Alumni Award winners honored during annual “State of UP” presentation by University of Portland president, Holy Cross Father William Beauchamp.
University of Portland
The 2014 Alumni Awards were presented today at the annual “State of UP” talk given by University of Portland president, Holy Cross Father William Beauchamp. The venue was a sold-out luncheon at the Multnomah Athletic Club.
Last year, Father Beauchamp announced he is stepping down as president at the end of the 2013-14 academic year. President-elect, Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman, will succeed Father Beauchamp.
Father Beauchamp spent much of his presentation reflecting on the university’s achievements over the past decade. He stressed that those accomplishments were made possible through the dedication of many talented individuals, including UP faculty, alumni, donors and staff.
This year’s Alumni Award winners are Clara Bickford Halvorson '48, recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award; Joe Womac '00, recipient of the Rev. Thomas Oddo, C.S.C. Outstanding Service Award; Rachel Prusynski '09, recipient of the Contemporary Alumni Award; and senior Gilbert Resendez '14, recipient of the Thomas A. Gerhardt '55 Memorial Award for Student Leadership.
Halvorson has dedicated her life to caring for others — as a nurse, mother of nine children and a community volunteer. Halvorson was an early graduate of the School of Nursing and was one of eight women on the UP campus in 1948. After graduating from the School of Nursing, Halvorson became an assistant nursing arts instructor at the university and St. Vincent Hospital. Her career also includes work as a private duty nursing in Salem and a doctor’s assistant for a private practice in Portland. She raised nine children with her late husband Omar '48, a previous alumni award winner, and currently has 14 grandchildren. Halvorson remains involved with the University as a President’s Club donor and a member of the Schulte Society.
Womac has worked to support Catholic education. In 2013, he joined the Specialty Family Foundation as executive director. From 2004-'13, he served as executive director of the Fulcrum Foundation, which raised more than $65 million in strategic support for 73 Catholic schools in the Seattle area. While at the Fulcrum Foundation, Womac led an effort that paid for more than 12,000 low income students to attend inner-city and rural Catholic schools, and he implemented innovative programs that led to some inner-city school enrollments doubling in less than a year. During his time at Fulcrum, not a single Catholic school closed in Seattle, and five Catholic schools opened. In recognition of these counter-trend results, the White House honored him in 2012 as one of nine national “Champions of Change” in Catholic Education. He is also the recipient of the University of Notre Dame’s Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic education, and the NCEA’s Presidential Award.
Since giving the valedictorian address to the Class of 2009, Prusynski has devoted her life to her physical therapy education, the service of orphans (especially in Haiti), and providing opportunities for students to attend the University of Portland. She founded and chairs a new board for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), the organization she volunteers with in Haiti. She has returned to Haiti four times after the earthquake in 2010, when she was injured and her friend, (2010 Contemporary Alumni Award honoree) Molly Hightower was killed. During each visit she helps train physical therapy technicians at the hospital operated by NPH. Prusynski sought out, identified, and trained the first University of Portland Molly Hightower Memorial scholar from Haiti, Jean Francois Seide, and continues to support him through his time on The Bluff. Although Prusynski had just graduated with her doctorate of physical therapy in May 2012, she presented at the World Congress of NeuroRehabilitation in Australia that summer.
Resendez has been a pillar at the University of Portland since arriving on The Bluff in 2010. From being an athletics game management assistant to a Pamplin School of Business student associate, Resendez is involved in almost every aspect of campus life. He is an entrepreneurship and innovation management major and is also receiving his minor in communication. In his four years, he has served as a both a Senator and ADvantage Director for the Associated Students of the University of Portland, a Service and Justice Coordinator for the Moreau Center for Service and Leadership, and Summer Housing Coordinator for the Office of Residence Life. He was honored by ASUP as the 2011-2012 Committee Chair of the Year. Resendez also serves the St. Johns and North Portland communities as a Portland After School Tennis and Education Volunteer Coach. Most recently, in conjunction with his Pamplin School of Business capstone project, Gilbert has been working with local non-profit Red Sea Church.