Fr. James Lavin made Lavinburgers with students for many years in Ireland Hall

Monsignor James Lavin Award

The Monsignor James Lavin Award award honors an alumnus or alumna of St. Thomas for outstanding contributions and service to the University of St. Thomas, its programs and services. Since 1994, the St. Thomas Alumni Association has honored an individual each year for their extraordinary contributions.

Monsignor James Lavin devoted his life to serving the St. Thomas community. Known widely as “Scooter,” he lived in Ireland Hall as an undergraduate from 1936 to 1940 and as a faculty member and administrator from 1946 to 2002. His weekly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, also known as “Lavin Burgers,” were a hit with Ireland Hall residents. Upon retiring in 1988, he immediately went to work for the alumni office extending his service to the Tommie Network.


We are not currently accepting nominations. For future nominations or stories you'd like to share, contact Alumni Relations (!
Father Malone at a St. Thomas graduation ceremony

2024 Monsignor James Lavin Award Recipient

John Malone ’63, '67 MA

Father John Malone is known for many things: common-sense lectures, short but incisive homilies, a puckish sense of humor and, above all else, wise compassion. He grew up on the East Side of St. Paul and attended Nazareth Hall and the St. Paul Seminary, from which he was ordained in 1967. He earned a law degree, taught business law at St. Thomas for more than 25 years, did pro bono work for people who couldn’t afford a lawyer, worked part-time at the Ramsey County Public Defender’s Office, became pastor of Assumption Church in downtown St. Paul, and retired as St. Thomas’ Vice President of Mission. Throughout his more than 40 years at St. Thomas and 56 years as a priest, Father Malone’s honors have included the 1999 Ramsey County Bar Association’s Humanitarian Award and the 2004 St. Thomas More Award from the Lawyers Guild of St. Thomas More.

Tom Pacholl smiling on the field at a Tommies football game Don Becker receiving the Society of the Arches award Photo of Steve Fritz profile photo of Doug Hennes Mark Zesbaugh, an Accounting alum and member of the Board of Trustees, poses for a portrait at his Eagan bar, Union 32 Craft House, on February 23, 2018. Zesbaugh is the recipient of the 2018 St. Thomas Day Monsignor James Lavin Award. St. Thomas alum Jean Gray, recipient of the 2017 St. Thomas Day Lavin Award, poses for a photo at his Lake Minnetonka home on December 13, 2016. Gray is also a member of the Catholic Studies Advisory Board.


Tom Pacholl '50

Tom Pacholl graduated from the College of St. Thomas in1950. Eager to share his knowledge, he spent his career in the St. Paul Public Schools system. Pacholl has been a loyal, engaged Tommie for more than 72 years. With a true dedication to supporting the St. Thomas community and Tommie athletics, Pacholl continues to hold season tickets for football and men's basketball.

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Don Becker '51

Don was a Tommie through and through. For more than 20 years, he recruited friends to join his enthusiasm as an ambassador for St. Thomas: recruiting golf foursomes, anchoring his class reunion and Old Guard committees, hosting countless guests at St. Thomas First Friday luncheons, cheering from the stands for countless St. Thomas athletic teams and volunteering for many programs. He ministered weekly to Fr. James Lavin before his death, and singlehandedly recruited more than 10 Tommies amongst his children and grandchildren. A faithful alumnus for 66 years, he was the kind of Tommie who "bled purple."

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Stephen Fritz '71

Stephen Fritz has been described as the ultimate Tommie. He was a champion of the university as a student, alumnus and a 52-year staff member. His accomplishments as a St. Thomas Hall of Fame basketball player and as a coach and athletic director are remarkable.

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Doug Hennes '77

For 41 years as an alumnus and 27 years as a staff member, Doug combined his passion for St. Thomas, his love of writing, and his innate desire to connect with and help people.
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Mark Zesbaugh '86

For 15 years, Zesbaugh served on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees, doing indispensable work to advance the university and being a model of alumni and trustee involvement. He has contributed greatly to the increase in scholarship aid for students and to the development and success of Tommie Give Day. He also was given the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2015. Zesbaugh graduated from St. Thomas with a degree in accounting, launching him into a fast-climbing career that saw him named CEO of Allianz Life at 37. Zesbaugh is currently president of Twin Cities-based Entrepreneurial 180, LLC.

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R. Jean Gray '51

Gray’s enthusiastic leadership of Old Guard and reunion activities is longstanding and well-known. He has been involved with Alumni Association activities locally and internationally, and participated in numerous alumni travel experiences to Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. In addition, he has served as a member of the Catholic Studies board of governors and The Saint Paul Seminary Board of Trustees and is a member of the President’s Council and the Finn Heritage Society.
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