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Benedictine College Commencement

Benedictine College Celebrates Largest Graduating Class in History

A record 485 seniors walked across the stage on Saturday, May 11, during the annual Commencement exercises at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Those at the undergraduate ceremony heard a speech from Harrison Butker, best known as the fantastic placekicker for the World Champion Kansas City Chiefs, but also a very successful entrepreneur and noted philanthropist, who was the event’s keynote speaker.

Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg (ret.) also received an honorary degree during the ceremony, although remotely. He is the first black man and the first living person to have an Army Fort named in his honor. Fort Gregg-Adams near Petersburg, Va., is named for him.

Harrison Butker

Harrison Butker

Butker held up Benedictine College as an example. “Places like Benedictine, a little Kansas college so high up on a bluff above the Missouri River, are showing the world that a Christ-centered existence is the recipe for success,” Butker said. “You need to look no further than the examples all around campus where, over the past 20 years, enrollment has doubled and construction and revitalization are a constant part of life, and people, the faculty, staff and students, are thriving.”

He told the students to focus on their vocation, whatever that might be. He talked about his wife, Isabelle, whom he has known since band class in middle school.

“She chose to be my wife and embrace one of the most important titles: homemaker,” he said, becoming emotional. “She’s the primary educator to our children. She’s the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from that of a father and husband. She is the person that knows me best at my core and it is through our marriage that, Lord willing, we will both attain salvation.”

“You are sitting at the edge of the rest of your lives,” Butker said. “Each of you has the potential to leave a legacy that transcends yourselves and this era of human existence. And in small ways, by living out your vocation, you will ensure that God’s Church continues, and the world is enlightened by your example.”

Butker received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Benedictine.

Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg (ret)

Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg (ret) when he became a 3-star general in 1977.

The other honorary degree recipient, Gen. Gregg, talked about how his career and future were limited without a college degree. He remembered that he talked with Benedictine College (then St. Benedict’s College) administrators and, after examining his academic record, found that he could complete his degree over a summer and fall semester while he was at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, nearby. With that degree in hand, he was able to get additional promotions, attended the Army War College, and ultimately achieved the rank of 3-star General.

“Benedictine College provided me with the path to my continued success,” he said. He also had some words of wisdom on what was his 96th birthday for the graduates in attendance.

“I want to congratulate my fellow Ravens on their graduation today,” said Gregg. “You have reached a level of personal maturity and academic achievement needed to take on adult responsibilities and to begin successful careers. Like previous graduates, you will help America to be a great country.

“The education and formation you have received from Benedictine College will be critical to your success in life as it has been in mine.”

Dr. Kimberly Shankman, Dean of the College, directed the annual exercise, which began with a prayer from Sister Mary Elizabeth Schweiger, Prioress at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, one of the founding institutions of Benedictine College.

2024 Valedictorians

The 2024 Valedictorians (L-R) Liza Trettel, Levi Streit, Katherine Brandenburg, Shea Nowicki, and Andrew Selness, after being announced at the Senior Brunch on Friday, May 10.

This year featured a record five Valedictorians:  Katherine Brandenburg, a Psychology graduate from Basehor, Kansas; Shea Nowicki, a Theology graduate from Scottsdale, Arizona; Andrew Selness, a Theology and Philosophy graduate from St. Louis, Missouri; Levi Streit, a Biology graduate from Wichita, Kansas; and Liza Trettel, a Graphic Design graduate from Kearney, Nebraska.

President of Benedictine College Stephen D. Minnis announced the annual Fran Jabara Leadership Award winners. Each year, the award is given to select graduating seniors at each private, four-year college in Kansas. The award indicates the high level of ability the recipients have displayed as well as the respect with which their peers and teachers view them. This year, the Jabara Leadership Awards went to Anastasia Adams from Lander, Wyoming, who graduated with degrees in Secondary Education and English, and David Lauterwasser from Overland Park, Kansas, who graduated with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Psychology.

Benjamin Hoopes, a Theology major from Atchison, Kansas, received the Transforming Culture in America Award for his tireless efforts to bring people together through small gatherings and regular dinners.

“Ben really has the heart of a servant and has helped the college and broader communities in a wide variety of ways,” said President Minnis.

Those graduates who are discerning religious vocations were also recognized. President Minnis called Gabriel Friess, Gerard Remmes, Joseph Stokman, Hagan Stovall, and Christopher Ullrich the “next leaders of the Catholic Church.” The ceremony concluded with Remmes singing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Ev’ry Blessing, followed by the closing prayer from Abbot James Albers, OSB, from St. Benedict’s Abbey.

The day before Commencement featured the traditional photo of graduates around the Benedictine “B” in front of the Haverty Center. That was followed by the March of Light, a procession up the Raven Walk, through the Grotto and into the Abbey Church for Baccalaureate Mass. The Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass.


Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.