Transforming Saint Mary's, One Gift at a Time.

With the support of incredibly generous philanthropic partners like you, Saint Mary’s is advancing in key areas of growth and development, working to ensure that our students are able to pursue their passion for learning in a 21st-century academic environment grounded in Lasallian Catholic traditions. Below are stories from students and faculty who have benefitted directly from philanthropic support like yours, and how it has transformed their educational experience. Also included are stories from benefactors, who were moves to support an important initiative, or are simply "paying it forward" because of the benefits they received as Saint Mary's students. Together, these are the stories of how generosity like yours makes a strong and lasting impact.


January 2023

Stephanie Belair is a newcomer to the Alumni Board of Directors. She participated in the Bachelors Completion Program and wants you to know why she chose SMU.

-Stephanie Belair B'20



December 2022

Dr. Chris Tyre, B'81 graduated Saint Mary's University with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. He then went on to earn his Ph.D.. He has been employed by the Wisconsin Dept of Corrections for 20+ years. Dr. Tyre also holds a position as an adjunct professor at the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology teaching courses in correctional psychology, forensic assessment, and ethics.

-Chris Tyre B'81



December 2022

We have been asking alumni to share why SMU with us. Dr. Steve Rice is one of our newest members of the Alumni Board of Directors and shared his "Why SMU". 

-Steven Rice B'79


FGI First-Person Stories

May 2022

Carol shares how the support of the First-Generation Initiative has ensured that she can achieve her dreams of graduating from college.

FGI First-Person Stories

May 2022

Destiny shares how the support of the First-Generation Initiative has ensured that she can achieve her dreams of graduating from college.

Why I Give: Commitment to Lasallian Values and Innovation

March 2021

"Saint Mary’s has a special place in my heart because this is the place where I became 'me.' The Lasallian mission embodied by the university has shaped the course of my career as an educator and my beliefs and values as a person. My support of Saint Mary’s stems from the continued commitment to provide students with a well-rounded education through these Lasallian values. In addition, Saint Mary’s instilled in me the value of inquiry and constant improvement. I’ve been shaped to never be satisfied with where I am, but to keep finding ways to better myself and the world around me. The university has clearly committed itself to this ideal as well through the innovative programming and willingness to step 'out of the comfort zone' to provide new and varied opportunities to help students achieve their educational and professional goals. The commitment to Lasallian values and innovation is why I find it easy to provide my enthusiastic support."

-Ryan Pajak B'04, M'10

Why I Give: Enriching My Community And Furthering Education

January 2021

"Education is a cause I am passionate about, and Saint Mary University is one of the right places for me to give back because I gained a part of my education at Saint Mary’s with no regrets. Giving enriches my life in many ways including bringing me back to the community I care for and connecting me to the people and ideas that will positively impact and enrich both my perspective to the cause and others. It offers me a unique sense of purpose by serving the community of my choice and it makes me grow as a person to understand how I and others fit to the same cause like education. For instance, by giving back as an Alumni Board Member or contributing through funds, it helps me better understand the circumstances of the current students and my fellow Alumni and get the opportunity to pound through different solutions which may make the community of students and Alumni sit on better shoes tomorrow. The act of giving back and contributing to society is very fulfilling to me and that is why I give back."

-Veronica Hiza, M'15


Why I Give: A Step Ahead in Science and Business

July 2020

"One of the drivers for my choosing Saint Mary's University was the ability to do undergraduate research as part of my pursuit of a science degree, which was a fantastic learning opportunity. The new Science and Learning Center continues to expand that opportunity for students, and that will only grow with the next phase renovation to the existing science building to bring business and science together. This mirrors many industries today and is a crucial connection that I am thrilled to see being embraced by Saint Mary's University. I am proud to support Saint Mary's in this endeavour to bring the science/business collaboration to their students."

-Matt Bilski, B'07


Edwards, Kerry

Why I Give: Success Is Measured By What We Can Do For Others

July 2020

"Money is a tool, not a goal. Financial clarity is different for everyone. It's deeply personal. When my wife and I had our daughter, it was a time of reflection for me. Who am I and what shaped my character? And what do I want for 'my' next generation? To me, our success is measured by the fulfillment of the people we serve, and the communities we foster. The Saint Mary's Fund is the heart and access for the next generation. I'm fortunate to work for company that helped me achieve financial clarity and contentment, which in turn, allows me to live generously. The organizations and causes we care about are different for everyone. But ask yourself, what experiences helped develop the person I am today. Saint Mary's empowered me to live a life of service and leadership. Times of uncertainty offer the unique opportunity to rethink what could be possible."

-Kerry Edwards B'04
Financial Associate


A space for innovation and collaboration

September 2020

The Adducci Science Center’s Brother Charles and Hoffman halls are transforming into a space for innovation and collaboration. Through a $17 million initiative, Saint Mary’s is creating a space for state-of-the-art classrooms, learning spaces, and labs for business and the sciences (including math, psychology, nursing, and computer science).

Marc Weisenberger as Student Catcher

From Player to Pudge's Place

October 2019

“In thinking about how I could help define success for Saint Mary’s baseball, I wanted to try and determine what I could do to make a difference. This clubhouse creates value around the baseball program, and it allows us to compete against larger schools with bigger budgets. I am honored that my nickname is on this clubhouse, and I am proud to be forever connected to Saint Mary’s baseball … and all that it stands for.”

-Marc (Pudge) Weisenberger B’75,
Lead Benefactor, Baseball Clubhouse

More about his story:
Saint Mary's Dedicates New Baseball Clubhouse

Welcome to Pudge's Place

Winecke, NIck

Home Run for the Baseball Team

October 2019

"The impact [of philanthropy] on our baseball program is endless! It's because of our great alumni in the baseball program that our current and future players have a state-of-the-art clubhouse that we get to call home. Everything from our great field to the batting cages to the clubhouse is because of our very generous alumni that believe in the mission of Saint Mary's and the culture that has been created within our program."

-Nick Winecke B'07 M'12
Head Baseball Coach
Associate Athletic Director

Moni Berg-Binder

Supporting First Generation Students; Moving Science Forward

March 2019

"I work with the FGI scholars and the Countdown to College program as a science instructor. The generosity given to the First Generation Initiative allows me to help lift up our students.

The philanthropy directed toward the new Science and Learning Center has allowed for the sciences to move forward, providing updated instructional spaces for our students."

-Moni Berg-Binder, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Biology Department

Scott Walker

Opening Up Opportunities for the Rochester Community

March 2019

"In my current role as Associate Vice President - Rochester and Executive Director of Cascade Meadow I have experienced first-hand how philanthropic support aids the university and gives us a position of strength. Saint Mary's simply would not be as well positioned in Rochester without the incredible philanthropic support we have received. From the donation of the Cascade Meadow facility to the university in 2015, to the fully funded Remick Hall addition completed in 2018, our students and programs have benefited substantially in Rochester.

We have developed a name and place for ourselves in the higher education environment in Rochester that has positioned us well in the market, and poised for future growth. All this thanks to generous philanthropic support."

-Scott N. Walker, B'91, M'98
Associate Vice President, Rochester Partnerships
Executive Director, Cascade Meadow

Alumnus Pledges to Give Others Lasting Gift

Spring 2018

Dr. Linden is grateful for the career and social opportunities he received through college and hopes to give others the same advantages. Read more about his gift here. 


Alumni Athlete Steps Up to the Plate to Help Baseball Team

Summer 2017

As the snow melts, and the grass turns green, 2008 graduate Kevin Black's mind naturally turns to baseball. Read more.



January 2023

Elizabeth Larson M'08 received her Masters of Instruction in 2008. Betsy serves on our Alumni Board and is heavily involved in the Winona community. As a member of the alumni board, Betsy is working to strengthen our relationships between the university and the communities we serve.

-Elizabeth Larson M'08



January 2023

Kerry Edwards B'04 is extremely proud of the Alumni Association and Board of Directors for creating their Why Saint Mary's spots!

He challenged the Board to challenge their networks of other alumni to ask themselves, what experiences helped develop the person I am today? Saint Mary's University taught me service and leadership and to be an example in my community.

-Kerry Edwards B‘04



December 2022

Dan Hunt B'78 majored in Chemistry during his time at Saint Mary's University. Dan is the owner of Hunt Associates in the Twin Cities and a new member of the Alumni Board.

-Dan Hunt B'78


FGI First-Person Stories

May 2022

Jacqueline shares how the support of the First-Generation Initiative has ensured that she can achieve her dreams of graduating from college.

FGI First-Person Stories

May 2022

Guadalupe shares how the support of the First-Generation Initiative has ensured that she can achieve her dreams of graduating from college.

Melrose Gift

Loving Gift Leaves Lasting Legacy

June 2021

Saint Mary’s is grateful to the Melrose Family Foundation for its generous $500,000 gift to the renovation of the Adducci Science Center’s Hoffman and Brother Charles Halls (pictured above), where business and science education will innovatively prepare tomorrow’s leaders. Read more.


Hockey receives anonymous $1 mil gift

Anonymous Benefactors Make Largest Gift to Saint Mary’s University Cardinal Hockey

February 2021

Their faith, they say, played a large role in their decision to make this gift. “We contemplated together and prayed together about where to donate and how to give back,” the family shared. It was this same faith component that helped connect them to Saint Mary’s.  Read more.

Robert Gas

Why I Give: Keep Our Business Degree Highly Competitive

January 2021

"As a liberal arts school, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota provided me with a well-rounded education and life balance. The 2021 business environment is a competitive and ever-changing industry that requires unique skills to set yourself apart. Saint Mary’s provides students with the skills necessary to thrive and outperform by trailblazing real-life business situations that challenge a student's mind and take them to the level that they never knew possible. I donate to SMUMN to help the Business Department continue to strive and challenge current students to provide the best possible job candidate when entering the workforce."

-Robert Gas, B'12


A Legacy of Generosity

Fall 2020

With their estate gift, the Rysavys know they're helping many First Generation Scholars start out their lives and careers on a positive note. "I've always been a proponent of casting bread on the water," Donald Rysavy said. "A little act of kindness in the beginning can grow to something tremendous." Read more.


Why I Give: Coming Home

July 2020

"My husband, Lou McCoy, ’79, and I met at Saint Mary’s. I was a freshman at the College of Saint Teresa (CST) and he was a sophomore at Saint Mary’s. He was recruiting waitresses from CST to work at Blue Angel. My brother Dick Stringham, ‘74, had been in Phi Mu Alpha and suggested that I should waitress at Blue Angel if the opportunity presented itself. I worked that whole weekend as a waitress. The rest is, as they say, history.

Throughout the next 4 years we grew together and went on to create a life together. We married in 1980. Two of our 4 children graduated from Saint Mary’s. I graduated from SMU with an M.A. in 2011.

Over the years we would return to campus with some frequency, more so when our sons were students. I was infamous for calling them up on a Sunday from Lock and Dam #5, announcing we were on our way, and get ready to go get lunch. We enjoyed various opportunities to come to campus. Each time we return to campus we have that warm feeling of coming home.

With all the changes that have been made on campus, it is still home. Those years of growing and learning made a lifelong impact. Saint Mary’s is home.

Why do we give? We want to support our home.

For Lou it has been 41 years since his graduation. For me, my graduation from CST is 40 years and from SMU it is 9 years…Saint Mary’s continues to be home.

My brothers, one of my sisters, one of my sisters-in-law graduated from Saint Mary’s.

Why do we give? We want to support this family and to help her grow.

So quite simply, Saint Mary’s is family and it is certainly home.

-Peg McCoy, CST’80, M’11


Baertsch, Jenny action shot

Overcoming Hurdles 

October 2019

“As a community bank, WNB Financial understands the importance of giving back, bringing strength and vitality to the communities we’ve served since 1874. This commitment is rooted in our mission to enrich lives and our core value of integrity – doing the right thing for the right reason every time. WNB’s support and partnership with Saint Mary’s Athletics is twofold: we believe Saint Mary’s is a significant contributor to the local and regional economy, and we support the university’s mission of providing its student-athletes with the opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in athletic competition.

As a 2005 Saint Mary’s alumna and four-year member of the track and cross country teams, I’m so proud to work for an organization that supports my alma mater and a program that helped shape who I am today.”

-Jennifer (Folgers) Baertsch B’05
2015 Outstanding Young Alumnus Recipient
Marketing Manager at WNB Financial

Fraternity Creates Scholarship Based on Principles

Summer 2019

A core group of Alpha Phi Omega brothers began dreaming about a way they could give back to their alma mater, which led to the establishment of the Alpha Phi Omega - Sigma Theta Chapter Leadership, Friendship, and Service Scholarship. Read more.

Supporting Future Environmental Leaders

Summer 2019

A passion for the environment is what spurred the Stinsons to generously donate to an environmental biology lab located in the Adducci Science Center. Saint Mary's is currently raising funds to revitalize and reconfigure the former science building on the Winona Campus into a technologically advanced hub of science, business, and psychology, as well as entrepreneurship. Read more.


FGI Benefactors Become Second Family

Summer 2019

"On graduation day, I actually bumped into Mr. Jelinek before I even found my parents and I remember him introducing himself to me and telling me that he was proud of me,” Salas-Rivera said. “When those words came out of his mouth, I felt a warm feeling in my chest because even though I did not know him personally, he felt like family.” Read more.


Christine Beech

Kudos for Kabara 

March 2019

"The incredible generosity of the Kabara's has enabled Saint Mary's to offer innovative programming to our students. Their support has funded the Kabara Institute, a place where students can explore social innovation and entrepreneurship, and develop critical problem solving skills as they seek to address the most challenging issues in society today. The development of these skills is what sets apart our graduates in workforce."

-Christine Beech, D.M.
Executive Director, Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies;
Dr. Jon and Betty Kabara Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Assistant Professor of Business

Scholarship Opens Doors for Polish Business Student

Spring 2017

Several years ago Katarzyna "Kasia" Plawiak entered and won a highly competitive scholarship competition in Poland, offered by the Wasie Foundation, the Gostomski Family Foundation, and Saint Mary's University. First prize was a full scholarship to attend Saint Mary's. Read more.



January 2023

Russ Barcelona B'82 majored in Psychology. He is the Co-Founder and Business Psychologist for Ascend Talent Strategies in Milwaukee, WI. Russ is a great advocate for SMU and currently serves on our Alumni Board.

-Russ Barcelona B'82



January 2023

Darrell Vitullo B'01 is a member of our Alumni Board and chair of our Digital Engagement Committee. Darrell is a Senior Technical Writer at Edge Advertising.

-Darrell Vitullo B'01



December 2022

Ryan Pajak B'04, M'10 is the principal at Nativity of Mary School in the Twin Cities. He graduated from SMU in 2004 with a degree in Childhood/Early Adols K-8 and later got his masters from SMU focused on Educational Leadership. Ryan volunteers on the alumni board as well.

-Ryan Pajak B'04, M'10


FGI First-Person Stories

May 2022

Julio shares how the support of the First-Generation Initiative has ensured that he can achieve his dreams of graduating from college.

Alumni help keeps college accessible

July 2022

A first-generation college student, Chuck Joseph B’66 knows firsthand about Saint Mary’s University’s goal to make education accessible to every student. And it’s the accessibility to the breadth of education Saint Mary’s has to offer that has kept him close to his alma mater for so long. Read More.

Robert and Lucille Stiever

Couple Quietly Leaves $5 Million Estate Gift to Saint Mary’s

January 2021

Both Stievers were lifelong learners and avid readers. It was their desire that their estate gift be used for undergraduate students on Saint Mary’s Winona Campus with financial need so that more students would be able to afford a college education. Read more.


Chris Tyre Before and After

Why I Give: This is a Before-And-After Story

December 2020

"Arriving at Saint Mary’s at 18-years-old and clearly wet behind the ears (which were hidden by the long hair that was very much the style at the time, as seen above) I quickly formed the friendships that became instrumental in the drying process on my journey to completing my undergraduate degree. These relationships included professors and peers who would continue to shape my development as a student, RA, friend, and eventually, a fully-formed alumnus. Saint Mary’s enabled me to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology, to meet and marry the love of my life, and to raise a son who has pursued his own path of discovery that has included international study in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree.

As a psychologist, self-reflection is a critical skill. One result of my self-reflection is the recognition that my Saint Mary’s experience instilled a love of knowledge, a desire to be part of a family, a community, and to experience the simple joy of being amazed every day. Amazement is discovered through love, laughter, and living a life of connection with others…and periodically embracing the silly."

-Christopher Tyre, Ph.D. B‘81


Why I Give: Investing To Keep Saint Mary's On The Forward Edge

July 2020

"Saint Mary's has always been a story of looking forward and being a leader in Science, Business Studies and all that the Liberal Arts encompass. I have been proud to watch from the sidelines as Saing Mary's has not only looked forward, but moved forward during the 53 years since I matriculated from this wonderful school. It has become stronger in the sciences, business studies, computer,mathematics and a combination of all of these. As St. Mary's moves into the Twenty-First Century it has learned from previous generations what will make it strong and has carried out the visions of past presidents and administrations. As with institutions of higher learning, Saint Mary's must grow its endowment, keep tuition reasonable and grow on all its campuses. I give so young men and women now and in the future will be able to attend St. Mary's, become leaders in their chosen fields and in society as a whole. My love for Saint Mary's grows as the institution moves ever forward!"

-John M. Hendele III B'67


Statue of Saint Mary

Why I Give: Sharing Blessings

July 2020

"When I graduated from SMU in 1974, I made a promise to myself to repay the partial scholarship I received for my four years of education.  You see, I was one of the “First Generation” in my family, before this was even a benefactor opportunity program at SMU.  I would not have been able to attend SMU, without someone else’s generosity. 

"Now, 46 years later, I have long since paid back the scholarship and continue to give because of my strengthened Christian faith, which was nurtured by the Christian Brother’s example of Lasallian servant leadership and Christ’s love for me.   I support and value all Catholic education, which is a unique shining light of truth in our secular darkness.  Today, more than ever, our students need to hear that Christ loves them.  They are prohibited from hearing this Good News anywhere else, other than in our Christian churches/schools and, hopefully, in their homes.

"I continue to share the abundant blessings that the Lord provides to me.  I also give from a cheerful heart, developed through my Catholic education, for which I am eternally grateful.  How can one ever repay the experience you can enjoy at SMU, sharing life with faith filled people?  I pray that today’s students will benefit from SMU’s Lasallian education in the same way I have and will pay it forward to future generations."  

-Dale Lieb B'74 

Kristin Burke '21

Empowered in Lasallian Tradition

November 2019

The following essay, written by junior education major Kristin Burke was awarded first place in the Lasallian Essay Contest, as part of Saint Mary’s #300 celebration — honoring Saint John Baptist de La Salle, the founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the patron saint of educators, who died 300 years ago. In it she shares how the Lasallian charism at Saint Mary's has impacted her. Read Burke's essay here.

Sonday, Laura action shot

For the Love of It

October 2019

“The experience I’ve had with the Athletic Department at Saint Mary’s has been positive all four years.
We play in a conference that I would argue is one of the toughest DIII conferences in the country. That said, the encouragement we receive from the entire university is incredible. Just as important, athletes at Saint Mary’s are so fortunate to have generous benefactors, especially those who might not get to see us in action. We are so appreciative of all those who give to the athletic community. These donations help us obtain new equipment, uniforms, facilities, and ultimately help us increase our competitive edge.

It just demonstrates once again how Cardinals care for one another, and we cannot extend our gratitude enough.”

-Laura Sonday B’19
Meeting and Marketing Coordinator
Bleachr, LLC

Edwards Robeson, Valerie

Helping Students Broaden Their Horizons

March 2019

"In every semester, I am humbled by the experiences that donors enable students' growth through. With donor-supported scholarships and our arts, athletics, and study abroad programs in particular, students experience leadership opportunities, complete internships transforming bigotry and violence into appreciation and peace.

Donor-supported opportunities for Lasallian formation give our alumni a competitive edge in the job market that values the capacity for discernment and actively engage in gratifying committed service programs like Lasallian Volunteers."

-Valerie Edwards Robeson, MSSW
Human Services Program Coordinator,
Associate Professor of Social Science

A Major League Benefactor

Winter 2018

Former major league baseball pitcher David Thies knows how it feels to have the weight of an entire team - and its fans - counting on him to get the job done. Once a proud member of the Saint Mary's baseball team, Thies gives back to current and future players by supporting baseball and the baseball clubhouse. Read more.


Baseball Benefactors go to Bat for Clubhouse at Saint Mary's University

Spring 2018

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota will break ground this April on a new $704,000 baseball clubhouse, made possible by a generous lead gift from an alumnus. Read more.


Banking on the Future: Today's Students are Tomorrow's Leaders

Fall 2017

Merchants Bank President and CEO Greg Evans and his wife Terri Evans know how important Saint Mary's is to Winona. "We know we all do well when the communities we serve do well," Evans says. "Saint Mary's is a huge contributor of vitality, energy, and vibrancy of this area." Read more.


Remicks Pledge $5 Million for Saint Mary's Rochester Expansion

Summer 2017

Longtime supporters Jack and Mary Ann Remick of Rochester, recently pledged $5 million to Saint Mary's University of Minnesota as part of a Mayo Clinic collaboration to initiate a physician assistant program in Southeast Minnesota. Read more.