2020 S. Emmanuel Renner Service Award

Not too long ago, Kathy Kurvers Henderson ’85 was cleaning out some old files and found a college scholarship application she’d written in high school. When she got to the part where it said, “I want to go to Saint Ben’s, because I want to be at a place where women are expected to be leaders,” she learned a little something about herself.

“I was like, Oh my gosh, I was a feminist. I didn’t even know it,” she laughs. “I really did choose to come here because it was a women’s college and because of the community.”

Today Kathy is still a critical part of that community. So much so that she’s been awarded the 2020 S. Emmanuel Renner Award, which honors an alumna for her service to the college and her contributions as a leader, steward and volunteer to her alma mater.

She is currently in her tenth consecutive year as a College of Saint Benedict Trustee, and yes, that’s unusual. Trustees are usually elected to three-year terms – up to three of them. But Kathy’s current work representing CSB on the collaborative Joint Strategic Visioning Committee with Saint John’s University calls for continuity.

As a certified public accountant, Kathy has chaired the Strategic Resources and Business Infrastructure Committee and sat on the Audit Committee for the CSB Board. “We have an incredible group of trustees,” she says. “And working with the sisters more than I ever did on campus has been an amazing experience.”

She also volunteers regularly for her class reunions. And, for the past few years, she and her husband Jim have hosted the Saint Benedict golf team over spring break at their home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Of course, Kathy’s most obvious connection to the college is easy for anyone to discover: She and Jim are faithful and generous donors. Bennie accounting majors discover that when they apply for the Henderson Accounting Endowed Scholarship. And anyone can discover that when they walk through the Main Building, past the new Kathy Kurvers Henderson ’85 Math Skills Center.

Does it seem a little braggy to put your name on part of a building? Kathy thought so. But a conversation with CSB President Emerita MaryAnn Baenninger opened her eyes. “We said we’d be interested in sponsoring a space,” recalls Kathy, “but we don’t want our names on it. MaryAnn pushed back though – she wanted my name on there. And when she explained it, I understood. It has an impact on current students to see an alumna’s name. Right now, we don’t have many spaces named after women who attended college here. In spaces where we do, it demonstrates to students what’s possible.”

In January 2020, Kathy and Jim announced what was, at the time, the largest gift ever from an alumna – a commitment from their estate with a value of over $5 million. “When [CSB President Emerita] Mary [Hinton] told us that part, it made me both sad and humble,” she says. “I thought, I don’t need notoriety for that. But it’s important.”

It’s important for today’s Bennies to see what’s possible for a CPA and lifelong feminist.