From the community
Lewis honors religious, educational, philanthropic and business leaders at May Commencement – largest class in university history
Lewis University awarded four honorary degrees at its Spring Commencement Ceremonies in May, recognizing the achievements of Father Robert Barron, creator and host of Catholicism, a groundbreaking 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic faith; James M. “Jim” Denny, a noted Chicago philanthropist with a lifetime of service to Catholic organizations; Guy R. Wiebking, Chairman of Presence Health; and Natalie Bayci, Coordinator for University Missions for the Diocese of Joliet. Jim Denny and Guy Wiebking were honored at the Commencement Ceremony for Graduate Students on Saturday, May 19. On Sunday, May 20, at the Ceremony for Undergraduates, honorary degrees were presented to Natalie Bayci and Father Barron.
As Lewis University celebrates its 80th Anniversary, the May Commencement hosted the largest class ever at Lewis University with approximately 635 undergrads and 307 graduate students. Father Kevin Spiess, Ed.D, presented the faculty address at the Graduate Ceremony. It was followed by the President’s Reception for Graduates and Guests, hosted by Brother James Gaffney, FSC, President of Lewis University.
The Sunday ceremonies began with the Baccalaureate Mass in the Field House, celebrated by Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of Joliet. At the Undergraduate Ceremony, Jessica Luckett presented the Lasallian Student Address and Liana Vantrease was awarded the Father Aquinas Colgan Award.
Mr. James M. Denny
A noted philanthropist with extraordinary service to Catholic and community organizations, James M. Denny is President of Two Rivers L.L.C., a family investment firm. Prior to leading his own firm, Mr. Denny served from 1986 to 1995 as Chief Financial Officer and Vice Chairman for the retail and financial services conglomerate, Sears, Roebuck, and Co., which included oversight responsibility for its Allstate Insurance and Coldwell Banker Real Estate units. Earlier, he held various executive positions at other organizations.
Mr. Denny continues to share his investment expertise with numerous companies through board leadership. He currently is Lead Independent Director of Gilead Sciences, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company whose major product is the leading therapy for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Mr. Denny also serves as Board Chairman for Navicure, Inc., a privately-held healthcare technology company. He has previously served on many other boards and has been a consultant to the World Bank and the Pentagon.
Vice Chairman of the Board of the Catholic Church Extension Society, he also has provided leadership as a Vice Chairman of the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and continues to serve as a member of its Investment Committee. Active on the Board of the Catholic Theological Union, Mr. Denny and his wife were instrumental in the establishment and funding of a Catholic/Muslim study program at CTU.
Mr. Denny is a Life Trustee and a past Chairman of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare Corporation, Northwestern Memorial Foundation and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. In collaboration with the hospital, he and his wife Catherine (“Cate”) established the Denny Community Healthcare Center, a free clinic located in the Lawson House YMCA in Chicago.
Born in Minneapolis to a family whose ancestors were among the earliest settlers of the Minnesota territory, Mr. Denny attended Princeton, served in the military in Korea where he received the Hwarang Distinguished Military Service Medal, and then graduated from the University of Minnesota. He went on to Georgetown Law School, where he was an editor/officer of the Law Review, and then began his career as a lawyer, practicing from 1960 to 1968, in New York and Paris.
Mr. Denny cites numerous major influences for his own success and character, including his mother, a beloved uncle, the men with whom he served in the military, the “depth of faith” he has witnessed through his service and friendships with Cardinal Francis George and the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, and his wife of fifty years, Cate, “a source of love and laughter in our home, and a constant reminder of what is important in life” for him, their six children and nineteen grandchildren.
Mr. Denny’s commitment to excellence, to ethical behavior, and to a faith-filled approach to his life’s work also demonstrates the Mission values of Lewis University, which promote social justice and responsibility in community service, development of the complete person through education, and the spirit which recognizes God as the ultimate reality.
Mr. Guy R. Wiebking
A dedicated leader in Catholic healthcare, Guy R. Wiebking is the first Board Chair of Presence Health, which is the result of the merger of Provena Health System of Mokena, Illinois, and Resurrection Health Care of Chicago. Together they form the largest Catholic not-for-profit healthcare ministry system in Illinois. Prior to that merger, Mr. Wiebking served as the President and CEO of Provena Health System, from 2006 to 2011, and as a charter board member of Provena Health, when it was formed in 1997, and later as Provena’s Board Chair, from 2002 to 2006.
Mr. Wiebking began his nearly forty-year career in the healthcare industry in managerial positions in sales, contracting, manufacturing, and supply chain management at Abbott Laboratories in 1974. After three years on the Board of St. Therese Hospital in Waukegan, Mr. Wiebking accepted the invitation of the sponsoring congregation of one of Provena’s predecessor organizations to join the board of directors for the former Franciscan Sisters Healthcare Corporation. Throughout years in leadership for Catholic healthcare, he has approached his work with compassion and faith-filled zeal.
Born in Maryland, Mr. Wiebking received a Bachelor of Science in Business and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Maryland. He also served in the U.S. Army. At one point in his illustrious career, he was Director and Adjunct Professor of the Sport Management Program in the School of Business Administration at Loyola University.
In addition to being an outstanding and highly regarded leader in the healthcare industry, Mr. Wiebking has distinguished himself as an advocate for the San Miguel Schools, sponsored nationwide by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. His community service also includes active membership on the Board for the Clara Abbott Foundation, and he formerly was on the Board for the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart Health System in Frankfort, Illinois.
He and his wife Sharon, an educator, have endowed a scholarship for students in financial need, named for their parents, “none of whom had the opportunity to attend a university.” Married for 42 years, he and his wife, Sharon, have two adult children, Kathy and Robert, both of whom work in the healthcare industry.
Mr. Wiebking’s nearly four decades of remarkable leadership and service in the healthcare industry have been focused on “delivering advanced medical care with compassion and hope.” His dedication to Catholic healthcare and his commitment to Catholic and Lasallian education affirm the Mission values of Lewis University to foster critical thinking, social justice, pursuit of the fullness of truth, and community in all teaching, learning and service.
Reverend Robert Barron, S.T.D.
A highly dedicated Catholic priest, prolific author, prominent professor and theologian, and remarkably capable television host, Father Robert Barron is the quintessential 21st century theologian, intent on using a global media ministry to realize a “simple but revolutionary mission: to educate and engage the culture…and to tell the story of the Church.” Father Barron reaches millions of people throughout the world with his compelling message about the Catholic Church through his non-profit organization Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and its companion website, as well as by means of his groundbreaking documentary on Catholicism, his extensive lecturing in the United States and abroad, classroom teaching, numerous essays, books, and television, radio, and video programs. No wonder the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, considers Father Barron to be “one of the Church’s best messengers.”
Born and raised in the Chicago-area, Father Barron was ordained as a priest of the Chicago Archdiocese in 1986 and served as Associate Pastor at St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Park Ridge from 1986 to 1989. He received his Master’s degree in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris. A professor of theology since 1992, Father Barron is the Cardinal Francis George Professor of Faith and Culture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. Fluent in French, Spanish, German and Latin, he also served as Visiting Professor at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 2007, and earlier at the University of Notre Dame in 2002. He was a Scholar-in-Residence at the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican in 2007 and 2010 Father Barron shares the Gospel in traditional ways as well, through scholarly essays, lectures, professional presentations, and as the author of numerous scholarly essays and professional association presentations. He has received accolades and recognition for his scholarly work from many organizations.
In his effectively communicating the story of the Catholic faith – with urgency, insight, integrity, and beauty – Father Barron’ ministry also parallels the Catholic and Lasallian heritage of Lewis University and affirms the University’s value of Fidelity, which recognizes God as ultimate reality, unifying the distinct forms of knowledge while recognizing the diversity of human experience.
Motivated by her deep faith and a personal calling to offer help to the poor, Natalie Timko Bayci has reached out to countless people struggling with poverty in numerous countries around the world as the Coordinator for University Missions for the Peace and Social Justice Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Joliet.
Since 2001, Mrs. Bayci has organized and completed nearly thirty mission trips. She and her mission teams, including numerous students and other members of the Lewis University community, have served the very poorest of people, by educating orphans, caring for disabled children, building homes for people who are homeless, assisting at daycare centers, and raising money for food and medicines.
Most recently, in January, 2012, Mrs. Bayci returned from her fifth trip to the Philippines, where she and others helped to build houses and provide health care to those in need. In June 2011, this dynamic grandmother completed her fifteenth mission trip to Sucre, Bolivia, where the Diocese of Joliet earlier helped build a hospital. She also was instrumental in establishing a guest lecture program and a Bolivian exchange student program at the University of St. Francis, in which fourteen Bolivian students have come from Sucre to the United States. In January, 2011, Mrs. Bayci and her mission team served for the first time in Kenya, in a collaborative faith-based effort to extend care to individuals and families struggling with HIV/AIDS, in the midst of severe poverty, limited access to clean water, drought, and political upheaval.
In addition to coordinating and actively participating in this vital global missionary work, Mrs. Bayci has a long history of distinguished service to both religious and community organizations. Mrs. Bayci worked for thirty years as the Administrative Assistant for the Diocese of Joliet in the Bishop’s office, initially serving Bishop Romeo Blanchette who died in 1982, as well as Bishop Daniel Kucera, Bishop Joseph Imesch and Archbishop J. Peter Sartain. Earlier in her career, she was employed for seven years at the University of St. Francis. She began her service work when her parish, the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, needed a volunteer youth minister. She continued serving in numerous additional ways, as Young Adult Coordinator, Parish Council member, Lector, Communion Minister, and as member of the Council of Catholic Women. Mrs. Bayci has been an Associate of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate since 1987.
Mrs. Bayci’s extraordinary and conscientious commitment to people living in poverty has been recognized by numerous organizations. Married to the late Robert Bayci for 41 years, Mrs. Bayci is the mother of five children and grandmother of nine grandchildren. Through her dedicated service to the Church and others, she is continuing the legacy that her own parents began as devout Catholics serving their parish, neighborhood, and extended family.
Indeed, Mrs. Bayci’s life’s work of exemplary service to the poor recalls Saint John Baptist De La Salle’s initiatives to provide education for the poor which has succeeded in “Transforming Lives Since 1680.”
Lewis University is a Catholic university offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 6,500 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected, and socially responsible graduates. The ninth largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. Visithttp://www.lewisu.edu for more information.