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Several hundred alumni of Benedictine College returned to Atchison for the annual Raven Reunion June 2-4. The weekend featured the presentation of the Benet Awards, which honor prominent alumni. See photos from Raven Reunion
“For the fourth time in history, our honorees are a husband-and-wife team,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis ’82. Shirley Chenoweth ’63 received the 2023 Offeramus Medal from the sisters of Mount St. Scholastica while her husband, Bob Chenoweth ’63 received the 2023 Kansas Monk Award from the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey.
“It’s great to have you here and great to be able to say that your Alma Mater is strong, successful, and now moving in an ever-widening circle as we look to Transform Culture in America,” said Minnis. Mount St. Scholastica College established the Offeramus Medal Award in 1957 for alumnae who have made a Christian contribution to the community.
“This honor, now 65 years old, recognizes alumnae who have expressed outstanding loyalty to their Alma Mater and leadership in programs benefiting their college,” Minnis said. “They manifest the qualities of believers in the mission, vision and values of Benedictine College and reflect honor on the College through family life, professional life and social life.”
Sister Esther Fangman, O.S.B. ’72, prioress of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, introduced the Offeramus Medal honoree. “Shirley von Harz graduated from Mount St. Scholastica College in 1963 and married a St. Benedict’s College alumnus, Bob Chenoweth ’63, who we will hear from later,” said Prioress Esther. “The young couple settled in the Kansas City area where Shirley worked with other Mount alumnae to establish an Alumnae chapter.”
Prioress Esther described specific ways that Shirley invested in helping others in need after many years of being an active volunteer in various diocese. “She started Covered in Prayer, a group that makes prayer blankets for the seriously ill, prays for the people who will receive the blankets while they are making them,” said Prioress Esther. “From 2005 – 2008, Shirley was a member of the Benedictine College Alumni Board. She served on the Benedictine College Board of Directors.”
Prioress Esther spoke further about Shirley’s commitment to help others. “After a bout with cancer, Shirley began a personal mission to help those dealing with the disease,” said Fangman. “She learned to give comfort — hand and foot massages — and started offering the service to cancer patients in hospitals. Then she began visiting homebound people in the area, offering the massages, and praying with them, earning the nickname Magnificat Lady.”
“I am so grateful to the Sisters of the Mount for a strong academic education and a spiritual formation that flowed from their sense of family and hospitality,” Shirley said. “That legacy has been passed on thru the years and can be seen now in the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison. I thank God for a life that started in Chicago, then moved to Arkansas and settled in St. Louis where that principal (a School Sister of Notre Dame) urged me to go to the Benedictine Sisters in Atchison. The Lord did that for me so that I could meet a boy who was born in Passaic, New Jersey, moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he was taught by Benedictines, and then came to the Benedictine monks in Atchison. And I am still thrilled that he asked me to be his wife. I am truly very blessed!”
Before the presentation of the Kansas Monk Award, President Minnis explained that in 1960, St. Benedict’s College established the Kansas Monk Award for its graduates. The award itself was designed by alumnus and professor emeritus of art, the late Dennis McCarthy ’51.
“To earn this award, the criteria call for alumni who distinguished themselves in their profession, showed abundant service to the civic community, demonstrated outstanding loyalty to their alma mater, took leadership roles in programs benefiting the college, reflect honor on the college through family and social life, and manifest the qualities of a believer in the Mission, Vision and Values of Benedictine College,” said Minnis.
Abbot James Albers, O.S.B. ’94, of St. Benedict’s Abbey, introduced 2023 Kansas Monk honoree. “Bob spent 32 years in the banking industry, working with Commercial National Bank, said Abbot James. “When he started at the bank, his first job was to set up their credit card program, which was just getting popular at the time. CNB merged with UMB and Bob retired in 1999 as Executive Vice President of Banking Operations.”
“After a few years of consulting, he was asked to help establish a new bank in Liberty, Missouri,” Abbot James said. “Once that bank was up and running, he retired again. In 2004, then Archbishop Kelleher asked him to take on the role of Executive Director of Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, and so he began yet another career, one he considered truly meaningful. After 15 years in his third career, he retired again in 2019. This time it stuck!”
“But Bob was not all about work,” added Abbot James. “He was also busy volunteering. He has been a member of the Friends of St. Benedict’s Abbey and a member of the Knights of Columbus through Ascension Parish in Overland Park. He served on the board of directors of Villa St. Francis Catholic Care Center for 35 years and served as board chair for almost half of that time.”
Upon receiving his award, Bob said, “We all owe our thanks to the Benedictine men and women who sacrificed to bring education to the central plains of a growing nation and continue this mission today and into the future. My yearbook from 60 years ago shows nearly 50 monks on the college faculty. The location where we are meeting today, 60 years ago, was known as Nowak Bowl, a field where intramural football was played. The transformation of this campus has been nothing short of a miracle. Many prayers and hard work, and sometimes divine intervention were needed to achieve these results.”
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 as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. Benedictine College prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. With a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship, Benedictine College is transforming culture in America.