Holy Names University held its 43rd Annual Alumni Awards Ceremony on Friday, November 4, to recognize exceptional alumni and faculty for their service to the University and the community.
The Faculty Award
The Faculty Award was bestowed upon Martivón Galindo, PhD, professor of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, for outstanding service and loyalty to the University. Professor Galindo has taught at HNU since 1996 and was recognized for her strong leadership and dedication to HNU.
Ann Alderman ’93, PhD, professor of French and linguistics and chair of the Arts and Humanities Division, presented the award to Professor Galindo. Alderman praised Professor Galindo’s talent as a writer, artist, and scholar, and remarked upon her exceptional skill as a teacher and the effect she has had on students and faculty. “[Martivón] has said that her responsibility as a teacher is to plant a seed in her students that starts with information, but grows into social and political awareness, and, finally, a grasp of the students’ own agency to work for social justice. She doesn’t teach only her students here—I think all of us would agree that she often serves as our moral compass. Her students write about her passion and their own transformations in her classes.”
In accepting the award, Professor Galindo spoke about how much she loves and admires the mission of the University and how she is grateful to be a part of the HNU community. “Holy Names University has kept its values and its mission through the years. This is a University that supports minority students and respects the many ways to see and understand the world. This would be impossible without the guidance of the Sisters of the Holy Names. They are our role models for all of us in their dedication to service, in their commitment to education, in their generosity, and in their passion and their compassion for human beings. This is the institution I’m proud to belong to. This is the institution I love. I am grateful to Holy Names University for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this community and for allowing me to be my own self.”
The Alumni Recognition Award for Service to the University
The Alumni Recognition Award for Service to the University was given to Diane Zennie Gilfether ’63, MM ’84, real estate broker and founder and director of Blackhawk Chorus, a community-based chorus that performs in the East Bay and all over the world. Gilfether is also a former professional opera singer who performed with the San Francisco Opera and many other opera companies and symphonies on the West Coast. The award for service to the University is presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves through outstanding volunteer service and loyalty to the HNU Alumni Association and the University. Gilfether has served as an HNU Regent, a member of the HNU Board of Trustees, and volunteered in many other capacities for HNU.
Jayne Hegenbart, business manager for Blackhawk Chorus, presented the award to Gilfether and spoke about Gilfether’s selflessness and generosity. “Music has the power to make you feel better, and Diane has done this for the last 25 years with the hundreds of people who have sung with Blackhawk Chorus, and, by my estimation, the nearly 100,000 people who have come to hear us sing. I don’t know many people who can stand in front of the group and simply wave their arms and make everybody feel better than when they arrive. But what makes Diane very unique in this is that she has done this for the last 25 years for free. Diane does not take a salary for her work with the Blackhawk Chorus which is unheard of. She sees that it’s her opportunity to give back to her community. Diane has given this gift to hundreds of thousands of people over her career who have come to hear her sing. She lifted spirits. She revitalized souls. She made people feel better. And for the last 25 years as the founder and director of Blackhawk Chorus, she has done that willingly without ever being paid and loves every minute of it.”
Gilfether gave a moving speech about how proud she was of her lifelong association with the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. “Looking back on my undergraduate years at Holy Names and my graduate studies as well, I know that I received more than excellent academics. There was a nourishing of both mind and soul, shaping, building, and cultivating strong women to lead joyful lives of purpose and principle. My years of service on the Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees presented an opportunity in a very small way to give back for this joyful blessing of a superb education that led to a long career in the world of opera.”
She also spoke about how much her character had been shaped by her mother, Elizabeth Zennie. “My mother always found joy in her children’s achievements, and she lived her life in an exemplary way, always thinking and doing for others. For me to be receiving this extraordinary award would indeed have been a joyful moment for her. So, this evening, I am filled with pride and joy to be selected for this incredible honor. I will always be eternally grateful for the education and the opportunities I have received from Holy Names University, and I promise you that I will always strive to make you proud of me in whatever I do. And I want to leave you with the great lesson of my life given to me from my mother through her example, and that is ‘Always be in service of others, and expect nothing in return.’ Now that’s true joy.”
The Alumni Recognition Award for Professional Achievement
The Alumni Recognition Award for Professional Achievement was given to Marianne Viani, SNJM ’66, MEd, former associate superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and a member of the board of directors of Holy Names High School in Oakland. The award recognizes alumni who have made a commendable difference in their vocation of choice.
Cynthia Canning, SNJM ’68, presented the award to Sr. Marianne and spoke about her accomplishments and the characteristics that have made her so successful. “Let me first say that Catholic education throughout California and well beyond is better, stronger, and characterized by much a much higher level of excellence in every way because of Sister Marianne’s leadership and service for more than 50 years,” Sr. Cynthia said. “She is clearly an educational leader, professional, extremely capable, and demanding of excellence. And, at the same time, completely disarming in her wonderful warmth, wit, and sense of humor. Her easy laughter is contagious and her concern for others is tangible. She has been described as a good listener, a hard worker, available, thoughtful, a relationship builder, non-threatening and non-judgmental, fair to everyone, and someone who would keep confidences and could be trusted. Because of the relationships she established early on, wherever and with whomever she served, Marianne has been uniquely able to deal with difficult issues, to say difficult things, and to be an effective facilitator of people with conflicting views.”
In her acceptance speech, Sr. Marianne express how humbled and grateful she was to receive the award. “First, I want to thank my parents who sacrificed by sending me to 12 years of Catholic school where I began my journey with the Sisters of Holy Names. This was no easy task with six children to support. I want to especially thank my community for giving me opportunities to expand and grow in my education by supporting me through a BA, an MA, and a reading certification. My education at Holy Names University prepared me for the many educational experiences in the classroom as well as being a principal, supervisor and associate superintendent for elementary and secondary schools. During my time at the University, I was blessed with teachers who encouraged and supported me throughout my many endeavors. The right person always seemed to be there with fresh ideas. I have also been fortunate to be with ministry partners who challenged me and opened doors to possibilities in this ever-changing educational world. Truly, these experiences and all of these people have enriched me in my vocation as a Holy Names Sister, and in my calling to ministry and Catholic education.”
The University is grateful to all the members of the Alumni Awards Committee for the work they have done to recognize HNU alumni and faculty. The Alumni Awards Committee members are Anne C. Dunlap-Kahren ’88, chairperson of the committee, Kayla Baker ’13, Heidi Ehrman Donner ’71, Felicia Duncan ’04, Julie Nelson Echaniz ’75, Susan Eggett ’02, Michael Salinas ’11, and Frances Renty Williams, director of alumnae/i relations at HNU.