Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Gerhardt Student Award

The Thomas A. Gerhardt '55 Memorial Award for Student Leadership honors a member of the most recent graduating class for his or her leadership as an undergraduate and dedication to the University and the community through service to God and neighbor. It began in 1960 as the Award for Student Leadership and was renamed in 1964 upon the death of Gerhardt, the beloved eighth president of the Associated Students of the University of Portland.

Recent Gerhardt Award Recipients

2018 - Tsikata Apenyo ’18

Tsikata Apenyo was born in Ghana and because his father worked for the Department of Defense, spent his childhood moving throughout the U.S. until his family settled in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He is a native speaker of Ewe, has complete proficiency in English, and has a working proficiency in four other languages – Twi, Akan, Fanti and Ga. Apenyo excelled academically at UP, graduating in May with honors as a biology major and chemistry minor. During his freshman year, he helped on a research project with mathematics professor Hannah Highlander, creating a system that models the spread of interpersonal violence and also predicts the most efficient means of prevention. Among his service projects, Apenyo helped coordinate clothing drives to help the homeless in Portland, and after becoming certified in ASIST suicide prevention training, volunteered for the Lines For Life substance abuse and suicide prevention hotline. He was a four-year member of UP’s Army ROTC program, was president of Schoenfeldt Residence Hall, represented the College of Arts and Sciences as an ASUP senator, and served as vice president of ASUP during his junior year. He plans to become a physician, but will spend the next year teaching English to students in Taiwan as a recipient of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program English Teaching Assistantship award.

2017 - Valerie Smith '17

University of Portland nursing graduate Valerie has consistently put her faith into action, bending her energy toward service to those in need. Providing assistance to others became her life goal while she was working as a high school page for United States Senator Dianne Feinstein. This call to serve led Valerie to study nursing at UP where she has excelled academically, co-authoring a paper about the liturgical aspects of mercy with professor David Turnbloom. In her call to serve, Valerie co-founded and led the UP Campus Lions Club which has organized food drives for the Oregon Food Bank and a clothing drive for low income patients at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital among other efforts. Valerie has also focused much of her energy toward combating sexual assault on campus. In support of that effort, she has worked as a peer educator at UP’s Health and Counseling Center and assisted professor Lauretta Frederking in designing stickers listing sexual assault resources at UP. Valerie also helped plan the campus viewing of The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assaults on college campuses. And in collaboration with Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C., she helped create a Take Back the Night event, allowing students a forum to offer support for each other and to voice their concerns about sexual assault. Valerie has been a Faith and Fellowship guest writer for The Beacon. And she has put her faith into practice by volunteering with the parish nursing ministry at her home church where she created an end-of-life planning workshop. Valerie brought her workshop presentation to professor Barbara Braband, and together they created a classroom simulation that provided UP nursing students with the opportunity to practice end-of-life discussions. Valerie hopes to continue her studies in order to become a nurse practitioner, and to work in public health advocacy.

2016 - Shelley West '16

Nursing major Shelley West, a native of Dayton, Ohio, is an entertaining and energetic young woman who has been a volunteer and leader since her very first shy days “when I was a freshman grasping at spiritual straws,” she says. Telephone Outreach Program caller (and supervisor of student callers), Student Nurses’ Association activities coordinator, nursing lab tutor, campus ministry volunteer, Moreau Center service coordinator, and volunteer for the Native American Youth and Family Center. Even as she studied abroad in Fremantle, Australia, she volunteered with the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Center, which ministers to maritime workers. Back on The Bluff, she also managed to find time to play on the campus ultimate Frisbee team, minor in social justice, and “has never lost an eating competition,” as she says cheerfully. “I’ve learned so much through service,” she says. “Putting love to action gave me a glimpse of the humility, purpose, and challenge of a life dedicated to others through Christ’s example…. service has allowed me to recognize my joy and passion and purpose, to forge relationships and understanding across cultural lines. To me, service is a lifestyle.”

2015 - Nicholas MacKinnon '15

Nicholas MacKinnon, of the class of 2015, is energetic and creative, funny and bright, kind and generous. Nick is a mechanical engineering major who has immersed himself in an array of opportunities. He’s an Air Force cadet, and a volunteer in the University’s Green Dot program, which aims to combat interpersonal violence. Nick is also an Encounter with Christ Coordinator and Eucharistic minister, a leader in Campus Ministry’s RCIA programs, and a volunteer at local homeless shelters and in Haiti. Nick astutely says that he has “come to learn that there are so many vulnerable people in the world, people who cannot defend themselves. But we all can protect and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.” Nick begins training as an Air Force pilot in May; he will also continue work on the medical technology company he founded with fellow engineering students.

2014 - Gilbert Resendez '14

California native Gilbert Resendez, a self-described “mass communication, advertising, media, journalism, business nerd” who dreams of running his own ad agency someday has been a whirlwind of activity since arriving on The Bluff. Pilot game management assistant, student senator, service coordinator for the Moreau Center, summer housing coordinator, Christie Hall sacristan, academic peer advisor, and volunteer tennis coach in St. Johns; in addition to his business and entrepreneurship major and communication studies minor. His business capstone project gives a hint of his future career, perhaps: he has been helping a local church with market research and customer analysis. “Service and leadership are married at the University,” he says. “One cannot exist without the other. As regent Kay Toran ’64 has taught me, genuine service is leadership.”

2013 - Noelle Niedo '13

Tom Gerhardt, president of the student body as a senior on The Bluff, was a remarkable young man – popular, talented, funny, brave, and brilliant. An Air Force veteran, he had just seen his business career blossom when he died suddenly, far too young, leaving a young widow and son. But it says something powerful and crucial about the University that we remember him annually to this day with this award – an honor presented annually to a senior on The Bluff who, like Tom, is energetic and creative, funny and bright, kind and generous. So we are especially delighted to honor Noelle Niedo this year, because the list of her creative service efforts is as long as your arm: our student International Club, the International Student Services office, Saint Andre Bessette Parish downtown, World Youth Day in Brazil and Spain, our chapel handbell choir, our weekly prayer group, and a volunteer in pediatric and physical therapy units at a local hospital. And all this is in addition to her academic feats – she plans to attend medical school and eventually return to her native Samoa as a doctor. We are delighted, as a University community, to honor a young woman who has taken the University’s mission, and Tom Gerhardt’s spirit, totally to heart.

2012 - Kailey Sparks '12

We are especially delighted to honor Kailey Sparks because she is a perfect example of a student who poured herself into the endless possibilities of University education. Majoring in nursing and Spanish, serving as an RA in Mehling Hall, studying abroad in Spain, service coordinator for the Moreau Center, spiritual retreat leader, Eucharistic minister at Mass, volunteer at Saint Andre Bessette Parish and Habitat for Humanity — is there anything Kailey did not do in her four years on The Bluff? And off she goes in May to be a nurse, and eventually, she hopes, to earn her nursing doctorate and work in South America. We salute and celebrate a young woman who took this University’s service and spiritual ethic utterly to heart, and we say with confidence that here is a graduate of whom Tom Gerhardt would be proud — and there may be no greater compliment than that.

2011 - Katie Scally ’11

The list of Katie Scally's creative service efforts is as long as your arm: student body vice president, creator of the Northwest college student leaders summit, Student Advisory Council member, volunteer in Nicaragua, mentor for freshmen students, Special Olympics coach, intern for California state government, and now headed to postgraduate service either in City Hall in San Francisco or in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. The fact is that Katie Scally, much like the late Tom Gerhardt, took this University’s service ethic utterly to heart, poured herself into creative ways to serve the Christ in every heart, and is a student of whom Tom Gerhardt would be enormously proud – and there may be no greater compliment than that.

2010 - Alyssa Schmidt-Carr '10

Alyssa Schmidt-Carr is an officer in student government, and we have been hugely impressed with the way she is admired and respected by her peers, the way she poured herself endlessly into projects big and small, the way she created new energies like the Black Student Union and the Martin Luther King Day of Service, the way she never stopped listening to hearts and souls young and old. As she sails off to a career as a doctor, we salute and celebrate a young woman who took this University’s service ethic utterly to heart, and we say with absolute confidence that here is a graduate of whom Tom Gerhardt would be enormously proud – and there may be no greater compliment than that.

2008 - David Gregg '08

We are pleased to honor David Gregg – like Tom Gerhardt, president of the student body – because we have been greatly impressed with the way he is admired and respected by his peers, the way in which he poured himself heart and soul into vast projects like the national Focus the Nation event here in January, his deft work in class as a history scholar, and his devotion to service as prime pillar of a well-lived life. As he sails off to postgraduate service in Europe and Africa, and into, we hope, a long and productive career in the diplomatic corps, we celebrate a young man of whom Tom Gerhardt would be proud – and there may be no greater compliment than that.

2007 - Allison McGillivray '07

During her time on campus, Allison demonstrated a sincere dedication to promoting peace through direct service and witness. She traveled twice to Nicaragua with the Office of Volunteer Services Immersion program, the second time serving as co-coordinator. Allison wrote a public blog about the experience to share the lessons of the trip with a wider audience. She has also been the campus coordinator of Pax Christi, organizing peace vigils and bringing speakers to campus. Allison spent last summer with the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, where she worked in a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter. Most importantly, Allison was willing to engage the entire campus as well as the world through her service and witness.

2006 - ReBecca Schwantes '06

2005 - Travis Tompkins '05

Before leaving campus in May 2005 to join the ranks of alumni, Travis Tompkins ’05 was honored with the Thomas A. Gerhardt Memorial Award for Student Leadership for his dedication to teaching, faith, service, and leadership among his peers. Travis was nominated for the award through his work with the Air Force ROTC detachment on campus, but it is clear his devotion to service and leadership does not stop there. Travis has worked as a coordinator for the Encounter with Christ retreat, played in a variety of bands on campus, volunteered for the YMCA, and served as a retreat leader for Ascension Catholic Church. Travis is a dedicated and faithful alumnus who displayed breadth of leadership and involvement throughout his years on The Bluff.

2004 - James Capra '04

2003 - Ryan Kinsella '03

His work as a resident assistant for Shipstad, his dedication to his Salzburg companions, his leadership with the Blue Key Club and his devotion to Campus Ministry singled Ryan out as an outstanding student leader. Those nominating Ryan referred to his consistent and unyielding work with the Office of Volunteer Services, his trips to Tijuana to help with the St. Jude Parish and his service at Blanchet House as just a few of the projects that keep this young scholar busy. With a major in Philosophy and minors in both German and Mathematics, Ryan is as busy academically as he is socially. We hope that he will always find time for his alma mater in his future plans.

2002 - Michael Driessen '02

Upon arriving on The Bluff from far-flung Minnesota, Michael set about becoming one of the most startlingly active, accomplished, and respected University students ever. In residence life, volunteer services, campus ministry, student clubs and organizations, in class and lab, on mountains and in forests, Michael grew to be a cheerful student leader so influential and able that he concluded his senior year not only with the Gerhardt Award, presented for tireless and selfless service, but the Arts & Sciences Deans’ Award for exemplary intellectual exploration and accomplishment. Never a cold word, always an artless grin, and now headed to France to work for the L’Arche community in service to disabled men, women, and children, Michael is a wonderful ambassador for the University’s mission tenets in action. He will be much missed on the campus he so graced.

2001 - Amy Stenson '01

Amy Stenson ’01, who graduated from the University with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in theology, has been described by peers, friends, and faculty as an exemplar of a concerned, active, passionate student. For two years, Amy served as the student coordinator for Habitat for Humanity and spent her spring breaks participating in that organization’s Collegiate Challenge, building homes for those in need. As a resident assistant Amy worked in Mehling and Haggerty Halls. She also participated in the Salzburg program during her sophomore year, serving as the co-chairperson of the House Council abroad. On campus, she worked to further her goal of creating a community accepting of all people by serving as assistant chairperson of the Residence Life Committee on Diversity.

2000 - Jeanette (Heli) Ehmke '00

Jeanette Heli recently earned bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and music performance with a minor in German. During her time on The Bluff, she spent a year in Salzburg; volunteered at the Brother Andre Cafe at the Downtown Chapel in Portland, Christmas in April, Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, and a variety of environmental programs; was a resident assistant for two years; led the new student orientation crew her senior year; student-taught at several North Portland elementary schools, and volunteered for Ethos, Inc., the non-profit music program started by Charles Lewis ’94.

1999 - Molly Deady '99

Molly Deady ’99, who graduated with degrees in marketing and management, proved herself as a leader of her peers and as a committed volunteer for many organizations during her four years at the University. Molly held the positions of vice president and secretary of ASUP and served in the student senate. She was a board member of the Business Leadership Council, an Orientation group leader, and a retreat coordinator in addition to several other activities on The Bluff. Molly’s volunteer work included participation in the University’s Freshman Plunge, in which new students spend their first two days as University students in service in Portland’s homeless hotels and shelters, and the Rural Plunge, in which students prepare housing for migrant farm workers while learning about the issues migrant workers face. She also volunteered as a tutor at St. Stephens Grade School and has served as secretary for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital’s “Kids Making Miracles” program. Molly began her association with Doernbecher as a high school student to honor her best friend who died of leukemia.

1998 - Marcia Koenig '98

Marcia Koenig, who graduated from the University with a degree in psychology, a minor in Spanish, and a certificate in peace studies, spent her four years at the University involved in a range of campus activities. She was a member of the Orientation Crew, International Club, Social Science Club, and Hawaiian Club, and she participated in several intramural sports. Her involvement in the International Club included service as the club’s president and coordinator of International Week. Marcia also spent a great deal of time during her undergraduate years immersed in volunteer programs. She served as coordinator of the Refugee Assistance Program and as a volunteer for the REX (Religious Experience for eXceptional people) and International Mentoring programs. She also spent part of her summer in 1997 with a group from the University at the Maryknoll Call & Response Program in Oaxaca, Mexico, and helped build low-income housing during her spring break in 1998 for the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge in Phoenix. “Marcia has shown consistent and enthusiastic commitment to leadership, ministry, and service,” said one University staff member. “I believe she will be one of the brightest lights of the class of ’98 as she goes forward into the world.”

Gerhardt Award recipients from 1965-1997:

1997 - James Gannon
1996 - Amy Gardner
1995 - Julia A. Klouda
1994 - Bruce W. Rohr
1993 - Jennifer K. Kessi
1992 - Maureen G. Kuffner
1991 - James R. Kessi
1990 - Barbara A. Lang
1989 - Christina A. Austin
1988 - Christine Geiner
1987 - Douglas Trocinski
1986 - Raylynn Ryoko Higa
1985 - Kelly J. Krautscheid
1984 - Unknown/No Award Given
1983 - Unknown/No Award Given
1982 - Unknown/No Award Given
1981 - Unknown/No Award Given
1980 - Christopher M. Gianotti
1979 - Katherine A. Dunsmore
1978 - Helen Eloise Diggs
1977 - Thomas G. Corti
1976 - Thomas C. Manning
1975 - Carl L. Meininger
1974 - Kathleen L. Watt
1973 - William C. Taorimina
1972 - Daniel C. O'Neill
1971 - Alfred James Riles
1970 - Kathleen Ann Sullivan
1969 - Leslie Ann Yorkston
1968 - William J. Lindekugel
1967 - Kathleen Doyle
1966 - Edward Mosey
1965 - William Madden