Sister Cheryl Clemons named as Brescia Distinguished Alumna

Ursuline Sister Cheryl Clemons will be honored as one of Brescia University’s Distinguished Alumni during homecoming activities on Oct. 22, 2021. Ursuline Sister Mary Henning will also be honored over the weekend with the Father Charles Saffer Alumni Award.

“I’m deeply honored to be receiving this award and to be joining the company of so many other Distinguished Alumni,” Sister Cheryl said. “Brescia has been such a vital part of my entire adult life – welcoming me as a country girl into my freshmen class in 1969, providing me with an outstanding undergraduate degree in 1974, inviting me back as a theology teacher beginning in 1983, guiding me as a Board of Trustees member in 2004, and challenging and supporting me as the vice president for Academic Affairs in 2010.

“In every one of these experiences of Brescia, I have been blessed by the dedication, giftedness and cooperation of Brescia’s faculty; by the openness and perseverance of its students; and by the welcoming and friendly spirit of everyone associated with Brescia – from coaches to housekeepers and maintenance staff to board members,” Sister Cheryl said. “The spirit of Angela Merici is alive at Brescia, and my life has been enriched; because of Brescia I’m a better person personally, academically, professionally and spiritually.” 

Since the inception of the Distinguished Alumni recognition, Brescia has awarded more than 50 alumni with the title. The award was created to honor graduates who exemplify the elements that encompass The Brescia Difference: Respect for the Sacred, Devotion to Learning, Commitment to Growth in Virtue, and Promotion of Servant Leadership.

“Because of the breadth and scope of their life’s work, the magnitude of their impact on the regional, national and often international scene, and their examples of service and leadership, alumni who receive this esteemed honor have distinguished themselves among their peers,” according to a Brescia news release.

Sister Cheryl is the tenth Ursuline Sister to receive the Distinguished Alumni honor, joining Ursuline Sisters Sharon Sullivan, Mary Matthias Ward, Larraine Lauter, Vivian Bowles, Ruth Gehres and Michele Morek, along with deceased Sisters Joseph Angela Boone, Rose Marita O’Bryan and Dianna Ortiz. Ursuline Associate Mary Danhauer also received the award.

Sister Cheryl is a native of Wax, Ky., in Grayson County, where she was taught by the Ursuline Sisters. She graduated from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1969 and joined the Ursulines in 1970. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French with minors in history and music from Brescia and then taught in several high schools.

She earned a master’s degree in theological studies from the University of Dayton. In 1995, she completed her doctorate in historical theology-systematics, with minors in church history and feminist theology, from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Between her master’s and doctoral studies, Sister Cheryl served as the co-director and then director of the Office of Social Concerns for the Diocese of Owensboro from 1983–1988. In 1984, she was instrumental in developing and launching Brescia’s Ministry Formation program. During this time, she also taught part-time in Brescia’s theology program. After completion of her doctoral work, she returned full-time to Brescia, where she taught theology and continued the Ministry Formation program.

Sister Cheryl served as an elected councilor with the Ursuline Sisters from 1992-97, then was elected as assistant congregational leader from 2004-10. When her term ended, she accepted the position of vice president for Academic Affairs/Academic Dean for Brescia, serving in that role until 2019. Since leaving the university she has completed a two-year training program with the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality and is now certified as a spiritual director.

For nearly 30 years Sister Cheryl has led a popular women’s retreat at Maple Mount. Since January 2021, she is serving part-time leading programs with the Mount Saint Joseph Retreat Ministry.

Also being honored as Distinguished Alumni this year are Lark Buckman and Dr. Sam Dunlany, both of the Brescia class of 1969.

Buckman was a member of the first Brescia Bearcat basketball team. He began his social work career in 1971 and five years later was named director of the Perry County, Ind., Welfare Department. In 1987, he was named district director serving 11 counties in Indiana. In 1994, he became the director for Vanderburgh County in Evansville, Ind., where he served until retiring in 2008. He lives in Union County, Ky., where he is active in many parish and community activities, including serving on the local and state foster care review boards and with a group that educates the community about abuse and neglect. He is a member of the Brescia Board of Trustees.

From 1976-2014, Dr. Dunlany served on the medical staff with Daviess County Hospital, Mercy Hospital, and Owensboro Health. He was the first physician to volunteer his services at the Daniel Pitino Shelter in Owensboro and volunteered to perform athletic physicals for local high school teams and his beloved Brescia Bearcat athletic teams.

At the request of then-Bishop John McRaith, Dr. Dunlany represented the Diocese of Owensboro on the Pro-Life Committee of the Catholic Bishops. He was a longtime member on both the Brescia University Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Brescia University Board of Trustees, of which he is Trustee Emeritus. He now lives in Louisville.

The Distinguished Alumni Celebration begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, at the C.E. Field Center for Professional Studies on the Brescia campus. (Advance tickets are $35.) The awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m.

Father Charles Saffer Award

Each year the Brescia Alumni Association presents the Father Charles Saffer Alumni Hall of Fame Award to an alum who through a lifetime of personal achievement has personified the ideals of Brescia University. This year’s recipient is Sister Mary Henning.

Sister Mary Henning

Sister Mary served as an associate professor of music at Brescia for 30 years. She began in 1981 and served until 1995, when she became the music minister at Blessed Mother Church in Owensboro. After two years, she returned to Brescia, serving another 16 years. Since departing in 2013, she has served as director of Worship and Liturgy at the Motherhouse.

Sister Mary was born in the Breckinridge County town of Axtel, where she was taught by the Ursulines at St. Anthony School. She then attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy and joined the Ursulines following her graduation in 1964.

After seven years as an elementary teacher, she attended St. Mary of the Woods College in Terre Haute, Ind., for a bachelor’s degree in music, then completed her master’s in 1979 from Northwestern University. From then on, music was her ministry, first at the Academy and then at Brescia.

Aside from her classroom work, she gave private music lessons and directed the Brescia choir and the handbell choir. In 2002, she directed the Brescia choir in a performance of Schubert’s Mass in G in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Previous winners of the Charles Saffer Award include Ursuline Sisters Joseph Angela Boone, Vivian Bowles, Rose Jean Powers, Sharon Sullivan and Cheryl Clemons.