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Saint Mary’s University will welcome more than 300 alumni, family, and friends back to the Winona Campus June 21-23 for Reunion Weekend. This year, the Class of 1974 will be celebrating its 50th reunion, alumni from 1973 and older are invited to an alma mater banquet, and a special Veteran’s Ceremony will also be held during the weekend’s activities.

A highlight of Reunion Weekend every year includes the alumni awards, where Saint Mary’s honors alumni that have made outstanding achievements in their professional careers, who best exemplify the Lasallian charism Saint Mary’s was founded upon, and who have generously contributed time and talent to the goals and objectives of their alma mater. 

This year’s awardees include: Distinguished Alumna Award recipient Candace “Candi” (Langan) Lynch B’83 of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Lasallian Service Award recipient Thomas “Tom” J. Evon B’76 of Schaumburg, Illinois; and Outstanding Young Alumnus Santiago J. Escobar B’12 of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

 

Santiago J. Escobar B’12
Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Attending Saint Mary’s was life changing for Santiago J. Escobar B’12. The entire experience and community prepared him for what was to come next. Beyond academics, he enjoyed many campus activities and service opportunities. However, one activity quickly rose to the top of his list: Ultimate Frisbee.

Combining his love for Ultimate Frisbee and his degree in International Business, Spanish, and Sport Management. Escobar became involved with the management side of the sport after graduation. He took a regional director role with USA Ultimate, and also became an event organizer and/or volunteer for local, regional, and national events, as well as international competitions in Italy and Denmark. Within months of graduating, he pushed the expansion of an Ultimate Frisbee professional league by earning territory rights and becoming the founder of the Minnesota franchise. Escobar became the youngest owner of a professional sports franchise, and with involvement and support from many Saint Mary’s classmates and alumni, he built the organization from the ground up, managing all business operations, competition aspects, and game-day events during its first five seasons.

Simultaneously, Escobar earned a master’s degree and worked as a program manager at Scholarship America, where he could connect students with academic scholarship opportunities.

In 2016, Santiago accepted a role at Thrivent, a Fortune 500 financial services organization. He is now part of the business operations team for a societal impact program with a national footprint that closely aligns with his values. While at Thrivent, he continues to volunteer with organizations like BestPrep. His own experiences as a student have driven his continued involvement and support of educational organizations so others can have similar and better opportunities. His volunteer work was recognized with the 2022 BestPrep Service Award. He also enjoys volunteering with Saint Mary’s, especially with events that involve student development.

Thanks to Saint Mary’s, great memories were made, and doors were opened. However, the best part was attending alongside his brother (Luis Escobar B’12), and meeting the love of his life, Kelly (Wagner) Escobar B’11. Santiago and Kelly currently live in the Twin Cities with their son, Jacob.

 

Candace ‘Candi’ (Langan) Lynch B’83
Distinguished Alumna Award

Candace “Candi” (Langan) Lynch B’83 is a recently retired lifelong educator whose passion revolved around working with populations of students and families who were deemed difficult by most.  Her educational philosophy always focused on school culture and climate and the belief that all students, families, and staff deserved to feel seen, heard, and feel that they matter as a valued member of the learning community.  

Throughout her 33-year career, she held a variety of roles. She worked as a classroom teacher and elementary school counselor for 18 years. She then moved into a role at the District level as an Elementary Student Services facilitator. In that position, she coordinated the work of the 24 elementary counselors, oversaw 504 compliance, was directly involved in District Bullying / Harassment policy and staff development, and worked collaboratively to assure that supports were in place to ensure learning for all students through the Social Emotional Behavioral curriculum and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports at all elementary schools. 

In 2013, she became the principal of Johnson School of the Arts, which was designated by the state as a school in need of assistance due to high staff turnover, multiple principals in a short period of time, high absenteeism rate, and low achievement scores. The school was designated by the district as a Turnaround School, and during her time as a principal there, Johnson reopened as the first Magnet School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was renamed as Johnson STEAM Academy.  

During her eight years as principal, significant changes took place due to her ability to work with multiple stakeholders and her collaborative leadership skills.

Under her leadership, Johnson STEAM Academy became certified as a Magnet School with the national Magnet Schools of America organization. In addition, they received a Merit Award from Magnet Schools of America for innovative practices. This was followed by national recognition as a demonstration magnet school, exceeding criteria. Johnson STEAM Academy was highlighted in a national case study by Successful Practices Network (SPN) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, as one of 25 national Innovative Successful Practice schools. In 2019, Lynch was named as Iowa Elementary Principal of the Year and as a National Distinguished Principal representing the state of Iowa.

 

ThomasTom’ J. Evon B’76
Lasallian Service Award

Thomas “Tom” J. Evon B’76 is a product of an all-Catholic school education, having attended St. Giles Elementary and Fenwick High School, both in Oak Park, Ill., before coming to Saint Mary’s to major in Business Administration. With the help of his two brothers, he took over a small family packaging business and continued to build it over the years.  In addition to his work, Evon has continued to give back to the Church and the Catholic Schools who helped to shape him. 

He’s been an active member at Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumburg, Ill. His most meaningful role was serving as chairman of the annual Family Fest, a five-day carnival with food and music, for over 30 years. It was the largest fundraiser for the parish, but more importantly, it was a wonderful bonding event for his faith community. He also is currently involved with Help Hope Live; Fenwick High School; San Marco Church, Marco Island, Fla.; St. Matthew’s House, Naples, Fla.; and St. Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington, Ill., as well as Saint Mary’s. Many of his closest friends today are from his three schools — with ties all the way back to kindergarten. He’s a loving husband to Monica (Herriges) Evon B’77; father to Kate, Paul ’03, and Mary; and grandfather of eight. He brings his faith and Lasallian sense of service to every day of his life.

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