MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota announced today that Mary Jo Copeland, founder and director of Sharing and Caring Hands, will receive the Hendrickson Medal for Ethical Leadership. 

Mary Jo Copeland is often referred to as ”America’s Mother Teresa.” She is undoubtedly a guardian angel to the many thousand homeless and working poor who cross her threshold at Sharing and Caring Hands each month. 

The Minnesota native founded Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis in 1985 with a goal of serving those in need and showing them unconditional love by providing for their needs. The organization now provides clothing and food to 300 to 500 poor and marginalized people daily. Next door, she operates Mary’s Place, emergency shelter and transitional housing for homeless families with children. These 100 fully furnished apartments give hope, peace, safety, and stability to all who occupy them.

Copeland has a long commitment to helping the inner-city poor and less fortunate in our society. Her work provides an outstanding example of how we all can make a life-changing difference in the lives of others through volunteering and commitment. Copeland’s work has been recognized in Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, People, and New York Times Magazine. Copeland also was named one of the most caring people in America by the Caring Institute of Washington, D.C., and she received the Norman Vincent Peale Unsung Hero Award, the David Prues Outstanding Leadership Award, the Pax Christi Award, and the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama.

“Because of Mary Jo Copeland’s caring heart and unwavering dedication to the underserved, thousands of individuals and families not only receive food, clothing, shelter, and financial help, they also are shown compassion and are reaffirmed of their self worth,” said Brother Robert Smith, FSC, Ph.D., senior vice president of university initiatives and special advisor to the president and executive director of the Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership. “Mary Jo Copeland serves as an exemplary model of selfless service to us all, and we are honored to recognize her work at this year’s Hendrickson Forum.”

Recipients of the Hendrickson Medal for Ethical Leadership have made significant contributions to the Twin Cities community and exhibit ethical leadership that is globally oriented, innovative, and creative. Further, recipients advocate for engaged  citizenship that significantly improves the lives of others’ appreciation for diverse ideas and perspectives. Past medal recipients include Mary Jane Melendez of General Mills; Brad Hewitt of Thrivent Financial; Rhoda Olsen of Great Clips; Inge Thulin of 3M; Mary Brainerd of HealthPartners; Tony Sanneh of the Sanneh Foundation; and the Honorable Alan Page, former Minnesota Viking and retired State Supreme Court Justice.

This year’s Hendrickson Forum will include the keynote address “Eliminating our Blind Spots: Finding the Road to Happiness” with Jon Clifton, best-selling author and CEO of the Gallup Organization, the global analytics and advisory firm. 


The Hendrickson Forum

Once a year, during the Hendrickson Forum, Saint Mary’s brings an internationally recognized speaker to its Minneapolis Campus to engage Saint Mary’s faculty, staff,  students and alumni, as well as the wider community, in timely and important conversations.

This year’s event will be held Wednesday, April 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with check-in and networking beginning at 11 a.m. at the Saint Mary’s University Center at 2540 Park Ave. in Minneapolis. The event is open to the public and general admission tickets are $75 per person, which includes lunch. Advance registration is required. More information and online registration are available, starting Feb. 14, at smumn.edu/hendricksonforum.

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