The Very. Rev. James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D., Saint Mary’s University president, was one of eight honorees celebrated for excellence by Synergy & Leadership Exchange and Saint Mary’s at the Character Recognition Awards luncheon on May 16. Father Burns was presented with the 2023 Champion of Character Award. This award was developed by the Synergy & Leadership Exchange to honor individuals for consistently demonstrating positive character as a visible role model. Honorees were recognized in five categories: Minnesota Ethical Leadership Award, Minnesota Promising Practices Award, Catholic Principal Award, Minnesota School of Character and Champion of Character.

Saint Mary’s character initiative, under his leadership, has extended beyond the university itself. Synergy & Leadership Exchange had been looking for a higher education institution partner to collaborate in its character work. In February 2020, Dr. Marvin Berkowitz, director of the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, connected Synergy & Leadership Exchange with Father Burns. This meeting has led to a strong collaboration between Synergy & Leadership Exchange and Saint Mary’s. It is because of Father Burns’s leadership that he was named the 2023 Champion of Character.

The Character Recognition Awards are held each year to spotlight character and ethical leadership development, honor schools and community programs with exemplary efforts, motivate honorees for continued effort and success, and inspire others with examples to replicate. The 2023 event was presented by Synergy & Leadership Exchange, hosted by Saint Mary’s, and sponsored by SPIRE Credit Union and FranklinCovey Education.

Photo caption: Father James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D., with Dr. Matt Hillmann, Northfield Schools superintendent, and Wanda Sommers Wall, Synergy & Leadership Exchange executive director.

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