April 23, 2008
Ahna Skop, assistant professor of genetics and medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will deliver the commencement address during the 93rd annual commencement ceremony at the College of Saint Benedict at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 10 in the Clemens Field House/Haehn Campus Center on the CSB campus, St. Joseph.
Skop will also receive an honorary Doctorate of Science degree from CSB.
During the commencement ceremony, CSB will present its President’s Medal to Nancy Judd Ehlen, an artist, nature enthusiast and philanthropist who resides in Peoria, Ariz., and formerly lived in the St. Cloud area. Natalia Calderon, a communication and Spanish double-major from Mahtomedi, Minn., will be the student commencement speaker, as selected by this year’s CSB senior class.
The 2008 CSB graduation class includes 446 women, which is the 10th largest in school history. When combined with Saint John’s University’s 458 undergraduate men, this year’s combined graduating class is 904.
Skop received the National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) on Nov. 1, 2007 – the nation’s highest honor bestowed upon scientists in the early stages of their careers. She was one of 58 scientists honored at a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C.
“These are the ‘Golden Globe Awards’ for the Albert Einsteins and Marie Curies of tomorrow – our nation’s most promising scientist and engineering educators,” said Rita Colwell, director of the NSF.
Skop is recognized for her innovative research defining the mechanisms required for cytokinesis in animal cells, and for identifying molecular links between the ways in which animal and plant cells divide.
Art also plays an important part in Skop’s life. Her father, Michael, is a classically trained artist who also taught anatomy, drawing bone structures by hand. Her mother, Kathy, is a ceramicist and art educator who teaches high school art classes.
Ahna Skop has designed magazine covers and conference logos for her field, and curates an art show at the biannual meetings of C. Elegan scientists (a group of researchers who study this common experimental organism).
Ehlen, the President’s Medal honoree, has captured the wonders of the natural world. Her photography has graced the CSB campus through art exhibitions and donations of framed artwork for Renner House, the residence of CSB President MaryAnn Baenninger. She has strengthened the fine arts experience at CSB with generous gifts for annual scholarships, programming and facilities enhancement. And, for more than a decade, she has been a strong voice for the importance of art education and the value of public engagement in fine arts.
The President’s Medal is awarded to those members of the CSB community who have demonstrated extraordinary loyalty, dedication and service to the college and its mission of liberal arts education in the Benedictine tradition. Recipients receive a symbolic representation of the President’s Medal that exhibits the seal of the college.
Past winners of the award have included Dorothy Gorecki, who, along with her husband, Benedict, founded Gorecki Manufacturing in Milaca, Minn., and contributed the lead financial gift to the Gorecki Dining and Conference Center, their second major gift to CSB; and Barbara Koch, a business, community and philanthropic leader.
Last year, the medal was presented to the Sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, who were celebrating their sesquicentennial in 2007, and Jacquelynn and Sylvester “Shorty” Haehn, long-time supporters and benefactors of CSB. The S.L. Haehn Campus Center was named in his honor after they made a generous gift to help with the center’s construction.