Starbeams Spring 2021

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Empowered Women The Era of

starbeams S T. T E R E S A ' S AC A D E M Y

PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVES Dear STA Community, It is my pleasure to share with you the Spring 2021 edition of Starbeams, which focuses on women who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities. Included in this is our Distinguished Alumna profile highlighting Suzanne (Hoag) Johnson (’70) for outstanding leadership and dedication to her community. Women leaders are strong and inspiring! Whatever the setting, it is a blessing to have women in leadership roles. Research confirms what the STA community already knows―women leaders are highly capable, innovative, compassionate and ethical role models. They view challenges and obstacles as opportunities for learning and growth. I personally witness this every day on campus when I see our students preparing themselves to be tomorrow’s leaders. And I hear daily of the impressive accomplishments of our alumnae and friends who are changing the world for the better. I am grateful for the wisdom of many women leaders like the great Marian Wright Edelman. This national trailblazer known for her civil rights activism stated, “Be a good ancestor. Stand for something bigger than yourself. Add value to the Earth during your sojourn.”

Table of Contents 1.

2020 Distinguished Alumna


The Era of Empowered Women


Devin W. Blackburn, J.D. (’99)


Rosie (Privitera) Biondo (’76) Kathy (Lisson) Schirger (’91)


Amy Hereford, CSJ, J.D., JCD


Misty (Shellner) Bennett (’92)


Spotlight on Alums Classes of 1976 and 1979 Endow Scholarships

May the stories in these pages inspire more women to become leaders in generations to come.

11. In Memoriam

God Bless,

12. Maryann Mitts, Ph.D. (’87) 13. Meg (Brock) Huber (’80) 14. Gabriella Mesa (’19)

Dr. Siabhan May-Washington President

Mary Jane (Groff) Judy, J.D. (’99) 16. Introducing Tomorrow's Leaders 18. STA Artist of the Year Cheriss May (’90)

2020 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNA Suzanne (Hoag) Johnson, Class of 1970 The Distinguished Alumna Award, introduced in 2009, formally recognizes an alumna who has positively and substantially influenced her profession, her community or issues affecting society at large.


Suzanne describes her career and life path as “long and winding.” She raised her daughter Sarah as a single parent while starting a business career in Kansas City. Eleven years after graduating from St. Teresa’s Academy, she completed her bachelor’s degree at Rockhurst University. Nearly 30 years later, she earned her Juris Doctor from the University of LaVerne College of Law in Ontario, California. After completing her undergraduate degree, Suzanne became a certified public accountant. She went on to serve in various executive-level positions in the Kansas City area for 16 years. During that time she met her husband Roger and relocated to Arcadia, California, in the late 1990s. Suzanne became active with the Ladies of Charity upon her arrival in California. Her long history of volunteer work with the organization includes serving in every capacity as a board member, including three terms as president. She also has served on the national board for 10 years, including two years as national president, and currently is the U.S. representative on the international board. In 2007, Suzanne entered law school and was sworn in as a member of the California Bar Association in 2010. Following law school, Suzanne began volunteering with the Immigration Legal Assistance Project, a law clinic in Los Angeles. To this day, she helps people from all over the world whose one desire is to stay in the U.S. In 2019, the Los Angeles County Bar Association recognized Suzanne with the Honorable Benjamin Aranda III Outstanding Public Service Award for her compassion and dedication to the immigrant community. Suzanne is exceptionally proud of her daughter Sarah, sonin-law Eric and her three grandchildren, who she says are the greatest gifts God has given her. She is the oldest in the Hoag family of 10 children—eight girls and two boys.


Empowered Women The Era of

St. Teresa’s Academy empowers young women to change the world. As alumnae, parents and friends of STA, you’ve heard this message many times over. It is the cornerstone of STA’s commitment to the more than 600 students who learn and grow with us every year.

This edition of Starbeams focuses on women―alumnae, friends and students― who are changing the world through leadership. We hope you enjoy the profiles of these impressive women who lead in diverse ways. A common thread among their stories is that of relationships―developing, fostering and maintaining close ties with other women. Through these enduring bonds―with mentors and teachers, classmates and community partners―these women are driven to break boundaries, to believe anything is possible, to persevere in the face of adversity and to have the courage to believe in themselves. In the spirit of STA’s mission and the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, these women have chosen to use their voices and actions for good, to be in concert with God, and to form loving relationships with themselves, their communities, the church, society and all creation. These are but a few stories of those in our STA community who are making a difference. To all who strive to make our world a better place, thank you. 2

Devin W. Blackburn, J.D. (’99) Senior Vice President | Senior Tax Counsel & Director of Executive Wealth Advisory Northern Trust Wealth Management Residence: Chicago, Illinois, and Atlanta, Georgia As senior tax counsel, Devin monitors tax legislation to determine how changes will impact the wealth plans of ultrahigh net worth clients. As director of Executive Wealth Advisory, she drives the strategic direction for advising corporate executives on equity-linked compensation.

Get to Know Devin: What talent or trait would you most like to have? Patience What living person do you admire most? Oprah Winfrey Favorite fictional character? Jessica Pearson (Suits) Favorite musical artist? Fred Hammond What is your most treasured possession? Picture of my maternal grandparents when they were newlyweds What is your favorite pastime? Hiking―to date, seven summits around the world



It really is the perfect intersection of legal analysis, writing and numbers. I’ve always loved writing and literature, but did not necessarily desire a career in journalism. After earning my degree in finance, I decided to attend law school rather than pursue investment banking. I took a tax law course my second year, and the rest is history.

The first 10 years of my career taught me to be agile, flexible and prepared for what’s next. I worked in a large law firm and a Fortune 100 corporation for nearly a decade. Then, in 2016, the corporation I worked for divested part of the organization. Overnight I became responsible for structuring the sale of multiple business units, which required staying until the businesses were ultimately sold. Next I took 18 months off to decide what to do with my career. It was then I decided to focus on utilizing my tax knowledge to transition to wealth management.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR ROLE? I knew I would face barriers in the legal industry. No one in my family or circle was an attorney, so I strategically positioned myself as a person of value. I became known as someone who could convey complex, technical information in a concise manner to drive decision making. With that skill, guess who leaders often chose to attend important client meetings. And oftentimes for success you simply need an opportunity to be present in the room.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ASPIRE TO BECOME LEADERS IN THEIR FIELDS? Set a specific goal—know exactly what you are going after. And only take on roles and associations that get you one step closer to that goal.

WHAT QUALITY DO YOU MOST ADMIRE IN A WOMAN LEADER? The ability to drive meaningful decision making


WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS? Being appointed as a commissioner of the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery. I’m in the first year of my appointment and am honored for the opportunity to tell the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture.


Rosie (Privitera) Biondo (’76) President & CEO Mark One Electric Co., Inc.

Rosie is president of Mark One Electric, a family-owned business with expertise in power, data, lighting and renewable energy. Rosie took the helm in 1994 when her parents retired.

Residence: Kansas City, Missouri

Get to Know Rosie:


What talent would you most like to have? Wish I’d learned to play golf Favorite fictional character? Wonder Woman Favorite musical group? I like a lot of different music from the 70’s era What is your most treasured possession? My family What is your favorite pastime? Zumba, exercise, pool time

I became president of Mark One Electric in 1994, after 20 years of experience in daily operations and strategy, when my parents retired. They started the business in 1974 servicing small business, commercial and industrial accounts. We quickly developed a reputation as a company that could handle the most difficult projects, and we soon expanded into industrial facilities throughout the U.S. As president, my job became focused on growth and preparing for the future.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR ROLE? My biggest challenge has been being a female in a male-dominated industry. I found out quickly that my employees knew of my commitment to and passion for the company, as most of them had worked alongside me for 20 years. So, although there have been challenges along the way, it seems very natural now.

Kathy is a passionate and dedicated community leader as demonstrated by her advocacy for numerous causes, especially those benefiting children.

Get to Know Kathy:

Kathy (Lisson) Schirger (’91) Community Advocate Residence: Mission Hills, Kansas 4

What talent would you most like to have? Public speaking What living person do you most admire? Michelle Obama Favorite fictional character? Lorelai Gilmore (The Gilmore Girls) Favorite musical artist? Beyonce—Run the World (Girls) What is your most treasured possession? Family pictures What is your favorite pastime? Yoga with my girls

WHAT PREPARED YOU MOST FOR THIS POSITION? A combination of family support and personal traits. I had wonderful parents who had a vision for the company. I have excellent family relationships—including with three brothers who serve as vice presidents at Mark One—that I can rely on in good times as well as challenging ones. Personally, demonstrating persistence and a willingness to adapt have been invaluable.



WHAT IS YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE? Hands-on, very direct

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS? As of 2021, I’ve been leading Mark One for 27 years. Most companies don’t last that long. I attribute that to effective leadership, strong business relationships and dedicated employees.



I’ve always loved helping others. For the past six years I’ve been involved with The Children’s Place, an organization that helps children heal from situations involving abuse, neglect or trauma. I served as president of the board, helped manage a capital campaign and created a Teen Advisory Board.

Finding creative ways to raise money is a challenge, but also very rewarding. I've also found that personal contact and relationships are crucial to helping people understand the impacts their donations can make.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO INVEST YOUR TIME IN THESE CAUSES? I want to give to those who are in extremely difficult situations through no fault of their own. I am blessed to have grown up in a happy, healthy family and I want to give back however I can. I also volunteer at my children’s schools, including at St. Teresa’s Academy. Giving back in any capacity helps create a better environment for our children to learn and grow as well-rounded, confident and kind women.

WHAT PREPARED YOU FOR ADVOCACY WORK? My parents were always volunteering at church, school and various organizations. Through them, I came to appreciate the good we can do for others. STA also was instrumental by providing opportunities to students so we could see first-hand our impacts on others. This continued into my college experience at Creighton University.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS. At The Children’s Place, we ran a capital campaign with an $11 million

fundraising goal. The Kansas City Chiefs partnered with us to raise initial funds, then we were able to reach into the community to raise the rest. Because of the efforts of many, children in need now have a beautiful new building where they can heal and grow.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO BECOME MORE INVOLVED IN ADVOCACY WORK? Jump in. Get involved. Meet people who work in organizations you’re interested in. Join the board and volunteer to help those being served. Raise your hand and take leadership positions!




Amy Hereford, CSJ, J.D., JCD Attorney for Religious Communities Residence: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis, Missouri Sister Amy has been in religious life for more than 30 years. Currently she assists numerous religious institutions with their legal needs. She previously served as attorney at law for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and is a former member of the Canon Law Society of America.

Get to Know Sister Amy: What is your most treasured gift? Kindness What living person do you most admire? Michelle Obama Who is your favorite musical group? My family What is your most treasured possession? My guitar. I love playing and singing. What is your favorite pastime? Gardening with native plants, and fruits and veggies

GIVE AN OVERVIEW OF YOUR WORK AS AN ATTORNEY FOR RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES. I love working with sisters in various communities. I share in their commitment to community, spirituality and justice. In my role, I bring expertise to their planning and help them help others.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO ENTER RELIGIOUS LIFE AND EVENTUALLY LAW? After college I began to contemplate entering religious life. In addition to living a life of dedication and commitment among women who shared my hopes and dreams, there was certainly a call from God. After about 10 years I discerned, along with my community, to enter the profession. We had a need for someone with legal expertise, and it’s been a good fit for me.



It’s always challenging to work through differences. I’ve found women are uniquely equipped to deal with complexity and nuance, and that’s a tremendous gift. It’s also important to work on relationships, to be kind, respectful and caring, which gives us added “political capital” in working through problems.

Helping religious communities make tough decisions is my greatest achievement. I offer expertise and compassion to help them come to conclusions they can feel good about. Prayer and spirituality are essential guiding forces.

WHAT PREPARED YOU FOR WORK IN RELIGIOUS LIFE AND LAW? HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE TWO? A combination of study, work experience, prayer, reflection and daily life with women committed to spirituality and justice was the best preparation I could have asked for. Balance is an ongoing challenge. I listen to my heart and body to know when something is out of kilter.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ASPIRE TO A RELIGIOUS VOCATION? Blessings on your journey! I can't imagine a way of life in which you can see more, do more and be more for yourself, for God and for the dear neighbor.




Misty (Shellner) Bennett (’92) Chief Human Resources Officer The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens Residence: Los Angeles, California Misty serves as chief human resources officer at The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. Her history in hospitality and human resources spans more than 20 years.

Get to Know Misty: What talent would you most like to have? The ability to play the piano What living person do you admire most? Michelle Obama Favorite fictional character? Michael Burnham (Star Trek Discovery) Favorite musical artist? H.E.R. What is your most treasured possession? My elephant collection What is your favorite pastime? Traveling―I intend to travel to all of the continents



My career began in hospitality where I enjoyed a fast-paced role interacting with guests. Eventually, a mentor gave me an opportunity to cross-train in HR, and I quickly learned that the HR leader had a direct impact on the success of the entire organization.

I have held the majority of possible roles in human resources, which has given me comprehensive knowledge of the discipline. I am a lifelong learner and regularly take courses, attend conferences and network with industry professionals.



Recognizing when it was time to transition from an organization where I was very comfortable into a newer position with more unknowns has been the greatest challenge so far. It was difficult, but one of the best decisions I’ve made. It helped me prepare for my current position as chief human resources officer, where I’m the primary HR decision maker for the entire organization.

My greatest success is being a “talent agent,” and I believe in the philosophy of paying it forward. My approach to building a high-performing team is to focus on cultivating relationships based on trust and transparency. I strive to create an environment where individuals are encouraged to showcase their expertise, creativity and ability to innovate. This allows people to learn from their mistakes and unlock their potential. In my current role I have a seat at the table and provide a diverse perspective,

shape policy and influence behaviors. I am committed to creating an inclusive environment in which diversity in thought is valued and equity is prioritized.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ASPIRE TO BECOME LEADERS IN THEIR FIELDS? Dream big and never lose sight of your goals. Surround yourself with individuals who support you and what you are trying to achieve. Develop a growth mindset. Work outside your comfort zone as much as possible. Apply for roles that are one level up. Be a lifelong learner. Resist self-doubt and take risks. Join professional organizations where you can network.


WHAT IS YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE? Democratic and transformational


spotlight on alums 1946

Alumnae Take the Lead in Endowing Scholarships


IN 2020, ALUMNAE FROM THE CLASSES OF 1976 AND 1979 RAISED NEARLY $80,000 to establish two new endowed scholarships. These scholarships will support current and future St. Teresa's Academy students in need of financial aid. Inspired by her sister’s Class of 1969 which previously endowed a needbased scholarship for STA students, Susan (Weinand) Lamb (’76) started an effort to endow a scholarship in her class’s name. Within a year, Susan rallied fifty donors to create a scholarship with more than $40,000 in donations, much of it in memory of beloved classmate Nancy Teson (’76).

GAYLE (DANZO) JOHNSON is a retired teacher and has served as past national president of the Ladies of Charity of the United States and as past executive board member of the International Association of Charities (AIC). SISTER DONNA RYAN works with people on the edge of society.

Susan (Weinand) Lamb (’76)

For inquiries about establishing an endowed scholarship in your class’s name, contact Paula Holmquist, STA Alumnae Director at (816) 501-0022 or Endowed scholarships require a minimum $25,000 investment over a two-year period.

MARY KAY (MILLER) VALENZUELA is back home in Hawaii after spending 15 years in St. Louis to help raise her granddaughters, Kekoa and Kai. She is happy they are now old enough to visit her in Hawaii.


Inspired by lifelong STA connections, the Class of ’79 quickly followed suit. Mary Sullivan (’79) and Joane (Van Dyke) Wilkerson (’79) teamed up to engage classmates and friends in their effort, raising nearly $37,000 in record time to establish the “Mighty Fine Class of 1979 Scholarship.” “I’m honored to contribute to an enduring source of assistance for STA students. I’m hopeful other classes will join the Classes of ’69, ’76 and ’79 to create additional scholarships.” -Susan Lamb.

SHIRLEY (BRANDT) WOLFANGER is in a care facility and is doing well. Her spouse Thomas passed away Jan. 28, 2020.

Mary Sullivan (’79)

PAM (GRIFFIN) KELLY has been married 54 years. She and her husband have three children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. MARY (KLEIN) BEGNAUD has four children and 16 grandchildren. CAROL (GRIFFIN) BEDIENT is retired and living in Parker, Colorado, just south of Metro Denver. She feels blessed to be in contact with some of her classmates.

1965 VICKI (HAPKE) SAVIANO has been working with the Kansas City Royals since March 2013. Joane (Van Dyke) Wilkerson (’79)

STA Alumna Receives Highest Honor from Avila Alumni Association 1968

Vicki (Frank) Hicks (’74), has been a passionate and dedicated leader in the healthcare field for more than 40 years. To recognize her work, the Avila Alumni Association presented Vicki with the 2020 Outstanding Alumnus Award, the highest honor bestowed on an alumna/alumnus by the association. This award is given to Avila University alumni who have achieved distinction through exceptional contributions in their professions or personal lives that have a significant impact on society. After earning her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Kansas, Vicki joined KU’s School of Nursing in 1992. She has been recognized through numerous awards for her outstanding work with underserved populations. The STA congratulates Vicki for her outstanding achievement and her resolute commitment to changing the world.

PEGGY (O’BOYLE) BRIGGS works full-time in fine jewelry and is an artist in her spare time, working in both acrylic and pastel painting. She enjoys creating animal and human portraits and landscapes.

1970 PATRICIA “PATTI” (JANKOWSKI) MONKS retired in June 2011 after working in the education field for more than 32 years. Her husband passed away in May 2015. She stays active through many volunteer activities. She enjoys running her small business specializing in antiques and collectibles.

1971 DEBRA (ARP) BOWMAN has lived in Colorado since 1975. She holds a master’s degree in public administration. She also is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. Debra has worked in real estate since retiring as division commander from the Arvada (Colorado) Police Department in 2008. Her husband is a District Court judge for the State of Colorado and she has two stepsons. She enjoys traveling, golf and life in Colorado with her two small rescue dogs.

1972 SUSAN (MALLEY) EAGAN recently moved back home to Kansas—where her five children live—after residing in Appleton, Wisconsin, for 34 years. KATHY (KESRY) KEARY is thankful to continue traveling through life with dear friends she met at STA. As a spiritual director she enjoys accompanying others on their paths.

1974 NANCY SEIBOLT is a retired hospice and palliative care physician. She is now involved in providing spiritual direction.



MARY (SANTORO) LEONARDBULLINGTON married Stuart Bullington in July 2020 after being widowed for 12 years. Her daughter Emily Leonard Bernstein (’94) was her maid of honor and son Thomas Leonard walked her down the aisle.

CYNTHIA LAMAS was named Truman High School’s "Teacher of the Year” in 2019-20. She retired from public school teaching in 2020 and joined St. Therese North for the 2020-21 school year.

SHANNON CATE has two daughters, two dogs and one partner. She teaches college courses in a mediumsecurity men's prison in Danville, Illinois. She also teaches English to Japanese clients via Skype and serves on the AntiRacism Working Group for St. Paul & the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Chicago.



RHONDA (RAUSCHELBACH) SARRAZIN has been married to her husband Victor for 17 years. She has three children—Elizabeth (31), Benjamin (26) and Rebekah (24). She works in Manhattan as a psychoanalyst.

BRIDGET BAKER recently moved back to Kansas City to raise her kids near friends and family. She hopes to spend more time with her STA sisters in the future.


1980 ELIZABETH (LATIMER) RISI has been teaching religious education classes to First Communion students for 10 years. Prior to that, she was director of volunteer services for a large hospital in Miami, Florida.

1990 SEQUITA (BROWN) RICHARDSON, MD earned a Degree of Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians in October 2020.


ANDREA (WAYS) NEWMAN began working part-time at STA in fall 2020 helping with attendance and COVID tracing. She’s happy to be back on campus and keeping tabs on her freshman daughter.

JOANNA (CATALANO) BRITT is proud and grateful to be back in the STA community with her own daughter, Josephine (’24).


SARAH (MARTIN) CLAUS lives in Colorado with her husband and twoyear-old son. She operates a private psychotherapy practice, treating addiction, trauma, couples and individuals. She serves on the board of Colorado's only queer-friendly recovery residence, which is open to all genders.

SARA PENALOZA returned to Kansas City after living away for 12 years. She received her doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) from Creighton University and works as senior nurse practitioner at Truman Medical Center. She also provides free healthcare at the homeless clinic in collaboration with Street Medicine KC. She enjoys traveling, basketball and spending time with friends and family.



KATIE (KEEN) MILLARD and her family moved from their home in Prairie Village, Kansas, to their forever home in Olathe, Kansas, in March 2018. After working in the DeSoto School District since 2006, she accepted a new position in the Olathe School District in 2019, teaching third grade. Her children Gwendolyn (9), Jacob (7), and Samantha (3) are enjoying their new home, neighborhood and school.

LAUREN (BEFORT) KARL and her husband Frank welcomed their first child, Leo James, in October 2020.

MOLLY (McNAMARA) BERG'S oldest child, Eileen, was accepted to STA and will begin in fall 2021. She’s thrilled to see what opportunities lie ahead for her daughter.

1992 MARY OADES lives in Kansas City with her husband, Dan, and four children. Her oldest, Olivia, is a freshman at STA and her second daughter, Rosie, will be a freshman at STA this fall. Mary works as a realtor for her sister-in-law’s brokerage, Rodricks Oades and Co. Realty.

1994 LINDSEY (WILLIAMS) KELLER is married and the mother of four children—daughter Mary Kate and triplet sons, Jimmy, Jack and Max.

1995 JENNIFER FAHEY is a full-time student at Avila University. The oldest of her four children recently joined the Navy. She has a junior at Rockhurst High School, a sophomore at STA and a second grader at St. Thomas More.

1998 COURTNEY (JEKEL) FINLEY has been a registered respiratory therapist for more than 18 years. She recently became a registered dental hygienist and works in both professions. In 2017, she and her nowhusband James traveled to Italy and attended a Mass and blessing with Pope Francis. She and James married in September 2018. In June 2020 they welcomed a son, Quinn Rocco, who joins his sisters Winnie and Frannie.



2005 SARA JANTSCH NAY is the COO at Duct Tape Marketing, founder at Spark Lab Consulting, and host of the Agency Spark Podcast. She lives with her husband, Tyler Nay, and two daughters, Maya (3 years) and Ava (1 year) in Denver, Colorado. TYLER YARBROUGH recently earned her doctorate in education from Dallas Baptist University. Her dissertation earned the Outstanding Treatise Award for its contribution to the field of education.

ELISA (SCHMELTZ) WILLIAMS has a son Barrett (2 1/2 years) and a baby girl Laine (2 months).

2007 KATARINA (VAUGHN) WOROSELLO and her husband, Tyler, celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary in December. They welcomed their first child, Vaughn Asher, on Feb. 24, 2021. Katarina received bachelor's and master's degrees in Violin Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Katarina is a registered nurse at Georgetown University Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where she is a member of the neonatal transport team. She also maintains a small private violin studio in the Washington, DC, area.

2008 JULIA (GIGLIOTTI) FRITZLEN and her husband John welcomed their second child, Caroline Anne, on Oct. 12, 2019. She joins big brother Jack (2 1/2). John is completing his last year of residency at University of Kansas Medical Center and will begin his year as chief resident in 2021 prior to his cardiology fellowship. Julia credits STA with teaching her to rely on faith, family and community.

CHINESA RUSCH works for the Kansas City Public Library in its youth services department. She also writes book reviews for Story-Eyed Reviews (

2009 ALISSA LAMANNO has been on the front lines in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. She reports it has been an eye-opening experience. ELIZABETH (McNAMARA) SPRECHER married Mitch Sprecher on May 25, 2019, in Chicago, IL, where they now reside. Liz is a sales engineer with RSA Security. Mitch is completing his doctorate in nursing while working at Rush Hospital. ANNA FRANKE recently returned to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to pursue a degree in early childhood education.

2014 SARA-JESSICA DILKS'S interest in journalism and storytelling began during journalism class at STA and while working on The Dart. After graduating from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2018, she moved to Chicago, IL. She is senior account executive at Finn Partners, a leading public relations firm, where she supports major clients with sustainability and social impact communications.

CLARE MITCHELL started her first nursing job in January at Research Medical Center on the cardiac telemetry floor.

2015 MARYKAT HOESER graduated from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina in 2019. In 2020, after a year of freelancing and working at Charleston Magazine, she traveled throughout Southeast Asia. She recently became head of communications at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, a governmental branch of Austria that promotes international artists and connects culture to New York and U.S. communities. MAGGIE HUTCHISON recently appeared in an online commercial Say 'Yes' to College for Kansas Learning Quest 529. Additionally, she earned an award for her short film titled Safe States. ALLISON BRESETTE became engaged to Joey Johnston in 2020 over Labor Day weekend after dating for four years. They recently bought their first house together where they’ll live with their two dogs.

2016 ELIZABETH COUNTEE is pursuing her master’s degree in genetic counseling at the University of Cincinnati.

IN MEMORIAM Florence (Byrne) Webb, 1935 Mary (Donovan) Bruegging, 1935 Mary (LeCluyse) Kirk, 1935 Dorothy (Harvey) Anderman, 1941 Jeannine (Voskamp) Kemp, 1946 Joan (Dwyer) O’Connor, 1948 Joan (Haynes) Watts, 1952 Joan (Lillis) Boushka, 1952 Pat (Meagher) Collins, 1952 Carolyn (Metzger) Sayers, 1952 Mary (Wagner) Baldwin, 1955 Mary Joan (Nelson) Stephens, 1956 Arden (Sickman) Weis, 1956 Beverly (Boutross) Ganim, 1957 Donna (Jones) Welch, 1957 Catherine (Butler) Owens, 1959 Mary Ann (Spiegelhalter) Wilson, 1959 Janet (Allen) Picard, 1961 Sandra (Flynn) Eddy, 1961 Marita (O’Rourke) Bartholome, 1961 Janice Gulotta, 1962 Cecelia (Easter) Jones, 1963 Kathy (Triplett) Polsinelli, 1964 Judy (Nelson) Marx, 1965 Mary Ann (Donovan) Weinhardt, 1966 Mary (Mulloy) Kuhnlein, 1969 Donna (Lippert) Mandl, 1970 Mary (Payton) Buckingham, 1970 Susan Toplikar, 1970 Rosemary (Ryffe) Sailler, 1971 Marty (Nickle) McKay, 1973 Nancy Teson, 1976 Harriet Givan, 1977 Margaret (Welch) Crow, 1979 Mary Carol Schmidt, 1983 Katie (Bax) Richardson, 1985 Michelle (Manning) Kempfer, 1989 Ashley Cooke, 2001

Spotlight on STEAM—Sherie Wallace BSN, RN, CNOR (’09) “I am grateful for my mother who inspired me to pursue a career in nursing. She made me aware of my caring nature. To the young woman considering a career in STEAM, whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability and make sure to honor your wellbeing in the process. As an operating room nurse, I strongly believe in patient and nurse advocacy. My motto has been ՙto be my best self to better serve others.’ It’s truly a team effort to provide exceptional surgical care.”

Maryann Mitts, Ph.D. (’87) Director of Athletics and Women’s Basketball Coach Cottey College Assistant Professor Missouri State University Residence: Nevada, Missouri As athletics director at Cottey College, an all-women’s private school in Nevada, Missouri, Maryann is responsible for overseeing the college’s eight athletics programs and athletics department personnel. She also serves as head basketball coach of the Cottey Comets and as assistant professor at Missouri State University. She previously was head basketball coach at Missouri Southern State University where she is the winningest coach in the program’s history.

Get to Know Maryann: What talent would you most like to have? To be able to sing What living person do you most admire? My 93-year-old mother―the epitome of a strong, resilient woman Favorite fictional character? Elizabeth McCord (Madam Secretary) Favorite musical group? Styx Most treasured possession? My late father’s rosary Favorite pastime? Traveling

WHAT LED YOU TO A CAREER IN COACHING AND ATHLETICS ADMINISTRATION? Through athletics, I learned the importance of overcoming adversity, failing forward and mental toughness. I began my career in coaching and was able to fulfill my lifelong goal of becoming an athletics director upon joining Cottey College. The college’s mission and my role align with my deeprooted beliefs of empowering women through a holistic (physical, mental and spiritual) approach.

WHAT PREPARED YOU MOST FOR YOUR CAREER? My education at St. Teresa's Academy was pivotal. It was instrumental to the development of my leadership skills and confidence. I’ve also been blessed with many female mentors who paved the way for women like me to excel in the sports world.


WHAT’S THE GREATEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR CAREER? Being a woman in a predominantly male profession has its challenges but is also very rewarding. While I had to work to get a seat at the table, gaining a voice at the table was the greatest challenge.

WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS? In my eyes, success is about inspiring student-athletes to be the best versions of themselves. My goal is to be a role model and instill in young women that it’s okay to be competitive, to demand excellence in themselves and others, and to break the glass ceiling personally and professionally.


WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ASPIRE TO BECOME LEADERS IN THEIR FIELDS? Read personal development books and surround yourself with quality individuals who will support and edify you. My success has been based not only on my qualifications, but also on the relationships I’ve developed over the years. Also, be willing to pay your dues. Get the education and experience needed to be in leadership. Outwork others and be willing to give more of yourself without expecting something in return.


Meg (Brock) Huber (’80) President & Partner Welsh Construction Residence: Edina, Minnesota Meg is president and partner of Welsh Construction, a commercial construction company that has served the state of Minnesota for more than 40 years. She has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning construction manager across numerous sectors.

Get to Know Meg: What talent would you most like to have? Being an artist What living person do you most admire? Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Sharing & Caring Hands Favorite fictional character? Poppy (Trolls ... long story) Favorite musical group? E Street Band What is your most treasured possession? Women Run the Cities medal What is your favorite pastime? Horseback riding



I became a partner in the firm in 2017 after two years, and was promoted to president in 2020.

Each step of my career has allowed me to grow as a leader and eventually led me to this role. When I think back on the times when I was in a position of exponential career growth, I remember feeling the fear but taking on the challenge anyway. I said and still say many Our Fathers and Hail Marys before heading into a challenging meeting!

WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR ROLE? In my early years as a construction manager, I was passed over for promotion on several occasions. But my work eventually was recognized and I ended up leapfrogging into a leadership role. There are pluses and minuses to being a woman in a male-dominated field. At times, being the only woman in the room allows you to stand out and be heard. On the down side, it can get lonely not having other female role models or peers. Thankfully, the industry is changing.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS? Two that come to mind are being a partner/owner in my current business and now serving as president. What equipped me most for these successes are a strong work ethic, courage to face a challenge and trust in God.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ASPIRE TO BECOME LEADERS IN THEIR FIELDS? My education at St. Teresa's Academy taught me that as young, bright women, we could do anything—that there were no limits or barriers to what we could accomplish. We were led by strong women and that, in turn, made us strong.


WHAT IS YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE? Direct, down-to-earth and positive



Gabriella Mesa (’19) Undergraduate Student Stanford University Residence: Stanford, California Gabriella is a student at Stanford University studying product design, with a minor in Spanish. In addition to her studies, she is the Inclusion, Community and Integrative Learning Student Coordinator in Stanford’s Office of Student Affairs, where she focuses on equity, inclusion, belonging and student learning outside of the classroom.

Get to Know Gabriella: What talent would you most like to have? To be able to sing What living person do you most admire? Jemele Hill Who is your favorite fictional character? Eleanor Shellstrop (The Good Place) Who’s your favorite musical group? Silk Sonic What is your most treasured possession? My signed Travis Kelce jersey What is your favorite pastime? Pickleball

Mary Jane (Groff) Judy, J.D. (’99) Shareholder and Co-Office Managing Partner Polsinelli

Mary Jane is a shareholder in Polsinelli’s Real Estate group where she handles transactions related to commercial real estate. As the co-office managing partner, she oversees the firm's civic engagement, political involvement and office culture.

Residence: Kansas City, Missouri


Get to Know Mary Jane:



What talent would you most like to have? To be able to sing What living person do you most admire? My mother, Martha Groff Favorite fictional character? Moira Rose (Schitt’s Creek) Favorite musical group? Abba What is your most treasured possession? Our dog, Susan What is your favorite pastime? Cooking

In law school I knew I preferred transactional work over litigation. During my summer internship at Polsinelli in 2005, I found I enjoyed working with people in the real estate group, and the rest is history.

“Growing up” as a lawyer at Polsinelli and the relationships I’ve forged with my partners and colleagues ultimately was the best preparation. This gave me a unique understanding of our values and culture, which have remained largely the same over time despite growing from 200 lawyers when I started in 2006 to more than 900 today.

WHAT'S THE GREATEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR ROLE? Dealing with COVID-19 has been the greatest challenge for myriad reasons. In addition to transitioning the firm to a work-at-home environment, we had to find creative ways to keep people engaged. We’ve also had to carefully consider how we will work in the future.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST SUCCESS? Professionally, it’s hard to identify one specific transaction as most significant. On one end of the spectrum is helping a small business owner in our community make his dream a reality; on the other end is representing a Fortune 100 corporation in a nearly $3 billion real

WHAT INTERESTED YOU IN THIS PARTICULAR FIELD OF STUDY? I’ve always pictured myself in a STEAM field, but hadn’t considered product design (PD) until I got to college. What I like about PD is it combines creativity with technical skills from areas like computer science and mechanics. I’ve joked with my roommates that being this close to Silicon Valley wouldn’t get to me, but it has. And it only took one computer science class! I also value the interdisciplinary aspect of PD, which allows me to explore the intersection of my interests—health, sports and writing—through the lens of human-centered design.


of owning space in classes, clubs and meetings. St. Teresa's Academy gave me the confidence to do that.



My advice for young women in any field is to own your work and your skills, and never be afraid to advocate for yourself.

To date, my greatest success is a project I’m working on with another STA alumna. This year, we entered the Stanford Digital Design Challenge as a team. The challenge was to develop a product that solves a problem exacerbated by COVID-19. We researched, pitched, and developed a digital platform prototype to connect peers who recently were selected to receive funding. I’m especially proud of this project because it started out as a random idea over Facetime and we’ve watched it turn into something much more tangible.

It’s also important to trust your own journey and believe you’re on the right path. It’s easy to compare yourself to others, especially in an environment like STA or Stanford, where you’re surrounded by intelligent individuals who are bound to do big things. Believe in yourself!


As a woman, and as a Black woman in particular, I’ve learned the importance

estate transaction. That variety keeps it interesting. Personally, my husband and I take great pride in teaching our four young boys the value of service and charity.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ASPIRE TO BECOME LEADERS IN THEIR FIELDS? First, be true to yourself and your personality! In my law practice, I prefer a friendly approach. That said, it’s also critical to know when to advocate hard for your client, even if you’re intimidated by it. Those experiences build, and pretty soon it becomes second nature. The more challenges and wider variety of experience you get, the easier those high-pressure situations will become.




Tomorrow’s Leaders Introducing

St. Teresa’s Academy is fortunate to have many young women with promising futures as leaders. STA is proud to feature these students who exemplify leadership through outstanding service to their communities, school and peers.

MARIE BRUCK (’21) Marie credits her STA peers with inspiring her to become more involved in extracurricular activities at school and in her community. She is focused on spreading kindness and continuously seeks opportunities to partner with others and give back. At STA, she’s involved in G.I.V.E., a group that encourages students to create a lifelong love of giving back; Future Business Leaders of America; Relay for Life; and a host of other activities. Outside of school, Marie volunteers with Down Syndrome of Kansas City, Ability KC and John Knox Village retirement community. The female leader she admires most is her neighbor, a single mom of three who cares for a son with a rare genetic condition that causes brain damage. Marie believes important traits in a female leader are patience, courage and using one’s voice to create positive change. “It’s important to listen to your peers, and remember you have a team by your side to help you.”

YULISSA CABRERA (’23) Yulissa has gained a sense of confidence in her leadership abilities through her experiences at STA. She says STA has taught her to become involved as much as possible through the clubs and extracurriculars available to her, and she believes in having fun along the way. She is president of the STA Art Club and serves as the Hispanic Honor Society’s historian. She also is active in Campus Ministry and the Hispanic Affinity Group, and is an STA-Team student ambassador, among other leadership roles. She admires artist Frida Kahlo as a strong female leader because of her unique personality and willingness to stand apart from other women of her era. Yulissa also admires her for showing the world women have voices and helping to define Mexican/Latina women as being valuable by being themselves. “A leader has to be confident. Confidence allows you to express your wildest ideas and listen to others’ ideas as well.”


RIYAN JONES (’23) Riyan is dedicated to building up young women and helping the Black community through educational opportunities. At STA, she is vice president of the Black Student Coalition and is an STA-Team student ambassador. Outside of school, Riyan is a junior board member and youth leader at Awesome Ambitions, an organization dedicated to mentoring young women to have successful futures through higher education and career planning. Riyan admires Angela Davis, a civil rights activist who advocated on behalf of the Black community. Riyan says it’s important to stay open-minded in one’s leadership journey and to remember there are multiple sides of an issue, especially when faced with a situation that is particularly sensitive and impassioned. “To fix issues in our world, we need to be mindful in order to find middle ground and make progress.”

MAGGIE REINTJES (’23) Maggie’s mom inspired her to pursue leadership and service opportunities at STA. Maggie seeks to continuously improve her leadership skills through decisiveness, time management, conflict resolution and by inspiring action. At STA, she’s involved with the Student Government Team, Sources of Strength and Campus Ministry, among others. In the community, Maggie volunteers with National Charity League, an organization involving mothers and daughters in community service, where she will be chapter president next year. Her most admired female leader is her mother, who she says is a model for perseverance, planning, responsibility and compassion. Maggie believes a great female leader exhibits diligence, toughness, determination, dependability, decisiveness and has excellent problem solving and listening skills while maintaining a sense of humor and gratitude. “A leader leads by example, not just words. It’s important to make sure everyone is included and their voices are heard.”

GEORGIA WINFIELD (’21) Georgia’s penchant for leadership came about through her family’s experiences with cancer. Both her father and sister are cancer survivors, and her involvement in raising money for the cause has given her a foundation for leadership at STA and beyond. Among other school activities, she is president of STA’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter and is executive chair of STA’s Relay for Life Event. In addition, Georgia serves on the Kindness Youth Leadership Team for Faith Always Wins, an organization dedicated to promoting dialogue for the betterment of our world through kindness, faith and healing. The female leader she most admires is Kendra Scott, CEO of a national jewelry company that prioritizes giving back to nonprofit organizations. Georgia believes the best female leaders take accountability for their actions, are flexible, and are unapologetic for their successes. She says it’s important to identify better solutions rather than resisting change. “Leadership is about listening. Everyone has something to contribute, so it’s important to be open to others’ ideas and perspectives.”

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Mission Statement St. Teresa’s Academy educates young women to think critically, encourages them through Catholic values to love the dear neighbor without distinction, and empowers them to change the world.


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Vision Statement St. Teresa’s Academy is the prominent leader in high school education in the Kansas City area. An STA graduate is empowered by her Catholic, collegepreparatory education and is known as a woman who makes a profound impact in the world.

The Starbeams newsletter features news and information relevant to students, families, and alumnae of St. Teresa’s Academy. For more information, contact Paula Holmquist, Alumnae Director, at 816.501.0022 or

ST. TERESA OF AVILA Dedicated on Oct. 13, 2020 The statue of St. Teresa of Avila welcomes visitors to the St. Teresa’s Academy campus with her inspirational words and the Academy’s motto, “With the help of God, we need not fear.” This work of art was commissioned from the Demetz Art Studio in Ortisei, Italy. The sculptor carved the statue from a single block of marble sourced from Carrara, Italy.

Photo by Cheriss May (՚90) with Leica Camera SL2, and M10-R IG & Twitter: @cherissmay

STA ARTIST OF THE YEAR Cheriss May (’90), nationally lauded photographer, was named the St. Teresa's Academy 2020 Artist of the Year. During her visit to campus in October, she photographed the dedication of the new St. Teresa of Avila sculpture at the front entrance of the STA campus. Cheriss describes visual storytelling as her passion and purpose. A portrait and editorial photographer based in Washington, DC, her work has appeared in O Magazine, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Time, on numerous network and cable news shows and in other international publications. Her expertise is documenting history and democracy. In 2020, CNN and Woman Photographer featured images captured by Cheriss in their Year in Pictures editorials. STA congratulates Cheriss on her accomplishments.