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Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are, from left, Douglas Small ’82, Outstanding Alumni Award; Sister Beth Butler, OP, Honorary Alumni Award; and Tammy R. McCrory ’12, Recent Graduate Award. Not pictured is Jeremy J. Romer ’08, recipient of the Sister Ann Joachim Award.

October 20, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Beth Butler, OP, was named an Honorary Alum of Siena Heights University in recognition of her positive influence on criminal justice students 40 years ago. She received the award during the October 13, 2023, Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony at Rueckert Auditorium. The awards program was part of Siena Heights University’s Homecoming weekend, October 13-15, 2023.

Alumni, students and staff of Siena Heights University, and friends and family of the honorees were welcomed by Andy Switzer ’13, President of the Alumni Board, and by Douglas Palmer, PhD, President of Siena Heights University. 

“Today, we’re here about honoring those who have come before – welcoming our wonderful alumni who have represented Siena Heights University and are doing so well,” Dr. Palmer said. “We are thankful to have people like you who continue to demonstrate the values of a Siena Heights education. What you offer to the world is invaluable.” 

In introducing Sister Beth, Sister Sharon Weber, OP, PhD, noted that Sister Beth was chosen as an Honorary Alum because she is “an inspirational model who made a difference for Siena Heights by demonstrating exceptional commitment to it and support for the mission and the spirit of the university.” 

Sister Beth began her years of study at Siena Heights but graduated from Barry University and earned a master’s degree in criminal justice at Michigan State University. In her master’s work, she traveled to Europe to compare the criminal justice systems in the United States with those in other countries.

Sister Sharon said Sister Beth was “instrumental in the formative years of the Criminal Justice programs at both Siena Heights and Barry universities,” both sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She was a criminal justice professor at Siena Heights in the 1980s, serving as a mentor to her students.  

Through the years, Sister Beth also ministered in the criminal justice system, teaching prison inmates in Michigan and California and serving as a probation officer, chaplain of the Miami Police Department, and supervisor for public safety and security at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California.

Sister Beth Butler, OP, displays the Honorary Alumni Award with Douglas Palmer, PhD, President of Siena Heights University.
Photo by Laura Harvey, courtesy of Siena Heights University

But Sister Beth was especially honored for her influence on her criminal justice students, who nominated her for the award. “As they looked back 40 years, they remembered that her honest questions about how they were doing in and out of the classroom played an integral part in their growth,” Sister Sharon said. “She always showed up for them and still does, offering friendship and support in many circumstances.” At the same time, Sister Beth had high expectations, requiring “hard work and perseverance on their part.”

Sister Sharon noted the continuing effect of Sister Beth’s influence over the years as her students carried forward the same qualities of care and dedication in their own work – “work that has influenced the criminal justice system where they have served at all levels…. Her influence has been widespread.”

Upon accepting the award, Sister Beth said it was an honor.

“What you have done is outstanding,” Sister Beth told her students. “You have not only worked in every field in the criminal justice system … you have been in all institutions: federal, state, county. You have become managers, directors, supervisors, chiefs. 

“Your success is because you have been standing on the shoulders of many professors, Dominican Sisters, family, and friends who have influenced you in the past,” Sister Beth said. “I’m very proud of your accomplishments, and our alumni family shares this pride with me.”

The Honorary Alumni Award recognizes non-graduates of Siena Heights who “demonstrate exceptional commitment to and support for the mission and spirit of the University.” They are also “inspirational role models who have made a significant difference for Siena Heights by sharing themselves through generous and sustained gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure.”

Also recognized during the Distinguished Alumni Awards were:

  • Douglas “Doug” Small ’82, received the Outstanding Alumni Award for his work as President and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids, which attracts tourism and conventions to the city. He worked with others to create a hospitality and tourism academy to assist disadvantaged high school students. The Outstanding Alumni Award is presented to those “whose outstanding professional achievements and/or volunteer contributions promote Siena positively to the community” and who demonstrate strong leadership.
  • Tammy R. McCrorry ’12, recipient of the Recent Graduate Award, is a public health project leader who opened the McCrory Center to support families and children with psychological conditions. The Recent Graduate Award recognizes alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years whose “professional achievement, community involvement, and/or civic commitment demonstrate dedication to Christian values and the spirit of Siena Heights University.”
  • Jeremy J. Romer ’08, recipient of the Sister Ann Joachim Award, was noted for successfully taking on complex cases and tasks for the Dearborn, Michigan, Law Department. He serves several roles for the City of Dearborn, handling the challenges with “skill, diplomacy, and dignity, resulting in positive outcomes.” Named in memory of faculty member Sister Ann Joachim, OP, the award recognizes “significant contributions to the University or the community through activities that demonstrate strong leadership … and the capacity to confront issues head-on while maintaining the image and spirit of the University.”

Feature image caption: Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are, from left, Douglas Small ’82, Outstanding Alumni Award; Sister Beth Butler, OP, Honorary Alumni Award; and Tammy R. McCrory ’12, Recent Graduate Award. Not pictured is Jeremy J. Romer ’08, recipient of the Sister Ann Joachim Award.
Photo by Laura Harvey, courtesy of Siena Heights University

Participants in the Environmental Leadership Experience with plants they potted at the beginning of their adventure at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Permaculture Garden.

May 30, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – Eight students from Barry University in Miami and one from Siena Heights University in Adrian began their summer with an intense week of learning outside of the classroom: as participants of the Environmental Leadership Experience. (ELE). 

“It’s a new experience,” said Barry University sophomore Sierra Johnson, a marketing and graphic design major. “Being born in Miami and being the youngest of three, I never really had a chance to go out or experience the world.” She and her colleagues explored this new world together during the week of May 7-13, 2023, accompanied by two faculty members from Barry University.

Participants came together to “learn about sustainable agricultural ecosystems,” explained Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilor and former Director of the Office of Sustainability. “Through the lens of environmental stewardship, the program [offers] hands-on activities on the Adrian Campus and Permaculture Gardens.”

Begun in 2017, ELE made a comeback this summer after years of absence enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. ELE is a collaborative effort of the universities and the Motherhouse Office of Sustainability.

Students create a rain garden next to the parking lot
of Weber Retreat and Conference Center.

Activities included a tour of the Motherhouse grounds and the Permaculture Garden and work in the Reflective Garden at the Dominican Life Center. But the students spent a major portion of their time building a two-basin rain garden next to the parking lot of Weber Retreat and Conference Center. Along with serving as a pathway to the labyrinth and Cosmic Walk behind Weber Center, the garden was built “as a means of mitigating the degradation caused by rainwater and snow melt coming from the higher ground,” Sister Corinne explained.

The students rounded out their experience with a tour of the Detroit River, a visit to nearby Hidden Lake Gardens, dinner at a nearby restaurant, and a presentation to the Sisters of their experience at the Motherhouse. 

For Anita Zavodska, Professor of Biology at Barry University, the experience in Adrian was a renewal of an enjoyable time in 2019. This year’s experience is “just as wonderful” as in 2019, she said. “We have another wonderful group of students who are really willing to get their hands dirty and work and make a difference,” she said. “It’s like coming home.”   

For the students, ELE was not only a new experience of planting seeds in the Motherhouse grounds, but of planting them in their own hearts as well. 

“I’ve always wanted to work for the environment,” said Lily Hernandez, a Barry student majoring in biology. As a member of Barry’s Green Team, she hopes to incorporate what she learned through ELE into work at Barry. Yet, as she considers a career as a doctor, she hopes to go beyond her time in college. “Everybody could use [this experience] and be a little more sustainable, whatever you’re going into – being more sustainable, loving Earth,” she said.  

Benny Rubinsztejn, a history major at Barry University and a native of Brazil, hopes to begin a second career after 25 years as a stockbroker. 

ELE “is like a highway that works both ways, because students learn something new and bring it home,” Benny said. He sees ELE as important not only because of the environmental impact but also because of the impact on human society, at a time of great division and polarity. When people work together on a project such as the rain garden, he said, “you can build some bridges to [other] people so they respect each other. That’s the most important thing right now.” 

Both Lily and Sierra were inspired not only by their work through ELE but also by the different vegetation and wildlife they experienced in Michigan. “This week in Michigan continuously reminds us of how important it is to take a moment to appreciate all that we have and all that God has given us,” Sierra wrote in a blog organized by the ELE students.

Read the students’ entries in the blog, and watch a video of the experience below.





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