have earned several scholarships during their time at Clarke, including but not limited to the Beatrice Dormedy, Ruth Fischer, and BVM Endowed Scholarships.

If you’d like to support students like Brooke, Gracie, and Meghan, please contact the Mackin Office of Institutional Advancement at or by phone at (888)225-2753 with any questions.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 23
“I can’t even describe how appreciative I am of the alumni here, not just for the scholarships but everything they’ve done to make Clarke what it is today,” Brooke said.
Meghan & fiancé Scott Wolf with one of their prize dairy cows

Grows Legacy A Family’s

When MaryLane (Neubauer) Blomquist ’72 returned to Clarke University in the fall of 2022 for her 50th Class Reunion, the Homecoming celebration served as a sort of family reunion as well.

“Three of my five children— Holly, Jake, and Justin— chose to attend Clarke and it really touched my heart when they decided to join me for my 50th Reunion,” MaryLane said. “They spent Friday evening with me, and Saturday we each went off with our own friends. All of us have stayed connected to the friends we made at Clarke, because people are so very important. That was an attitude that the BVMs passed down to everyone at the college, that relationships mattered.”

Homecoming 2022 was far from the first time the Blomquist family had bonded over their Clarke experience. They reminisce about shared teachers like Ellen Gabrielleschi, Judy (Fitzgerald) Biggin ’66, and Carol Blitgen, BVM ’58, and special events that have marked their family history as well as Clarke’s.

“I still remember being at the opening celebration of the Atrium,” said Jake Blomquist ’00. “What’s so amazing about having this bond within my family is we all know the same people and places. Our experiences are shared, and friendships have crossed over. It’s nice to have a variety of peers from Clarke to share old stories with.”

“Mom’s 50th Reunion was also my 25th Reunion and I knew almost as many people from her time as my own! My mom’s Clarke roommate Mary (Minnehan) Moothart ’72 is my

Godmother, and I grew up seeing my mom’s Clarke friends at picnics or other visits,” added Holly Blomquist ’97. “Exploring the campus with my brothers during that weekend, we all had our favorite haunts that we were able to share. We spent some time with Ellen Gabrielleschi, Mary Ellen Herbst, and Sisters Carol Blitgen and Carmelle Zserdin ’61. When you spend formative years with amazing, inspiring people it’s hard to not love them to pieces for the rest of your life!”

While Clarke played a role in each of their lives, the Blomquist clan also pursued their own passions and interests. Justin Blomquist completed his BFA in Studio Art at Clarke in 2005 and pursues a variety of artistic endeavors from his home in Chicago, Illinois.

Jake also majored in Drama and worked in the Madison (WI) Repertory Theatre before returning to school for a teaching degree. He is now a caretaker for three children in Manhattan, New York – a location that offers abundant opportunities to explore education and the arts.

Holly is the head of the architectural lighting department for an engineering firm – a position she credits to her double major in Drama and Mathematics at Clarke, as well as an MFA in Theatrical Lighting from UW-Madison. She lives in Milwaukee with her partner of 20 years.

As for their mother, MaryLane was a dedicated mathematics teacher, who continued to invest in her own education alongside her students. She went on to earn two master's degrees, as well as the Herb Kohl Teacher Award, the most prestigious award for K-12 educators in the state of Wisconsin.

clarkeMAGAZINE | 24

In 2015, she became a BVM associate, further entwining her own story with the history of Clarke and the BVM Congregation.

In addition to their family’s ties to Clarke and the BVMs, the Blomquists founded the BVM Core Values Award in 2006 in honor of MaryLane’s mother, Betty (Bladel) Neubauer. Presented annually to a current full-time member of the faculty, staff, or administration, the BVM Core Values Award honors someone who strongly exemplifies the BVM core values of freedom, education, charity, and justice, as well as the quest for self-knowledge and the application of knowledge for the greater good. The tradition carried on this year as the award was presented to Samantha Hicks, an Associate Professor of Social Work who has been instrumental in bringing new support services to students at Clarke.

“I gave out the first awards to Sr. Harriet Holles and Sr. Carol Blitgen, both of whom were my teachers at Clarke, and Sr. Carol helped shape my kids as well,” MaryLane said. “The following year it went to Sr. Therese Mackin ’50 on her retirement. I am very proud that I was able to do that and that the award still makes an impact today.”

To share your own legacy story, contact the Institutional Advancement Office at

LOVE Spreading the

While MaryLane and her children celebrated Homecoming, they also have a special tie to Commencement this year in Master of Arts in Education graduate Ragan Carey ’22, ’23M.

“Ragan’s stepmother, Karla Pinner Carey has been like family to us. Her mother grew up in Carbon Cliff and went to school with my dad, John Neubauer and my aunt, Margo Neubauer. We have shared holidays together my entire life,” MaryLane said.

“We were so excited to learn that Ragan had chosen Clarke for her undergrad. I started in Clarke’s 125th year, Holly in 150, and Ragan in 175, so we are a part of those milestones. Ragan’s 25th Reunion will fall on Holly’s 50th. Hopefully they can enjoy the celebration together just like Holly and I did!”

Do you have a family friend like Ragan who you think would be a great fit at Clarke? Recommend them through the C.A.R.E. Society and they can receive a 4-year renewable $1,000 scholarship. Learn more at

clarkeMAGAZINE | 25 or online at (Don’t forget to send pictures!)
SHARE YOUR UPDATES! SHARE Your life is full of amazing happenings and we want to celebrate with you!

25 Years


Physical Therapy



“The program here really grew from the ground up,” said Bill O’Dell, a Professor Emeritus of Physical Therapy who has been with the department since its second year. “We had brought in top-notch staff for a mix of local and national perspectives. With then-president Sr. Catherine Dunn and others advocating for us, we had the community behind us 100 percent.”

“The big four in town at the time – Finley, Mercy, Medical Associates, and Dubuque Physical Therapy, wanted this program for the community and we were happy to partner with them. They gave the program a lot of momentum early on,” added Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Education Alecia Thiele ’06D

Just as the program was launching, however, the federal government introduced the Balanced Budget Act in 1997. Services like Medicare were undergoing drastic cuts and physical therapy was a popular line item to dispose of. Suddenly this in-demand service was not being covered by insurance providers.

“Now, after going through the work of pitching and building the program, we suddenly found ourselves defending it,” Bill said. “Thankfully, we had a great team and the community stood by us. We still had referrals and could show students there was a path forward in this field. We knew we had a program that could survive the challenges.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 26

Early in her career, Bridget focused on athletic injuries and preventative care at NovaCare and Waukesha Sports Medicine near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In part, she was drawn to the work because of her own passion for athletics. “I’ve always been active and my six children have all competed in sports,” Bridget said. “Physical therapy offers flexibility in my work and the opportunity to share my skills with my children, friends, and family.”

As new opportunities arose, she began shifting her focus to geriatric care. She now works as a Physical Therapist for Froedtert Health Systems, caring primarily for patients working through life-changing events, including physical and neurological conditions.

“It’s such rewarding work because you can see hope come into someone’s eyes. I often work with patients for weeks or months at a time, so you develop connections and real relationships with people,” Bridget said. “It was like that at Clarke too. It’s a small school so it had a family atmosphere. It laid the groundwork for how I approach my work today.”


Federal changes were not the only obstacles the program would face. In the early 2000s, the industry shifted to favor a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Through extensive review and careful curriculum development, Clarke’s accreditation was updated and approved to offer DPT in 2004, with the first class graduating with their doctorate in 2006.

“We believe in a cycle of continuous improvement and that’s served us well throughout the program’s history,” said Bill.

“That means everything from our accreditation procedures, year-end reviews and outgoing interviews with seniors about changes we can make, to even noticing classroom techniques. If we notice a handful of students aren’t performing a particular task quite right, we’ll work to correct it with them, but then review our curricula as well. We are always working to be better.”

Originally from Colombia, Maria Teresa found support from the faculty and staff at Clarke that went beyond the typical curriculum.

“I will always remember how everyone went the extra mile to support me,” Maria Teresa said. “From day one, I received personalized guidance from my professors and other faculty members. Bill O’Dell and Andrew Priest became my mentors to pass the State Exam, which was a big hurdle, due to English being my second language.”

Knowing what mentorship meant to her, Maria Teresa incorporated teaching into her work as a pediatric physical therapist. She provides instruction to families and caregivers around the world, including the unique Dynamic Flex Cast technique she developed. After 13 years as an award-winning practitioner with Genesis Health in Iowa City, she started her own clinic, Ferrer Pediatrics in 2021.

“I will always cherish my time at Clarke,” Maria Teresa said. “As I now mentor younger interns, I would attest to Clarke’s academic preparation. The students from Clarke that I have had the pleasure of supervising in clinicals always come the most prepared and trained.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 27
Bridget (Kanter) Pluemer ’97, ’98M Maria Teresa Ferrer ’06D

2007-2016: “APPLY, ADAPT, BE BETTER”

As the program found its footing, it soon became apparent that the practicum experience was the heart of Physical Therapy at Clarke.

“Other programs focus a lot on theory and you might get a day in a clinic to experience certain techniques,” Alecia said. “Clarke was one of the first Integrated Clinical Experience programs that focuses on evidenced-based learning. Our students can apply the skills, make adjustments, and be better before they enter the field.”

“That approach has always been central to the Clarke experience, and in a lot of ways it stems from our faculty,” added Brad Kruse, Associate Professor and Chair of Physical Therapy. “All our faculty are board-certified physical therapists and are practicing in clinics locally. Not only does that help us stay connected to the community, but it keeps us abreast of changing needs, new techniques, and brings those experiences into the classroom.”

Along with the practicum, the department also invested heavily in community involvement.

received a job offer from a clinic in the Portland, Oregon area where he had completed his DPT internship, it felt like fate. “I’d always had an interest in the outdoors, so to be able to hike, ski, and climb mountains while pursuing my career was a fantastic opportunity,” Josh said. “The Northwest has become my home.”

peaks – Josh has enjoyed a varied case mix from the treatment of chronic pain and rehabilitation to working with marathon athletes and climbers. He’s added credentials in clinical instruction, orthopedic, and manual physical therapy care to his repertoire, yet credits his time at Clarke for providing the foundation.

“Those rewarding experiences, whether it’s the Wheels for the World Drive, practicum, or the Homecoming Fun Run, help students and faculty engage with our work more deeply.”

“Clarke did a fantastic job in preparing myself and my classmates for the working world with a focus on ethics, professionalism, and care,” Josh said. “I am still in touch with classmates like Charles Deneen, Natalie Jennings, and Jake Peterson who I can share ideas with. The staff, faculty, and everyone at Clarke gave this program heart and brought in amazing people.”

“Service activities like the pro-bono clinic for our community and the Clarke Organization of Student Physical Therapists are great examples of learning outside the classroom,” said Bill.
Josh Hall ’14, ’16D


As Clarke Physical Therapy continues to invest in new equipment, techniques, and technologies, the real foundation and potential for growth continues to come from the people involved.

“While a lot of other programs have grown and focus on theory, we’ve maintained class sizes of around 33 so we can provide that small group and personalized support Clarke is known for,” Brad said. “I think that contributes to how we’ve made it 25 years and adapted as a program. The people here – from the students and faculty to our community partners – they get it and they’ve stood by us.”

“When faculty do move on from Clarke, they become chairs, deans, and even provosts at institutions around the country. We strive to keep those connections alive because we’re proud to have been part of their journey and we can continue to share knowledge,” Alecia said. “The same is true of our alumni – they are teaching, leading, and managing now and they give back to the program through their success. They are continually referring new students and practicum patients to us. Our alumni are an important part of our history and our future.”

In honor of 25 years of Physical Therapy, Clarke is planning a special celebration for all

PT alumni!

Watch our Alumni events page at for more details!

After traveling the country for her DPT clinicals, Morgan Dunahoo was thrilled to find a placement close to home at Physical Therapy Solutions first in Dyersville, Iowa and then in their Dubuque branch. In the outpatient clinic, she aids her friends and neighbors as they work through orthopedic conditions as well as recovery from stroke and other health conditions.

“I treat patients of all ages with diverse cultures and social backgrounds which is something that I enjoy – every day is not the same,” Morgan said. “My favorite part of my job and my drive to be the best clinician I can be comes from the satisfaction I get from helping someone from a low point in their life get back to doing something they love – whether that is living with no pain, playing a sport again, or even walking their child down the aisle.”

clarkeMAGAZINE | 29
Morgan Dunahoo ’20, ’22D
1550 Clarke Drive Dubuque, Iowa 52001-3198 Join the Clarke University Alumni Association Board Refer a student to Clarke through the CARE Society. Visit Give to the Clarke Fund or area on campus that means the most to you Attend nationwide networking events, alumni socials and virtual experiences Update your contact information at to stay informed Clarke’s Alumni Relations Office strives to connect and engage with alumni and those who share a love for Clarke. We invite you to take part in the many benefits and services that are extended to you long after you have walked across the Commencement stage. INVOLVED! CONTACT US: (888)225-2753 Get View the complete Homecoming events schedule and register for the festivities at SEPTEMBER 2 9- OCTOBER 1, 2023 We look forward to recognizing classes ending in “3” and “8” as they celebrate a reunion milestone. Are you interested in planning a special reunion event for your class? Contact us at Scan the QR code to learn more.

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.