Class Notes

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Frances McLaughlin Stauffacher JC ’31, Mount Mercy’s oldest living alumna, celebrated her 106th birthday on June 19.

AC = Academy | CM = Commercial School | JC = Junior College | RN = Mercy Hospital School of Nursing

Sister Susan Widdel ’72 celebrated her 50th jubilee. Her career includes teaching in the following Iowa schools: Immaculate Conception in Cedar Rapids, St. Cecilia in Ames, St. Patrick in Garryowen, St. Nicholas in Evansdale, and Sacred Heart in Waterloo.

Sister Marilyn Louise Ward ’73 celebrated her 50th jubilee. She earned a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Northern Iowa. Her career includes teaching in the following Iowa schools: St. Patrick in Garryowen, All Saints in Cedar Rapids, and St. Joseph in Marion. She served as principal of St. Patrick School in Anamosa and taught at Our Lady of Grace in Edina, Minnesota. Sister Marilyn served as archivist for the Sisters of Mercy, 1981–2000. Presently, she is the director of volunteer services and archivist at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.

Elizabeth Schlenk ’75 was inducted into the 2017 class of Academy fellows by the American Academy of Nursing.

Susan O’Conner-Von ’76 was selected as the 2017 recipient of the ASPMN® Dr. Jo Eland Excellence in Pediatric Nursing Award.

Edward Lehner ’77 published his first novel, San Juan Sunrise.

Kirk Davis ’78 was named central regional manager for the Yamaha Institutional Solutions Group.

Michele Simmons Rubin ’78 received the 2016 Excellence in Community Care Midwest Regional GEM award and the GEM Award for Excellence in Community Care in 2016, recognizing her as one of the best and brightest nurses in the country.

As a nursing leader for the national Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Rubin helped organize the Nurse and Advanced Practice Providers Committee, whose quality of care initiatives have improved the care nurses provide.

Rubin says she is most proud of the difference she makes in patients’ lives.

“Hearing that I have helped them better manage and understand their disease, addressed their questions, and put a little humor back into their lives—this is what drives my passion to do what I do as a nurse,” she says.

Rubin is director of Advanced Practice Nursing at the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Science Division.

Bridgid Freymann Ruden ’86 unfortunately endured severe traumatic brain injury following a bicycle accident in 2008. As she awoke from a coma, she had to re-learn basic life skills. Because of this, she had to let go of her meaningful career as an advanced registered nurse practitioner.

Despite the odds, Ruden ventured forward through exploring and redefining herself in ways that provided healing from her suffering. In defiance of health care professionals’ and families’ surprise, she began publicly sharing her story. She has presented nationally and internationally and appeared on TV, radio, and has been published in articles and books.

She recently published her own book, Discovering My Life’s Purpose: From Tragedy to Triumph! As she shares her life’s experience, attendees are amazed, uplifted, inspired, educated, and surrounded with hope and reassurance. Ruden’s life’s purpose didn’t leave her; it merely merged to a higher realm.

Tammy (Clemenson) Koolbeck ’86 was elected 2nd Vice Chair for the International Association of Venue Managers Board of Directors. She is currently the executive director of the Iowa State Center, a complex of cultural and athletic venues.

Michael Winker ’89 was named the Iowa High School Speech Association Fine Arts Administrator of the Year for 2016.

Paul Steier ’89 serves as a law enforcement program manager for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators based in Arlington, Virginia. He works with
law enforcement and motor vehicle agencies across the United States and Canada to empower them to network and partner with each other to make the countries safer places to live.

Lisa Lindmeier Roughley ’90 is celebrating 10 years with her digital marketing company, Roughley Speaking Communications.

Alice Swenka Vontalge ’90 was promoted to vice president/chief strategy officer at Crescent Electric Supply Company in Dubuque, Iowa.

Sue Shannon Thomas ’94, a family nurse practitioner, opened her own business, Between the Lines Concierge Wellness Practice, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Christine Nelson Garrett ’95 was promoted to vice president of the March of Dimes Foundation South Central Region.

Kristin Austin McKinley ’95 was a panelist at Grinnell College’s Thriving at the Liberal Arts College Conferences.

Joseph Nolte ’95 was elected to represent the Southeastern Iowa Synod on the Church-wide Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Amy Pfeiler-Wunder ’97, a professor of art education and coordinator of the Graduate Art Education Programs at Kutztown University, was named the 2017 Pennsylvania Higher Ed Art Educator of the Year.

Pfeiler-Wunder was recently elected chair of the Commission on Human Diversity, a highly significant organization at the university that ties closely with her life-long passion for social justice issues. She received her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Iowa.

Mark Johnson ’99, chosen for his consistent demonstration of superior leadership and proven results at his hospital facility, received the Schumacher Clinical Partners Excellence in Leadership Award.

Angela Chambers Irizarry ’01 was promoted to employee and community relations manager at Hearthside Food Solutions in Wenona, Illinois.

Amy Rea Peterson ’01 and her husband Mark opened their own business, River N Ridge Outdoors, in Lansing, Iowa.

Wade Steinhoff ’01 graduated from the American Association of School Administrators Aspiring Superintendent’s Academy in May.

Sara Adrian ’02 married Jason Thiele, May 14, 2016.

Tara Martinson Jones ’02 and Brian had a boy, Max, born Oct. 29, 2016.

Sarah Hawkins Weipert ’02 and Nathan had a girl, Lyda, born Dec. 12, 2016.

Heidi Pedretti ’02 and Kevin ’03 Schmidt had a boy, Parker, born Jan. 1, 2017.

Laura Ballard Collingwood ’02 and Josh had a boy, Isaac, born July 26, 2017.

Penny Ahrndt ’03 married Brian Wolf, Sept. 23, 2017.

Lisa Burken Leighton ’03 was recognized as one of the 2017 Women in Construction by Constructech Magazine.

Jessica Steger ’04 married Alex Besin, Sept. 17, 2016.

Tauna Brown Roth ’04 and Erik had a boy, Ronin, born Dec. 27, 2016.

Angela Carlton ’05 is a service learning associate at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Kelly Bies Skrivseth ’05 received her MSN in nursing education from Walden University.

John Wagner ’06 is director of performance improvement at UnityPoint Health-Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa, Iowa.

Andrea Alexander Shandri ’07 founded Iowa Doula Agency, the state’s first doula agency. She recently opened an Eastern Iowa branch serving the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City areas by promoting safe birthing/postpartum experiences.

Amy Freiburg ’07 married Matthew Deike, Sept. 4, 2016.

Jessica Nothwehr Hollingsworth ’07 and Isaac had a boy, Jaxson, born July 6, 2017.

Ashley Knipper Monaghan ’07 and Tony had a girl, Mollie, born June 29, 2016.

Heather Swift Steele ’07 and Andrew had a girl, Scarlett, born June 3, 2017.

Allyson Wright Larsen ’07 and Nathan had a girl, Anna Claire, born July 29, 2016.

Ashley Kramer ’08 married Nathan Diamond, Aug. 26, 2017.

Emily Muhlbach ’08 and John Joseph Breen ’00 were married Sept. 16, 2017.

Margaret Wright ’08 married Jonathan Blaisdell, May 28, 2016.

Katie Noonan Machacek ’08 and Andrew had a girl, Evelyn, born Feb. 24, 2017.

Lisa McGovern Brown ’08 and Joshua had a girl, Chloe, born Nov. 7, 2016.

Alex ’09 and Sarah Jencks Watson ’08 had a girl, Madilyn, born June 25, 2017.

Stephanie Klein Van Hemert ’09 was named one of 2017’s 40 Under 40 by the Corridor Business Journal.

April Albrecht Golwitzer ’09 is a nurse manager at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. Kirkwood Community College recognized Golwitzer as one of their 13 All Stars of the Creative Corridor honoring her impact in Eastern Iowa’s key industries that bring occupations with shortages to the forefront in an effort to grow talent pipelines.

Shaun Dunston ’10 was accepted to USUHS DNP for Nurse Anesthesia in Bethesda, Maryland. Dunston is currently serving as an O-3/LT in the U.S. Navy.

Makenzie Kimm ’10 is a human resource manager at JMS Transportation Company, Inc., in Cedar Rapids. Kirkwood Community College recognized Kimm as one of their 13 All Stars of the Creative Corridor honoring her impact in Eastern Iowa’s key industries that bring occupations with shortages to the forefront in an effort to grow talent pipelines.

Travis Albertson ’10 and Dixie had a boy, Charlie, born March 13, 2017.

Ashley James Helle ’10 is a doctoral candidate working at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Beth Ripperger ’11 competed in Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge in Los Angeles, featured on the CMT channel.

No stranger to grueling workouts, Ripperger has endured CrossFit for nearly six years at Elite Athletic Development/Crossfit in Arlington Heights, Illinois. At MMU, she ran cross country and played volleyball. And now, she runs marathons and half marathons—in 12 states so far.

“Beth is an incredible person,” says Dennis Dew, Mount Mercy associate professor of psychology. “I am so proud of what she’s accomplished.”

Currently, Ripperger works as a project coordinator in the Office of the Provost at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Candace Friedhoff ’12 and Michael Proudfit ’15 married, Sept. 24, 2016.

Cristie Anderson Timmes ’12 received her MSN/CNL from the University of Iowa and her ACNP from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. She is currently an MSN, RN at Chandler Regional Medical Center in Chandler, Arizona.

Staci Wherry Burken ’12 and Darren had a boy, Wyatt, born May 15, 2017.

Anna Keehn ’12 married Dale Handley, Sept. 24, 2016.

Cory Beatty ’12 married Jenna Lensmeyer, July 1, 2017.

Kenan Kantarevic ’12 married Karly Abel, July 2017.

Adrianna Vargas ’13 recently received the 2016-2017 Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley High School Match of the Year Award.

Jenna Higgins ’13 married Ryan Boll, Sept. 24, 2016.

Jenny Valliere ’13 was crowned Miss Iowa USA.

Born and raised in Marion, Iowa, Amber Hoff ’13 MA wanted to give back to the community she loves so much. That goal led her to Mount Mercy, where she received a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Hoff recently opened Sound Mind Therapy in Marion, providing collaborative therapy to individuals, families, and couples.

“I wanted to follow a career path that allowed me to give back to the city I was raised in,” Hoff says. “I’m passionate about being involved in the community, understanding the overall mental health of the area, and being able to provide resources and education to the public.”

Specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder, Hoff is equipped to assist people with high-stress careers and works as a consultant, helping businesses understand how to improve mental health in the workplace.

“When those tools are in place, employees are able to be more healthy and effective with their families and in the community outside of the workplace,” she says.

Melissa Prier ’13 married Jason Coulter, Aug. 6, 2016.

Chad Underwood ’13 and Lauren had a girl, Lillian, born April 29, 2017.

Denice Richardson ’14 married Eric Dochterman, Oct. 15, 2016.

Naomi Fisher ’15 was promoted to nursing supervisor at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Samantha Wilson ’16 married K.C. Bellach, Sept. 24, 2016.

Haylie Wright Canterbury ’16 and Austin had a boy, Watson, born March 14, 2017.

Amber Nachtman West ’16 and Nathan had a girl, Natalie, born Oct. 18, 2016.

Laura White Kilburg ’16 published her first book, The Wondrous World of Wren and Will, which tells the story about how, when Wren and Will’s dad is diagnosed with ALS, they decide to turn every challenge into a game. Their innocence and ability to see beyond an illness opens the hearts of those around and teaches us the true meaning of life and love.

Erika Dennis ’16 received her Master of Social Work degree from St. Ambrose University.

Leslie Hoffmann ’17 is a graphic designer with JS Products in Las Vegas.

Anne Plotz ’17 started her own business, LifeWorks!, in August. As a speaker, teacher, and coach, she works with communities, businesses, and individuals to embrace experiences on their life’s journey to achieve their highest potential.

Andrew Vaughn ’17 was accepted into University of Iowa’s Professional MBA program.

Janessa Lee Walters ’17 MA won the Linn-Mar Community School District’s 2016–17 Shirley Pantini Award honoring the equity and diversity work of Shirley Pantini, the district’s first equity coordinator.

Walters, a student assistance counselor at Linn-Mar High School who works to prevent dropout, was instrumental in the formation of ALO, a student organization that encourages accountability, leadership, and opportunity among Linn-Mar students.

Katherine Locher Curphy JC ’37

Winifred O’Connell Matejka JC ’47

Betty Wallace Stuckenschneider AC ’51
Patricia Spillane Bilsland AC ’52
Marilyn Jensen Cook RN ’57
Myrna Mertens Ballard JC ’58
Donna Yilek Heaston RN ’59

Mary Misbach Zuber RN ’63
Linda Husak Hosek RN ’69
Paulette Kremer Koontz ’69

Connie Keegan Brace ’71
Shannon Feeney-Hayes ’73
William Ramsden ’73

Christine Grahs Lacy ’81
Loren Stiegelmeyer ’83
Laurie Weiermann ’85
Rita Wall ’89

Michele Wegmann ’12

AC = Academy | CM = Commercial School | JC = Junior College | RN = Mercy Hospital School of Nursing

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