The Valedictorian Who Wanted a Big City But Found a Big Mission Instead

She wanted to go to college in a big city, but she ended up attending Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, which is a small town.

How did that work out? Amazingly well, says Gregorian Fellow Liza Trettel, from Kearney, Neb., who majored in Graphic Design with minors in both Spanish and Journalism & Mass Communication.

She was one of the valedictorians who spoke at Benedictine’s 2024 commencement, and her words seemed to sum up the other valedictorians’ perfectly.

“The Lord has reminded me in prayer the whole year that every single thing that we love about this college, it’s because we long for Him,” she told her classmates.

Known for her creativity, she first considered attending a large state school, hoping to major in fashion design studies; however, when discerning which college to attend, she knew Benedictine was the right fit through an experience she had on campus.

“Growing up I always pictured myself at a huge university in a big city studying fashion design, but it started to become clear that God had bigger plans,” she said. “The second our tour group walked into St. Benedict’s Abbey, I instantly had tears coming down my face with no other explanation than the presence of the Holy Spirit. And despite the comfort of staying in Nebraska, or majoring in fashion, Benedictine felt like home.”

Liza is following in the footsteps of her grandparents, James, class of ’66, and Kathleen Eckart, ’67, McKenzie, who both attended Benedictine College via their founding institutions, St. Benedict ‘s College and Mount St. Scholastica College. Originally from Kearney, Neb., Liza was deeply committed to her faith and to art.

“I had been so blessed by great experiences with faith, but coming to Benedictine, it really helped me fall in love with truth and it made me recognize how deep our need is for truth,” she said.

Trettel earned a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship and embraced life at Benedictine, becoming a Media Fellow when that was offered, and serving as a Student Ambassador and working for the Office of Admission. In her time at Benedictine, she also led a mission trip to Alaska, and served in ministry through her music.

Liza credits her love of learning to the influence of her environment. Being surrounded by peers and professors who challenged her mindset and beliefs was influential on her own character development. She describes her college experience as “extremely formative.”

“Once I realized that Benedictine is such a source of much needed truth, that’s when I got excited to soak up every drop of every class. This is such a good environment to study,” she said.

With her strong leadership and speaking skills, she hosted the Fund-A-Raven auction at Benedictine ‘s annual Scholarship Ball in 2022 and 2023, raising millions of dollars for incoming students. She became emblematic of what it meant to be a Raven.

Trettel maintained a continuous 4.0 GPA throughout her college career, which allowed her to speak at Commencement, where she bid farewell to her classmates.

“There’s a lot that we’re going to miss,” she said. “I know I’ll miss seeing the river of students that flow down the hill every time Mass at the Abbey lets out… I will miss seeing your faces. I will miss the joy that you greet me with on the Raven Walk. I will miss making you coffee and I will miss being your classmate. So, there’s a lot to say goodbye to.”

But she urged her classmates to stay close to Benedictine College by returning to campus — but most of all to stay close to Jesus Christ.

She quoted Pope Benedict XVI saying, “When we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes this life free beautiful and great.”

Then she told her classmates: “Benedictine College class of 2024 I love you so much and I will miss you so much, but not as much as you might think, because every single day for the rest of my life I’ll see you in the Eucharist.”

See her speech starting here on YouTube.

Trettel has accepted a full-time Graphic Design position for Regnum Christi, a Catholic organization, while planning to get married to the love of her life, William Scavuzzo, a fellow alum from the Class of 2024.

She may have missed out on college life in a big city, but she found something much greater at Benedictine College.


Emma Lyons

Emma R.C. Lyons

Emma R.C. Lyons is a rising senior at Benedictine College who is working as a writing intern in the Marketing & Communications Office for the summer. She is an English major who has helped other students as a writing tutor. In 2024, she served as the managing editor of Loomings, the Benedictine College arts magazine. She is known as a highly empathetic, methodical, and goal-oriented individual.