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