Alumni Achievement Awards – CSB+SJU


2022 SJU Alumni Achievement Award Winners

Launched in 1983, the Saint John’s University Alumni Achievement Awards recognize alumni who have been successful in their careers and/or active in church and community service. The awards are presented annually by the SJU Alumni Association Board of Directors and the university.

Dick Howard ’72

Dick Howard is the personification of a Saint John’s University education, with a contagious enthusiasm for the school and an unending commitment to the Benedictine values.

Howard, former Fairview Foundation president, has a demanding career as president of his own consulting firm, RJ Howard & Associates. However, he always makes time for service, and no organization benefits more than Saint John’s.

He has dedicated his energy and expertise to the Alumni Association Board, Benedictine Way Committee, SJU Outdoor University/Arboretum Council and Episcopal House of Prayer in Collegeville and fostered the renowned Johnnie network by chairing alumni events, mentoring students and alumni and co-facilitating Benedictine Way Retreats.

Other organizations benefit, too. Howard and his wife Christine, who lives with Parkinson’s disease, are active with the Parkinson’s Foundation Minnesota and Dakotas chapter and lead the “Team Howard” Moving Forward Day Twin Cities fundraising team. He also has leadership roles in the Minneapolis-based Loppet Foundation, which brings together outdoor enthusiasts with a focus on providing opportunities for underserved youth and families.

“Dick Howard is an exemplary leader of people,” one nominator commended. “His hallmarks of authenticity, extraordinary enthusiasm and Benedictine principles have created an environment of inclusiveness, learning and joy for everyone he touches.”

David F. Taylor ’72

David F. Taylor contributed to the greater good in countless ways during his 69 years:

Through a gift for making friends. Through a highly successful legal career that spanned more than four decades and helped countless people. Through his Sierra Leone-based nonprofit Youth Net Children Under the Sun.

Through his infinite optimism, which his obituary summed up with the phrase he often used when someone asked how he was: “Too blessed to be stressed,” an attitude he kept even as he battled terminal cancer.

After graduating from Saint John’s University, Taylor earned his law degree from Duquesne University and launched a career in construction, commercial and general civil litigation. He was the first Black law clerk for the United States District Court in Pittsburgh and provided legal counsel to organizations including the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

He and his wife Lynda traveled the world, and his network of friends stretched from his home in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania across the globe. He had a special connection to Africa and established and led Youth Net to educate orphans, HIV-positive youths and the mentally challenged in Sierra Leone, where he helped establish a school in Waterloo.

Mark Thiel ’77

Service isn’t just something Mark Thiel does. It’s central to who he is.

Thiel has dedicated himself to working with people who have disabilities, in the process forming long-term friendships — and cultivating Johnnie football and baseball fans by bringing sports-enthusiast clients to games.

He retired after nearly 30 years with the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services but continues to work part-time with several people who have disabilities. He joins them for fun activities like bowling, and they help him deliver Meals on Wheels in St. Paul, which he has done for more than 30 years.

Thiel and his wife Mary have an adult foster care license in their home and care for two people with disabilities one weekend a month.

A longtime member of the Minnesota Contemplative Association, Thiel facilitates weekly virtual Lectio Divina and meditative centering prayer at Saint Stanislaus Parish in St. Paul. He also is part of a volunteer group that leads weekly centering prayer sessions for inmates at Stillwater Prison. He helped tell the stories of those in the prison system this May as a cast member of “The Labyrinth and the Minotaur: The Incarceration Play Project,” at Mixed Blood Theatre.

Jim Carey ’82

Jim Carey holds a place among the country’s elite personal injury attorneys and dedicates his legal acumen to elevating his profession and community.

Carey is president and managing partner of highly respected Minneapolis-based SiebenCarey, the state’s largest personal injury firm, and The Best Lawyers of America’s 2022 “Lawyer of the Year” in Personal Injury Litigation, among many other distinctions. His long list of professional leadership includes American College of Trial Lawyers, Minnesota Association for Justice and the International Society of Barristers — an invitation-only organization of the top 1 percent of trial lawyers in the United States and Canada.

Carey shares his considerable skill with a Benedictine focus on justice, community and stewardship, serving on boards for organizations ranging from the Minnesota Military Family Foundation to Hennepin Parks Three Rivers Park District, mentoring law students and always earmarking time for his family, friends and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina.

As one of his numerous nominators noted, his “investment to his communities through service to others over the years is broad and significant, through various board positions, his church, mentoring aspiring attorneys, through the leadership of his firm and through personal pro bono legal services to those in need.”

Kevin “Casey” Eichler ’82

Casey Eichler was one of Saint John’s University’s blazing stars, a brilliant executive with a radiant personality who helped those around him shine a little brighter.

Eichler put his accounting degree to work in an impressive career that included vice president and CFO positions at companies such as Ultra Clean Technology, Credence Systems Corporation, MarketTools, Inc., MIPS Technologies, Inc. and, most recently, as vice president and chief financial officer at Ambarella, Inc.

Famously generous with his time and his talents, Eichler was a long-time member of the Saint John’s University Private Investment Committee. He also served as a trustee for Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, as school board president for Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and as a member of the Stanford University Rotary Club. He holds a place in Mount Michael Benedictine High School’s alumni hall of fame in his beloved hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

Eichler retained his shimmering optimism, passion for life and irrepressible humor even as he battled glioblastoma, the brain cancer that took his life in March. His spirit lives on in his wife Kathleen (Murray, CSB ’82), three children and many friends and classmates to whom he spread so much light.

Tim Gallagher ’87

Balance, discipline and dedication make Tim Gallagher an Iron Man in his commercial insurance career and in his personal life.

Gallagher, senior vice president of business insurance at Golden Valley-based Marsh McLennan Agency’s Upper Midwest division, is a community builder who devotes himself to his family, church and community while excelling professionally and personally.

Gallagher ushered for more than a decade at Edina’s Christ Presbyterian Church, where he also volunteers at camps to help foster high school students’ spiritual development. He and his wife Susan have dedicated more than 15 years on the church’s Family Fest Ministries board.

Gallagher served as commissioner of Plymouth/Wayzata baseball and coached basketball and baseball for more than a decade. He pushed his own athletic boundaries by training for the Wisconsin Iron Man competition in his 50s and still hits the pool at 5:30 a.m. to swim laps as part of his routine.

As one nominator put it, “In a world driven by compulsion, Tim values and cultivates balance in his life, which coincidentally increases the likelihood that he is able to serve others in need providing such services as lawn care, home maintenance and housing while simultaneously nurturing family life and encouraging family participation.”

Brian Lenzmeier ’92

Brian Lenzmeier’s dedication to educational excellence is helping Iowa’s Buena Vista University thrive.

Lenzmeier was named the 19th president of the private Storm Lake, Iowa-based school in October 2020 after guiding the campus through Covid-19’s early stages during his six months as interim president. Though he is quick to shift credit to others, Lenzmeier has led Buena Vista to three consecutive years of enrollment increases and contributed to it being ranked sixth of the 71 institutions on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Value Schools Among Regional Universities in the Midwest, 21 places higher than any other Iowa university.

Lenzmeier, who started teaching biology at Buena Vista in 2003, won the 2009 George Wythe Award for excellence in teaching and twice earned the Faculty Member of the Year honor. He earned a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Colorado, did post-graduate research on molecular biology at Princeton University and was a visiting research fellow at the Mayo Clinic during a 2011 sabbatical.

He dedicates himself to the surrounding community as well, with service to the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation, Empower Rural Iowa Task Force and the Faith, Hope & Charity Facility for children with intellectual disabilities.

LeRoy Popowski ’97

LeRoy Popowski knows how to go the distance whether he’s racing his bicycle or building his successful optometry practice.

Popowski has been a top-level cyclist and duathlete for nearly two decades, well into his 40s. He competed for the U.S. National Duathalon Team at several World Cup and World Championships in the early 2000s, is a three-time Colorado State Hill Climb Champion in the Pro/Open category and was the 2016 U.S. Cycling Pro/Open Hill Climb National Champion on Pikes Peak.

Popowski has competed at this elite level while developing his comprehensive, sustainably built eye care practice, Elite Vision in Colorado Springs. He specializes in the treatment of dry eye, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease and employs emerging technology to ensure his patients have the most advanced care available.

He earned a Doctor of Optometry degree from Pacific University in Oregon and served three years as an optometrist in the U.S. Army, including one year of deployment in Iraq. He also has an MBA with an emphasis in finance from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Popowski, who puts his primary focus on his wife Felicia and their four boys, dedicates time volunteering to help coach his sons’ soccer teams.

Joe Koopmeiners ’02

Joe Koopmeiners has distinguished himself as a medical researcher and academic leader.

A Mayo Professor and head of the Division of Biostatistics at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Koopmeiners is among the U of M’s youngest department heads leading one of its highest-funded units. The Division of Biostatistics recently received $200 million to support its work coordinating clinical trials for the National Institutes of Health’s Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines initiative.

Koopmeiners, who has a doctorate in biostatistics from the University of Washington, has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles in top biostatistics and medical journals. His research focuses on the design and monitoring of clinical trials, tobacco regulatory science and biomedical imaging for cancer detection research. He is the country’s only statistician funded by the National Institutes of Health to develop statistical methods for tobacco regulatory science and holds two U.S. patents related to his work for the Department of Defense to develop MRI as a diagnostic tool for prostate cancer.

Koopmeiners is helping the Division of Biostatistics develop an outreach program with St. Paul Public Schools to make biostatistics more accessible to students who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM fields.

Erik Stenberg ’02

A sudden illness took Erik Stenberg’s life in 2018, but his legacy burns infinitely in the students whose lives he changed by listening to and believing in them.

Stenberg’s career in teaching brought him to several schools, most recently Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, California, where he taught English and helped students prepare for life after high school through Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID. He made such a lasting impact that Terra Linda offers two scholarships in his name.

Stenberg spent three years after graduating from Saint John’s volunteering with AmeriCorps in New York and New Orleans, where he served as an educator in underserved communities in need of strong male influencers. He earned his master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota and then started his 15-plus years as a teacher, touching lives so deeply that student after student took the podium to honor him at his memorial service.

“To me, this is the legacy that we all can consider,” one of his nominators wrote. “How do we do the little things well? How are we fully present in each moment? How do we consider the small things that will have an outsized impact?”