Notable Alumnae & Awards

Submit a StoryUpdate Your Profile

 Fostering change
Liz Fogarty

Liz Fogarty '98 wants to be part of the solution to problems in the foster care system. That sounds simple enough, but Liz's contributions toward change are particularly stirring because her approach touches lives in three distinct ways - she advocates for foster children in the court system, she travels the country instructing teachers on how to best reach and challenge gifted learners and she is a proud foster parent herself.

Liz's journey began at Saint Ben's with dual degrees in elementary education and psychology. "So much of what I learned about education I learned at Saint Ben's," says Liz. "When it comes to learning how to be a teacher, there is probably no better place to learn than at CSB."

After graduation, Liz taught 5th grade while completing her master's program and then went to the University of Connecticut for her Ph.D. in educational psychology. Shortly after, Liz and her husband moved to North Carolina where she became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), also called Guardian ad Litem. In this volunteer position, she conducts interviews, writes reports and meets with the foster children she's representing to advocate for them in the court system.

"I loved this volunteer position and still do it to this day," says Liz. "But as I worked with kids in foster care, I began to see how much need there was for foster parents. At the time, my husband and I did not have any children and decided to become licensed therapeutic foster parents. Our first foster child came to live with us just two months before our son, Holden, was born."

Liz is now an associate professor at East Carolina University, teaching undergraduate and graduate level education students and working in the Honors College. She is also a public speaker and travels to schools across the U.S. to help teachers be better educators to gifted children. "A common experience for new teachers is a feeling of uncertainty when working with gifted kids," explains Liz. "Almost no one does really well in this area because there is little emphasis on it in pre-service education programs. That's why I felt compelled to learn more about these kids, what makes them tick and how to best teach them."

Liz's work has benefited countless lives and she encourages others to consider advocating for foster kids or becoming foster parents. "Whether it's my biological children or foster children, being a mom is the toughest and most important job I've had," says Liz. "People often think, 'The foster system is not my issue. They're not my kids. I take care of my own kids.' But it is everybody's issue. It's the idea that we're all in this together. I think that's one of the greatest lessons I learned at Saint Ben's - great things can be accomplished when you work as a community. Plus as alums, no matter where we go there's a sister who's got your back (sometimes literally a Sister). We are in this together."

 

 The gift of music
Katie Corbett Phenow

Katie Corbett Phenow '02 remembers getting teased for choosing a profession that paid so little, but she can now proudly tell all the naysayers that her career in music ministry has been one of life's greatest gifts. "When I'm singing at church or directing choirs for mass, it doesn't feel like work," says Katie. And as a busy mom of six, with twins following after four kids, it's easy to understand why it's a blessing to have a career that never feels like a job.

Katie came to Saint Ben's with a love of music, but in addition to the lessons learned while studying K-12 music education, she was also inspired by the examples she saw in her classmates and professors of the Benedictine values in action.

"In a field of performance, you'd think you would encounter a lot of competition or favorites, but I always felt bolstered by the classmates around me, like we made each other better and celebrated what each of us brought to the table," she explains. "That vigor was also present in the workplace and in the passion the professors had for sharing their knowledge with students. The sense of everyone bringing their best energy together was exciting."

Years down the road, the value of celebrating strengths and using your own to serve others was still a big part of Katie. Even with an already full schedule, she was inspired to help a cause that had been close to her heart since first learning about it as a teenager - eradicating human trafficking. With a prayer and a little Googling, Katie was soon connected with the Advocates for Human Rights of Minneapolis and the philanthropic choir VocalPoint.

"100% of donations from the concerts went to aide women and children through the Advocates for Human Rights," says Katie. "We raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for a worthy cause, and probably just as important to me was the fact that my kids saw me do this. They saw me demonstrate that no matter how busy you are, there are people suffering who need your help in whatever capacity you can give it. For me, God was quite clear - I may not be rich but I can sing!" 

As a mother, music minister and VocalPoint member, Katie continues to channel those lessons cultivated at Saint Ben's into demonstrating how a personal gift can enrich the lives of others. "Bennies come from an environment that shows us how to lift up those around us, so we can't help but do that wherever we go after graduation," says Katie. "I'm incredibly proud to belong to a sisterhood of women that demonstrate the value of intelligence, motivation and service."

 A mission for Africa
Barb Houle

Ever since serving in Swaziland, Africa in the Peace Corps, Barb Houle '85 had been on a mission to find a way to make a positive and lasting change for the people and place she had grown to love. Three decades later, an unplanned visit to a Swaziland hospital sparked an idea that would lead to the change she had always imagined. But long before that distinctive trip, the groundwork for being undaunted by new ideas and ventures was laid during her time as a Saint Ben's student.

Barb graduated from Saint Ben's with a degree in natural science and began her professional career as a biology lab supervisor at Anoka Ramsey Community College. Wanting to advance her education and explore options, Barb decided to take a psychology course. It turned out to be a great fit and with her supervisor's encouragement, Barb went back to school for a master's degree in psychology and then attended Northern Illinois University for her Ph.D.

"Sometimes life takes a different turn and that's okay," explains Barb. "I always felt that my Saint Ben's education prepared me very well for graduate school. The skills and knowledge I acquired there could be applied to any academic discipline. My career change from natural science to psychology demonstrates that well. I am now a psychology instructor at Riverland Community College in Austin, Minn." 

In 2009, Barb returned to Africa for a year-long sabbatical through school. One day during the trip, Barb and her friends visited the local hospital and noticed the room, which held a number of patients on cot-like-beds, didn't offer anything for patients to do to pass the time. There were no TVs, no magazines or books, and nothing for recovering patients to look at. Barb shared this observation with her friend and colleague Lindiwe Sibisi, who lives in Swaziland, and they started Read to Recovery, a program that provides books for recovering hospital patients. 

"Sometimes you have an idea and you just go with it. Read to Recovery was exactly that. In my heart, I knew I couldn't walk away," says Barb.

The program launched later that year and has since expanded to hospitals throughout Swaziland. Barb has returned several times since then, most recently in June 2014 to expand Read to Recovery to include Christian music CDs sung by the group Spiritually Motivated

"I believe God gives everyone special talents, and it's up to us to decide how we use them to serve others. I'm grateful for what I have been blessed with and consider it a privilege to share my talents with others," says Barb.

 

 Answering the call
Jen Coe Fulton

St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church in Bristol, Ind. was founded in 1843 and has long been a testament to the power of faith and hard work in the community. It is no surprise then that newly ordained Rev. Jennifer Coe Fulton '93 fits right in as the most recent priest-in-charge. Jen has embraced every twist and turn in her career and has used her drive and incredible faith to embrace her newest position as the leader of this historic parish.

"If someone had told me ten years ago that I would one day be an Episcopal priest, I would have laughed at them," says Jen. "But when God called me, while I resisted that call for a while, I was eventually able to submit with something akin to grace. The roots of all of that began with my family, childhood church and Saint Ben's."

Jen graduated from Saint Ben's with a bachelor's degree in English and pursued a master's degree in the same field at the University of Illinois. She began her professional career teaching at an all-girls Catholic school in the south suburbs of Chicago. She then raised two daughters as a stay-at-home-mom before joining the staff at the University of Notre Dame as the student coordinator for the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. She did all this before going back to school again for a master's degree in ministry from Nashotah House Theological Seminary.

"The connections between my Saint Ben's experience and my life now as an Episcopal priest aren't obvious," explains Jen. "I wasn't a particularly faithful or faith-filled Christian. In fact, many of my friends and professors might call that an understatement! However, being at Saint Ben's helped root me in the Christian sacramental tradition in ways that I didn't see, and even actively resisted at the time. When I finally wandered into an Episcopal church years later, it was like I had wandered back home. In addition, spending those years surrounded by the monks and sisters instilled in me a sense of respect for those who devote their lives to God and the Church, and I believe that helped me respond in faithfulness to God's call to me."

In addition to her ministry work, Jen continues to work for Notre Dame in the Nanovic Institute, empowering students to conduct research, internships or service projects in Europe. She uses her own study abroad experience in Austria to inspire more students to take a leap of faith in their college years and embrace unfamiliar territory. Through both of her current positions, Jen has been able to channel her experiences at Saint Ben's into enriching the minds of others spiritually and academically.

"Work hard and faithfully, but don't let yourself think for even a minute that you are the sole determinant of your life path," advises Jen. "Our lives often take us in directions we would never have expected. Leave yourself open to life's twists and turns and to the still, small voice of God. They might lead you to a place that you didn't expect but that is very, very good." 

 The age of adventure
Doris Simonett

At the age of 84, Doris Bogut Simonett '51 decided it was time to see the world.

Last year, Doris and her 24-year-old granddaughter came across an ad for the University of Virginia's Semester at Sea program, a four-month study abroad voyage that incorporates traditional academic disciplines with the added benefit of sailing around the world. With the encouragement of their family, both grandmother and granddaughter enrolled in the corresponding Lifelong Learning program for adult travelers who have an enduring passion for learning - a description that has fit Doris perfectly since she first stepped foot on the Saint Ben's campus.

"I will never forget the day I arrived," recalls Doris. "The chapel was a majestic little jewel and the sisters were chanting a portion of the divine office. Later, I noticed the field adjoining campus where a sister was driving a tractor and farming the food we were to eat. I felt that this place was holy ground and it would nourish me both soul and body. That feeling never left me. My time at Saint Ben's guided me for the rest of my life and helped me build a foundation for my family."

That family included her husband, John Simonett '48, a Johnnie and WWII veteran whom she had fallen in love with and married five months after graduation. They had six children and built a life together with Doris working as a homemaker and volunteer and John as a lawyer and later one of the seven justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

When their children were grown, Doris became an unstoppable force in her community. She worked as a high school substitute teacher and began writing and taking photos for her local daily and county newspapers. She became a member of the Little Falls city planning commission, served on the boards for the hospital and city library and followed her passion for learning back to the classroom for a master's degree in English. After the family moved to Saint Paul, she became a freelance writer and helped produce programs for a local cable TV station, including hosting a weekly program entitled "Law in Action."

"John and I had a wonderful life together and we were lucky enough to travel overseas throughout the years," says Doris. "But I had always wanted to see the world beyond the European capitals and Semester at Sea gave me that opportunity."

Doris visited four continents and 12 countries, including Mexico, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana and Morocco before ending in London, England. Throughout the journey, Lifelong Learners could sit in on classes, visit lectures and participate in all land excursions and tours.

She now hopes to convince current and future students to take advantage of the opportunity they have in college to become global participants through study abroad programs.

"Reading about the world's cultures and lands is an important part of a well-rounded education," Doris explains. "But stepping foot in these places gives us broader insight into the layers of wealth, power, poverty and injustice. Everyone has the ability to make our world a better place and to become advocates for change - no matter what their profession and no matter what their age."

 Finding the right path
Elizabeth Deziel

“Deciding on a career path is incredibly challenging. Some people chose a major in college, find a job in their field and remain happy and satisfied forever. The rest of us have to spend a decade (or two, or three) discerning our paths.”

These wise words from Elizabeth Deziel ’01 will undoubtedly strike a chord for many. But Liz is uniquely qualified to speak on the subject considering she is one of the banking industry’s youngest, high-ranking women executives in the Twin Cities without ever taking a single business course at Saint Ben’s.

After earning a bachelor of arts in liberal art studies, Liz moved to the Twin Cities and led YMCA after-school programs for at-risk youth in Downtown Minneapolis. After a few years working in the non-profit sector, Liz finally had her “aha” moment and recognized that what she really craved from a job was regular intellectual and analytical challenges. It was time to take her career in a completely new direction.

In 2005, Liz entered the corporate world by landing a job with U.S. Bancorp Foundation as a community relations specialist. Within a year, she knew she had found the right fit.

At age 29, Liz became a vice president at U.S. Bank and at 31 she became managing director of The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank. In this role, she oversees 10 bankers and associates in the Reserve’s Twin Cities’ offices and advises clients whose net worth is at least $3 million. This impressive climb is a tribute to Liz’s hard work and dedication, but she remains thankful for the women who paved the way so her generation could compete in the business world. 

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, which is why Saint Ben’s mission to foster leadership and personal development is vital,” says Liz. “Women hold such a small number of the senior leadership roles in the business world, and many companies still have no women on their corporate board of directors. It is important to be well-rounded, poised, articulate, passionate and know how to get things done. Saint Ben's helps foster all of that, as well as a unique blend of warmth, confidence and ambition.”

While it’s not uncommon for students to change their major while in college, Liz stands as an example to young women that their first job may not be something they stick with forever. “I would encourage young women to think about what they are really good at and what satisfies them. Pick something, try it for a year or more, and learn from it. Everything you try will teach you something about yourself."

Alumnae Features Archive