Madonna University News

  • Carls Foundation

Madonna’s Deaf Family Literacy Program Receives Carls Foundation Grant for Summer Retreat

May 20, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. – Deaf children and their hearing family members will learn how to better communicate with each other thanks to a $25,000 grant from The Carl’s Foundation to support Madonna University’s Deaf Family Literacy program.

The grant, presented to Madonna President Sister Rose Marie Kujawa last week, will cover the cost for families in the Deaf Family Literacy Program to participate in a week-long intensive educational retreat this summer, as well as some staffing, training, travel, supplies and technology costs.

The 38-week, in-home Deaf Family Literacy Program, which involves mentors teaching sign language and literacy skills to hearing parents and Deaf children in about a dozen families, has received support from Madonna University and additional grants.

Most Deaf and hard-of-hearing children have hearing parents, and because of the communication barrier, deaf children often have language delays and enter school with limited reading ability. The Deaf Family Literacy program, developed by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, includes parent education, social/community events and classes, and weekly home visits.

In addition to learning sign language, the program focuses on strategies to help families facilitate reading skill development so children can be successful in school and beyond. Families with Deaf parents and either hearing or Deaf children also can benefit from the program.

Daniel McDougall, chair of Sign Language Studies at Madonna, said the program had a waiting list before they could even advertise it. “It’s going to make a huge difference for children,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure parents and siblings can communicate around the dinner table.”

Madonna University established its Sign Language Studies (SLS) program in 1975 and, with its commitment to providing interpreters as needed, enrolled a significant Deaf student population within a few years. Today, the program remains the only bachelor’s degree program in SLS in Michigan, and the University is seen as a regional center for Deaf activity.

The Carls Foundation,, supports children’s health care facilities and programs, with emphasis on prevention and treatment of hearing impairment; and recreational, educational and welfare programs for children, especially those disadvantaged for economic and/or health reasons. It also supports preservation of natural areas, open space, historic buildings, and areas with natural beauty or significance in America’s heritage, through assistance to land trusts, land conservancies and environmental educational programs.

Born in Germany, the foundation’s namesake, Bill Carls immigrated to the Unites States in 1924 at age 21. He became a U.S. citizen and worked in industrial trades before starting Numatics, Inc., in his garage in 1945, to manufacture industrial air valves. He established the William and Marie Carls Foundation with his wife in 1961, as a way to return benefits to his community and country, and as an expression of his appreciation for the opportunities America afforded him.

Photo Cutline: The Carls Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Stieg, (seated center) delivered the grant to Madonna University and those involved in the Deaf Family Literacy Program joined her for this photo. Seated with Stieg are Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, Madonna president, and Andrea Nodge, vice president for advancement. Standing from left: Debbie Mitre-Smith, SLS faculty member, Ernest Nolan, provost and vice president for academic administration, Kathy Stenman, The Carls Foundation program officer, and Dan McDougall, director of Madonna’s SLS program.


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  • Merit Award

Madonna University Earns Technology Award from Merit Network

May 20, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. – Madonna University has been recognized for its leadership in technology with a 2015 Merit Award.

Madonna was selected for a Meritorious Service Award for supporting the Merit Cloud Media Service through testimonials and presentations on Cloud Media and at Merit events. Madonna’s Technology Learning Services Department and Sign Language Studies faculty members use Cloud Media service to aid in the delivery of sign language courses; an example of the benefits of video in online and distance learning.

Carol Hall, chief information technology officer, accepted this award on behalf of Madonna University at the Merit Member Conference last week. Recipients are nominated by their peers and selected for their outstanding contributions to the Merit community.

"It is great to honor these individuals who have contributed to the growth of their organization and the Merit Community." said Elwood Downing, vice president of membership outreach and engagement for Merit Network. "Merit seeks to identify and support organizations and individuals that help enhance networking, technology and collaboration. The awards program brings recognition to organizations and individuals that are particularly accomplished in this way, both to honor their achievements and to serve as an example and inspiration for others."

Merit Network Inc.,, is a nonprofit corporation owned and governed by Michigan's public universities. Merit owns and operates America's longest-running regional research and education network. In 1966, Michigan's public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained on the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan's public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.

Pictured with the 2015 Merit Award L-R Standing: Elena Qureshi, Carol Hall, Pat Derry, Janet Higgins, Dan Boyd, Sue Boyd. Seated: Beth Hoffman and Dan McDougall.

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  • Retirees May 2015

Retiring Madonna Faculty Honored and Emeriti Named

May 19, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. – Madonna University recently honored nine retiring professors, representing more than 157 years of cumulative service to the university, and five professors were given emeriti status.

These individuals have gone above and beyond the call of duty in order to teach, mentor, and support students and promote their learning," said Ernest Nolan, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic administration. "Their legacy will live on in the many programs and projects that they helped to establish."

The five professor emeriti and their academic specialties: Lorraine Jakubielski (education), Laurie Kaufman (education), Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, Kathleen O’Dowd (English), Teresa Thompson (nursing), Rick Benedict (education- not pictured)

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  • Graduation 2015

Madonna University to Hold Sixty-eighth Commencement

May 8, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. – This Mother’s Day, hundreds of moms will receive a special gift as their son or daughter graduates from Madonna University. Some 1,200 graduates will join the Madonna University alumni ranks during the sixty-eighth commencement, Sunday, May 10, 1:30 p.m., at USA Hockey Arena (formerly Compuware Arena), in Plymouth. Among this group will be 10 of the 12 graduates of Madonna’s business leadership program in Haiti, and five graduates of Madonna’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program. A little over 900 students will receive a bachelor’s or associate degree, and nearly 300 students will earn master’s degrees.

One very special graduate, Donald Owens, of Detroit, will receive a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice (CJ), and a minor in fire science. When he walks across the stage to collect his diploma, he not only will showcase his own hard work and determination: he also will highlight the collective efforts of mentors who worked beside him along the way.

As the first graduate of Madonna’s Bridging Lost Gaps (BLG) program, aimed at helping prepare young African American males from Detroit for college and life after graduation, Owens has made the journey of a lifetime in just four years.

Born into a family of eight children to parents experiencing both drug abuse and incarceration; Owens is the first to attend and graduate from college; something he didn’t think was possible. He said he chose criminal justice as his major, because he wants to give back. “Madonna changed my life,” Owens said. “From the people in the BLG program, to my professors, to the women in the College of Education where I worked — they all wanted to see me succeed.”

In addition to the conferral of graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificates, honorary doctoral degrees will be bestowed upon: Leonard Charles Suchyta, immediate past Board Chair, and The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The Distinguished Alumna Award will be presented to Beatrice Czenkusz of Warren. (biographical information listed below)

Presiding over the commencement ceremony will be Madonna University Provost and Vice President for Academic Administration Ernest Nolan. The invocation will be given by Marjorie Checkoway, professor, director of Graduate Educational Leadership Program. The National Anthem will be sung by Hannah Sabol, a graduating general music major, and interpreted by sign language studies grads Jamie Hanik, Emily Holder, Rachael Kallis, Brigid Loar, Emma Massman, Liz Schoen, Matt Small, Adam Stempin, Molly Strickler, and Marissa Winn. The mace bearer will be Phillip Olla, business professor and director of the Center for Research.

All graduates and their families are invited to attend the Graduation Mass, Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m. at the Felician Sisters Central Chapel, located at 36800 Schoolcraft Road, in Livonia. Monsignor John Zenz, pastor Holy Name Parish in Birmingham, will serve as the celebrant. A reception hosted by Madonna University President Sr. Rose Marie Kujawa, will be held in the University Center Dining Room immediately following the Mass.

Biographical information for the Madonna University commencement honorees.

Leonard Charles Suchyta
Doctor of Humanities
Born in Detroit, the older of two boys, Leonard Charles Suchyta attended St. John Cantius School, with classmate Sister Rose Marie Kujawa. He went on to Orchard Lake St. Mary's Preparatory. His connection to the Felician Sisters involves more than just being taught by them. Sister M. Danatha Suchyta, former president of Madonna University, is his cousin, and he made frequent trips with his family to visit her at the Central Convent in Livonia.

The first in his family to attend college, he pursued electrical engineering because his roommate did. In his last semester, during a brief conversation with his dentist, Suchyta admitted he didn't like engineering, and discovered he had a real passion for law. After earning his bachelor's degree in engineering, he stayed at the University of Detroit to study law. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1968 and has been practicing law ever since. In 1974, he completed a master's in corporate taxation at Wayne State University.

Currently, as special counsel for Hunton & Williams in Washington D.C., Suchyta focuses on patent litigation and the acquisition, protection, management, monetization and licensing of intellectual property. "After 47 years, I am still as taken by the law, as when I first started as a young lawyer. I'm blessed to do what I love, so why would I retire," Suchyta said.

Suchyta has served as vice president and associate general counsel of Verizon's award-winning intellectual property department. He held similar positions at GTE, Bellcore, and Data General, in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas.

In the early 2000s, shortly after Sister Rose Marie became president, Suchyta asked her if he could help in any way. He was appointed as a trustee in 2008 and served as Board Chair from 2012-2014. Most recently, he led the search committee for Madonna's new president. Since then he has made a generous gift to the University. "Who and what I am is due in large part to the Felician Sisters, and my way of repaying my debt is by supporting and working for Madonna University," said Suchyta.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron
Doctor of Pastoral Theology

While Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron was born in Mount Clemens in 1948, he and his family were members of Immaculate Conception Parish, in nearby Anchorville. He attended Immaculate Conception Grade School before going on to Detroit's Sacred Heart Seminary High School and College. Later, he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and he earned a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Prior to being named Bishop of Oakland, California, in 2003, Archbishop Vigneron served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit. His background includes assignments as rector/president of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, work in the administrative section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and service as associate pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, in Harper Woods.

Archbishop Vigneron was installed as the fifth archbishop of Detroit, Jan. 28, 2009, at Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. That same year, he was elected President of the Board of Directors of the Catholic University of America. He will conclude his second and final term in June 2015. Pope Benedict XVI, presented him with the woolen Pallium, June 29, 2009; the white, narrow, circular band is a symbol of an archbishop's unique ties to the vicar of Christ in Rome and to his own flock of parishioners back home. Late last year, Archbishop Vigneron was elected Chair of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine.

A strong supporter of higher education in general, and of Madonna University specifically, Archbishop Vigneron participated in the blessing and dedication of the Franciscan Center in 2009, celebrated the 75th Anniversary Jubilee Mass in 2012, and he has officiated at numerous Graduation Masses over the years.

Beatrice C. Czenkusz
Distinguished Alumna Award

One of seven lay women in Madonna’s Class of 1956, Beatrice Czenkusz was a history major, and social science/elementary curriculum minor. She lived in the residence hall and served as student council secretary and editor of the school paper. She jokes about not being athletically-inclined, yet she relishes earning the title of Madonna Ping Pong Champion!

With a small scholarship, help from her parents and money she raised working during the summer, Czenkusz was able to complete her degree and become a teacher. Years later she established an endowed scholarship at Madonna, in honor of her parents, to help students in similar financial situations to hers.

Immediately after graduation she worked part-time at Madonna for a couple years, assisting with public relations. Beatrice then found her calling teaching first graders, which she did for 43 years; in Clarenceville Public Schools the first two years, and 41 years in Centerline Public Schools in Warren. Her passion for teaching garnered her many accolades, including Elementary Teacher of the Year.

Beatrice’s love for Madonna compelled her to invest her time to help rewrite curriculum, establish a future teachers club and serve on committees where her expertise and leadership were needed. She fondly attributes her excellent grammar and writing skills to Sister Tulia’s tutelage.

She completed her Ph.D. in history at the University of Detroit, and briefly taught at a community college, but found it impersonal and uninteresting, so she focused her efforts solely on elementary education.

Czenkusz goes where the Lord needs her which has included helping with the merger of Saints Sylvester and Faustina parishes. She shares her time, treasures and talents to do good for others. She spends a good deal of time with her sister, nieces and nephews, imparting the Franciscan values she holds dear. “The life I have would not have been possible without Madonna University, and I thank God for that each day,” she said