Diocesan News

Scholarships, awards presented at UNL Newman Center

Story by Reagan Scott  

LINCOLN (SNR) — On Monday, March 12, the UNL Newman Center held the sixth annual St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Scholarship Dinner which awarded $8,200 in scholarship money to 20 students at UNL.
The scholarship recipients included students actively involved in the Newman Center, members of UNL’s Catholic fraternity Phi Kappa Theta and UNL’s Catholic sorority Pi Alpha Chi.

Phi Kappa Theta is a national fraternity founded in 1959 with more than 40 chapters across the United States and was re-established at UNL in 2005. The fraternity has a house behind the Newman Center and currently has 67 active members.

Pi Alpha Chi was founded in 2012 at UNL after a group of students approached Father Robert Matya, pastor of the Newman Center, to discuss the possibility of establishing a Catholic sorority on campus. Today, the organization has almost 50 members and the Newman Center plans to build a home for the sorrority on the university’s Greek Row.

During the course of the night, the presidents of Pi Alpha Chi and Phi Kappa Theta, Kaitlin Taylor and Jeb Vavak, shared the organizations’ significant achievements and thanked the donors for their generosity.

The evening began with a welcome and introduction of guests by Jude Werner, the director of development for the Newman Center, followed with prayer led by Father Robert Matya and a dinner. Following the meal, awards were presented.

The Ronald and Shirley Huss Catholic Scholarships were the first awarded. The Husses partnered with the Newman Center and The Catholic Foundation of Southern Nebraska in 2012 to establish scholarship funds for Catholic students at UNL. 

Before the recipients were named, Ron Huss told those in attendance that the Newman Center kept him grounded when he was in school. He also expressed how impressed he was with the changes he has seen over the years.

“It’s amazing, the growth I’ve seen in the sorority, fraternity, students and Newman Center,” he said.

This year, six members of Pi Alpha Chi received awards to cover the cost of sorority dues from the foundation, and one member of Pi Kappa Theta received a $1,000 scholarship.

Next, representatives of the Lincoln Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (LDCCW) recognized members of Pi Alpha Chi who had received scholarships last fall and this year. The money for these merit awards is raised each year in a raffle at the LDCCW’s winter symposium.

The Jessica Bedient Mission Trip Scholarship was established to honor the memory of Jessica Bedient, who lost her life as a result of a traffic accident in 2010. Bedient’s husband, Tony, established the scholarship through the University of Nebraska Foundation, requiring that it be awarded to a student wishing to travel on pilgrimage or participate in service missions.

Megan O’Grady, recipient of the Jessica Bedient Mission Trip Scholarship, is pictured with Father Steven Mills, the assistant pastor at the Newman Center.

Father Steven Mills, the assistant pastor at the Newman Center knew Bedient when she was in college and recalled what a positive influence she was on those around her.

“When you talked to her she was infectious with joy,” Father Mills said.

This year’s recipient, Megan O’Grady, will use her scholarship to go on a mission trip to Chicago through the Newman Center. The group will spend time working with the Missionaries of Charity. 

“It was an incredible and humbling honor to receive such an award,” O’Grady said. “I am so excited to be able to go out and share the love of God with all whom I encounter and serve on this mission trip!”

The final scholarships awarded were The Diane’s Blessings Memorial Awards. Diane Sizemore died in 2015 after a long battle with cancer, but she is remembered for sharing Christ’s love and her love for everyone she knew and served.

Her husband Jim said, “She had an incredibly joyful life, and everything to her was about helping others. She always asked herself, ‘How do I create joy in your life?’”

The award was established in 2018 and supports college students attending an accredited college or university. Initially, one scholarship was going to be given to a student actively involved in the Newman Center, and another would go to a student who regularly participated in a FOCUS Bible Study.

However, after looking through applications for the award, Jim Sizemore said he couldn’t choose just two people to give them to. As a result, two people received each scholarship. The Dianne’s Blessing Award for the Newman Center went to Christina Sullivan and Nadia Intan while the Dianne’s Blessings Award for FOCUS was given to Elizabeth Foley and Marcus Schneider.

The four students also received Saint Gabriel medals. Saint Gabriel was the patron saint of the Sizemores’ Godparent group, and for four years the members prayed to Saint Gabriel, asking him to help guide them to Christ.

The inscription on the back of the medal read, “Dianne’s Blessings Medal for Sharing the Merciful Love of Jesus Christ. In honor of Dianne Sizemore.”

The St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Scholarship Dinner was a recognition of some of the Newman Center’s most influential students, and some of their generous supporters, all of whom are working to share Christ’s love at UNL.

The Newman Center recipients of the Dianne’s Blessings Awards are Christina Sullivan and Nadia Intan (second and third from left). They are pictured with (from left) the late Dianne Sizemore’s husband Jim, her sister Karen Hooper and daughter Annie.

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