Franciscan hands out the honors
STEUBENVILLE — Seven Franciscan University of Steubenville alumni were honored Friday at the 13th-annual alumni awards banquet.
The event each year recognizes the professional achievements of the selected alumni and their service to the church, university and society.
This year’s honorees are Christopher Baglow, Matthew Beckman, Ann Conant, Michele Faehnle, Emily Jaminet, Joshua McCaig and Robert Reynolds.
Baglow, Class of 1990, received the Dr. John J. Carrigg Award. He is the director of the Science and Religion Initiative of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.
By the year 2000, he had master’s and doctorate degrees and would spend the next 18 years teaching, first at St. Joseph Seminary College, then at Our Lady of Holy Cross College and then at Notre Dame Seminary. He also began working with McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, Ala., to develop a theology curriculum that showed the compatibility between faith and science. That curriculum eventually became a textbook, “Faith, Science, Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge.” It also led to a Templeton Foundation grant that enabled him to run seminars for Catholic high school teachers on the subject.
“I realized that (Franciscan University) was the ideal environment for me to grow closer to God,” he said. “My own classroom religious education had not been very inspiring, so I came without high expectations,” he said. “But then I took Foundations of Catholicism with Father Giles Dimock. It was the first time anyone had explained the Catholic faith to me in a profound and compelling way.”
Beckman, Class of 1986, the Father Dan Egan Award recipient, is a senior scientist and lab manager at GENETWORx
At Franciscan, Beckman majored in biology.
After graduation, Beckman returned to his native Iowa, where he earned his doctorate in nutritional physiology, with an emphasis in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, at Iowa State University. He also led research in bone biology and regeneration at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I loved academic work, but it was all-encompassing,” he explains. “It was hard to stay as competitive as you need to be. I was doing grant writing all the time and missing a lot of time with my family. I have five kids, three older and two younger. I missed time with the three older ones and wanted to change the dynamic for the younger two. So, I took a gamble and ventured out into a new career path.”
He became the senior scientist and lab manager at GENETWORx, a molecular diagnostics testing facility that translates the latest scientific findings about the human genome into “actionable knowledge” for patients and doctors, enabling health care practitioners to provide targeted therapy to patients based on their individual genetic profile.
Conant, a 2012 graduate, receiving the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, works as special assistant to the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C. She previously worked in the White House as an assistant to the deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council.
She attended a local community college in New Jersey, and after visiting her sister on the Franciscan campus multiple times, Conant decided the university was the place for her as well.
Conant joined the College Republicans on campus, becoming the president by her second semester, and started taking political science courses. After graduation, he got a call from a friend, inviting her to campaign for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election campaign.
She then took a job at the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.
Conant went to work the Heritage Foundation, becoming executive assistant to its vice president for economic policy, Paul Winfrey.
When President Donald Trump named Winfrey deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, Conant went with him to the West Wing. Conant then took a job at the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, and more recently, became special assistant to the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“I’ve worked with great people,” she said. “People never believe me when I say that, but it’s true. It’s inspiring to work with people who are passionate about what they believe, whether that’s the pro-life cause or federal budget policy.”
Faehnle, Class of 1999, and Jaminet, Class of 1998, recipients of the Bishop John King Mussio Award, are co-authors of two books for Catholic women: “Divine Mercy for Moms” and “The Friendship Project: The Catholic Women’s Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous Friends.”
Jaminet studied mental health and human services, while Faehnle was in the nursing program. Both joined the Mother of Love Household, and through that shared life, their friendship grew.
During early years of marriage and parenthood, they became best friends as they worked together to help local Columbus apostolates. That included serving on the board of a post-abortive healing ministry, starting small faith-sharing groups for women and serving on the board of the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference.
In 2015, an editor from Ave Maria Press approached Faehnle about writing a book for mothers. She told the editor she was too busy and suggested asking Jaminet instead. The editor, in turn, suggested Jaminet and Faehnle write the book together.
“Becoming a mom at a young age was a lonely experience for me,” explains Jaminet. ” … I needed to find a core group of Catholic friends. I found that with Michele, but so many women don’t have that kind of group and struggle in similar ways.
“We also have such strong and growing divisions in our culture,” she continues. “But, as we’ve seen with the women’s conference, there is so much we can unify under. When women come together in friendship and experience the sacraments together, their friendship can become a source of strength and renewal,” she said.
Both women have begun speaking together and individually at women’s retreats and conferences across the country. Jaminet works as a school nurse, and Faehnle serves as media and evangelization coordinator for the Sacred Heart Enthronement Network.
McCaig, Class of 1997, Alumni Citizenship Award recipient, is the founder of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City and was the founding president of the Catholic Bar Association, the first national organization for Catholic legal professionals.
He was a triple major in biology, theology and philosophy at the university. He received his master’s degree in physiology and then become a member of the inaugural class of Ave Maria School of Law.
In 2006, he moved to Kansas City and founded the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City. Years later he became the founding president of the Catholic Bar Association, the first national organization of Catholic legal professionals.
He is a shareholder at the Polsinelli law firm, one of the 100 largest law firms in the country, and serves as outside general counsel for various organizations and religious entities.
McCaig credits Franciscan for “providing me with a vision for being on mission as a disciple of Christ. So, even during the dark times when I have doubts and fears, when there are challenges that seem insurmountable, I have this vision planted so long ago, that calls me on to serve others, to be the best husband and father I can be, and to let God work through me.”
Reynolds, Class of 2004, received the Professor Edward J. Kelly Award. He began investing in real estate as a way to supplement his income. He and his brother founded Avesta, a real estate investment company that focuses on building apartment communities, which was ranked No. 19 nationally as a Fortune Top 100 Medium-Sized Workplace in 2017.
Reynolds, while on campus, said he discovered he shared the same values and beliefs as the other students did.
“For the longest time, I didn’t think anyone shared those things with me, so it took me a while to believe it at first.”
A move to Connecticut found Reynolds teaching high school biology, chemistry and psychology in New York. A year into teaching, Reynolds began investing in real estate with his brother, Peter, hoping to supplement his income.
“In the beginning, I thought I was a bad businessman because I wanted to treat people like people,” Reynolds says. “But as time went on, I realized that’s a better way to do business. Franciscan focused me on a long-term path to success,” he said.