2014 Alumni Award Winners

Congratulations to the following alumni who were selected by the Alumni Board of Directors as the 2014 Alumni Award Recipients.

Graduate of the Last Decade Award

Sarah Marie Berndt, B.S. Education, ’04


Sarah Marie Berndt, ’04, began her teaching career at Milwaukee’s Golda Meir School in 2004. In 2007, she was acknowledged as the Teacher of the Year by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators for her work strengthening youth leadership while bringing diverse cultures together. In 2010, she became the Spanish and technology teacher at Ronald W. Reagan College Preparatory International Baccalaureate High School in Milwaukee, where she engages in innovative motivational activities to meet the needs of diverse learners. Berndt has transformed learning into fun yet challenging activities, resulting in outstanding student achievement and national recognition.

In 2013, Berndt received the prestigious Milken Family Foundation Award, known as the “Oscar of Teaching,” which honors the top early to mid career educators and recognizes educators for their recent works and the promise of future accomplishments. Berndt’s principal refers to her enthusiasm and dedication as “contagious.” She has earned the respect of parents and colleagues alike. Outside of the classroom, Berndt mentors other teachers and advises student groups including Reagan’s online school newspaper. Berndt received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education degree from Stritch in 2004.

Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement

Brian King, B.A. Communication, ’88


While a student at Stritch, Brian King, '88, worked at Marriott's Great America in Gurnee, IL and shortly after graduation began his career in lodging at the Glendale Residence Inn by Marriott, a few blocks from campus. King now serves as global brand officer for Marriott Endorsed Brands at Marriott International Headquarters in Washington DC, where he is responsible for brand positioning, long-range strategy, marketing communications and product development, with the overall objective of "making Marriott the most sought after hotel brand in the world."

King has held multiple positions, including revenue management, reservations, operations, sales and marketing. He has been instrumental in leading brand strategies in emerging markets such as India, China and Brazil. King's career highlights include overseeing the global repositioning of the company's largest brand, Courtyard by Marriott; the creation and launch of MOXY HOTELS, securing and activating Courtyard by Marriott as the Official Hotel Sponsor of the NFL; and designing the largest leadership meeting in the company's history with 3,200 attendees, including keynote speaker, former President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton.

King volunteers regularly, mentoring youth, general managers, and others interested in careers in marketing and hotel management. He believes that giving others opportunities to succeed is what matters most. King earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Stritch in 1988 and completed his executive education at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the School of Hotel Management at Cornell University.

James Lindenberg, M.B.A., ’93


James “Jim” Lindenberg, ’93, is one of southeastern Wisconsin’s best-known and successful entrepreneurs. In 1994, he launched a wire, cable and tubing manufacturing company, World Class Wire and Cable, building it into an industry leader within the first five years of operation. The company earned the Future 50 Award, recognizing it as one of the 50 fastest-growing companies in the region, from 1998-2000.

The U.S. Small Business Administration selected Lindenberg as Wisconsin’s 2005 Small Business Person of the Year. In 2007, Inc. Magazine named World Class Wire and Cable one of the Top 5,000 businesses in the United States. The same year, Ernst & Young named Lindenberg Entrepreneur of the Year for both Wisconsin and the Lake Michigan area. He is the 15th person worldwide to simultaneously hold the CSE (Certified Sales Executive) and CME (Certified Marketing Executive) certifications. In 2008, Lindenberg sold World Class Wire and Cable to Anixter Inc. The following year, he purchased the Milwaukee Wave to keep the team in Milwaukee and Lindenberg then created the Wave of Hope, a non-profit organization that supports local charities.

In 2013, Lindenberg sold the Milwaukee Wave and the Wave of Hope and bought majority interests in the Legends of the Field, a sports memorabilia company. He also operates Lindy Enterprises, a business consulting firm, and JML Holdings, a commercial and residential property broker. Named New Berlin Citizen of the Year in 2003, Lindenberg is active in the community, serving on various boards including Stritch’s Advancement Committee. Lindenberg earned his M.B.A. from Stritch in 1993.

Spirit of St. Francis Service Award: Alumni Service

Gerald Coon, Ph.D. Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service, ’08, M.B.A., ’11


Dr. Gerald “Gerry” Coon, ’08, ’11, has served as the executive director of the St. Francis Children’s Center since 1999, where his commitment to children with special needs has led to expanded services in Milwaukee, as well as two additional counties. In 2013, the center received the Best Workplace Award from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His colleagues attribute this to his leadership and commitment to collaboration and inclusion. Prior to 1999, all of Coon’s professional positions focused on providing services for adults with disabilities, including his role as vice president of Ranch Community Services.

Coon’s extensive civic engagement focuses on diversity and neighborhood development. He has served on boards for the Lisbon Avenue Neighborhood Development, Cooperation West Side Association, and the Human Rights League. He also has been a tutor with Our Next Generation, an organization that provides academic support to youth living in poverty. He chairs the Milwaukee County Birth to Three Management Group, serves on the executive committee of the Agency Executives Group of the Nonprofit Center of Greater Milwaukee, and is the vice chair of the Board of Directors for Diverse and Resilient. Residing in Milwaukee’s central city, Coon works to build a strong community and is routinely seen cleaning up debris on weekends, demonstrating his commitment to maintaining a place residents can be proud to call home.

Coon completed his Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service at Stritch in 2008. After earning a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he returned to Stritch and earned an M.B.A. in 2011. He serves as an adjunct professor in Stritch’s College of Business and Management.

Spirit of St. Francis Service Award: University Supporter

Marlene Lauwasser


Marlene Lauwasser began serving Stritch in 1982 as an administrator for the Institute for Professional Development (IPD). She helped develop Stritch's first adult degree programs, planting the seeds for what became the College of Business and Management. Lauwasser oversaw accounting, curriculum formatting, advertising, and marketing. Under her leadership, Stritch's adult programs enrolled 400 students in the first eight months. The programs not only achieved record enrollment, they also earned national visibility for the University’s innovative higher education formats for working adults.

After 25 years with IPD, Lauwasser retired in 2005 and was awarded the Samuel Cardinal Stritch Medal for Meritorious Service. She transitioned to a role in University Advancement, where she garnered community support and funds for Stritch. Though Lauwasser retired from the University in 2010, she continues to serve. She recently assisted with the 2012 theater production of “Irena's Vow,” served on the planning committee for Sister Camille Kliebhan’s 90th birthday celebration, and currently serves on the College of Business and Management advisory board.

Lauwasser volunteers extensively within the broader community, including her service as board chair for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and leadership of the federation’s $8 million campaign in 2006. She embodies the Franciscan values, truly spreading the spirit of the University in all of her work. She and her husband, Marvin, have supported the Bonaventure Hall campaign, Heritage Park and other University initiatives.

The Mother Bartholomew, OSF Lifetime Achievement Award

Jeanette Mitchell, Ed.D. Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service, ’01


Dr. Jeanette Mitchell, ’01, has spent her life serving Milwaukee and its residents. A dedicated community advocate, she is committed to the education and empowerment of youth, women and minorities. Her work and service encompass politics, education, philanthropy, business and non-profits. She currently serves as program director for Stritch’s Leadership Center, which she co-founded in 2001 and then served as its first executive director. Mitchell has led efforts to develop highly successful management, diversity, leadership coaching, and advocacy programs.

Prior to her role in the Leadership Center, Mitchell spent more than 30 years as a corporate executive, including senior management roles at Ameritech/SBC/AT&T, where she directed teams ranging in size from five to 500, managed multi-million dollar budgets and developed cross-functional teams. She also served on the Milwaukee School Board, including three terms as president. In addition, she spent eight years as the education program officer at the Helen Bader Foundation, where she secured innovative funding to maintain the foundation’s leadership in educational policy. Her efforts helped earn Milwaukee national recognition for its support of educational choices for parents and students. Mitchell also served on the Boards of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and the Leaders Forum. Mitchell currently serves as chair of the City of Milwaukee Charter School Review Committee and is a member of the Rotary Amigos de Milwaukee.

Mitchell has received more than 30 honors and awards for her work and volunteer contributions, including the distinction of “Woman of Influence” by the Milwaukee Business Journal in 2013. She earned a Doctor of Education in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service degree at Stritch in 2001, holds an M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a B.A. in Business and Management from Alverno College.