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.

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Nominations for the 2024 St. Thomas Day Alumni Awards are officially open. Thank you for your submission(s)!
Tom Pacholl at a recent football game

2023 Monsignor James Lavin Award Recipient

Tom Pacholl '50

Tom Pacholl graduated from the College of St. Thomas with a degree in biology in 1950. Eager to share his knowledge, he spent his career teaching and as assistant principal in the St. Paul Public Schools system. Pacholl has been a loyal, engaged Tommie for more than 72 years. In the 1940s, Tom played football for St. Thomas. His time with the team included playing in the Cigar Bowl in Florida in 1949. 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.

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.


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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