The medal recognizes her work expanding awareness of audiology

After working on behalf of patients with hearing loss for over 41 years, Dr. Kathryn Dowd received Spalding University’s Caritas Medal, as the university’s alumna of the year.

The Caritas Medal is the highest award bestowed by Spalding University. Dowd’s work empowering patients and providers in the field of audiology has been a long and fruitful cause.

As the founder of The Audiology Project, Dowd continues to influence healthcare policies on a state and national level. The Audiology Project is dedicated to increasing awareness within healthcare settings of hearing impairments and links to other diseases.

Hearing impairment can be difficult to identify because the condition is invisible. As a result, some patients can be misdiagnosed. For example, children may be diagnosed with behavioral conditions, when the underlying cause is actually a hearing impairment.

“We’re a very small profession,” Dowd said. “There’s only 15,000 audiologists in the United States. Hopefully this will help our profession to grow. We need more people to know about audiology. When I started in audiology, I had never heard the word before. The more I took classes, the more I realized what it does and how it can help people.”

Dowd completed her undergraduate education at Spalding University in 1972. At Spalding, she majored in French Education and spent a junior year abroad at the Catholic Institute of Paris. Her time in France informs her work to this day. Dowd explained that adjusting to a new language often felt like a barrage of sounds, which required adjustment and time to decipher. Patients receiving hearing aids have similar experiences with sounds they have been unable to hear, at a volume that is new to them.

Additionally, Dowd says Spalding laid a great foundation for her to start her career, even though she pivoted away from teaching English in France.

“Spalding gave me the freedom to think outside the box and to not feel that I had to follow a certain path,” Dowd said. “It was a liberating experience. Spalding gave us building blocks for us to understand what it’s like to be out in the world.”

Initially, she pursued a career in nursing and later specialized in the field of audiology. She earned a Master in Education (MEd) in Audiology from the University of Louisville and later a Clinical Doctorate (AuD) in Audiology from Salus University.

In 2020 the Osborne College of Audiology named Dowd the national Audiologist of the Year. She previously received the Audiology Awareness Award from the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recognized Dowd for numerous articles in professional journals and increasing awareness regarding hearing loss and chronic diseases.

“I’m very honored to get an award,” Dowd said. “I don’t know that I deserve it over any of the other students that went to school with me. They’ve all excelled in things that they’ve done. We had a lot of people that succeeded in their work over the past 50 years.”

Spalding safely returned to in-person Commencement activities Thursday-Saturday, June 3-5, 2021 in celebration of the classes of 2021 and 2020. For 2021, Spalding celebrated a total of 585 graduates who have earned or will earn bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees. The number of graduates in 2020 was 486.

Spalding also honored five individuals for 2021 with the university’s highest awards for faculty, undergraduate students, and alumni. Two retiring faculty members were also honored with the designation of professor emeritus. Here is a rundown of those awards and honors:

BOARD OF TRUSTEES’ OUTSTANDING FACULTY AWARD – Dr. Donna Elkins, Professor, School of Communication

In addition to teaching a range of undergraduate communication courses at Spalding and being an outstanding instructor, Dr. Elkins has been an invaluable resource to her colleagues on the faculty, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and as an expert in online and hybrid teaching, Dr. Elkins was instrumental in helping faculty who needed guidance in suddenly shifting their courses online at the onset of the pandemic. She conducted or arranged for multiple trainings for faculty and has been a constant, available resource over the past year.

Dr. Elkins’ helpfulness, compassion and positivity have earned her the admiration of her colleagues on the faculty, and she has helped build their confidence in learning new ways to teach.

In addition, Dr. Elkins teaches in the Master of Science in Business Communication program, chairs or serves on multiple important faculty committees on campus, and is a dedicated researcher and scholar who frequently presents at conferences and publishes journal articles.

*Home page for info and links to ceremony replays and programs
*Read President McClure’s Commencement address and top 10 list
*Tons of photos on Spalding’s Commencement Facebook album
*Graduate features and Q&As

Jaz'Myne Ware with Tori Murden McClure
Jaz’Myne Ware (blue), with President Tori Murden McClure, received the Mother Catherine Spalding Service Learning Award.

MOTHER CATHERINE SPALDING SERVICE LEARNING AWARD – Jaz’Myne Ware, Bachelor of Science in Social Work

This award is presented to a graduating senior who embodies the spiritual values of faith, hope and charity, which emulate the university’s founder, Mother Catherine Spalding.  Ware was chosen for having made a mark on the Spalding community as well as the greater community of Louisville through her service, intellect, and passion for social justice.

Ware completed her senior practicum at Family Scholar House, contributing more than 460 hours of unpaid service in support of single parents and their children as the parents pursue their educational and career goals.

In addition, she has been a work-study in the Spalding Library and is heavily involved in campus organizations and activities.

Ware has been praised by faculty for her deep critical thinking and desire to make connections and integrate her classroom experiences. She made the Dean’s List seven times while maintaining an excellent GPA.

An advocate for equity and social justice, Ware participated in demonstrations last year in support of racial justice, and she is a leader in Spalding’s Sexuality and Gender Acceptance student organization.

Ware has been described as, “cheerfully involved in everything, deeply giving of herself, and a strong advocate for those who have been underrepresented and historically oppressed.”

Ware’s long-term goal is to work in low-income communities of color. She also aspires to raise awareness about the need for social workers and improve young people’s understanding of social work, in order to grow the profession and foster systemic change.

Kristen Garren
Kristen Garren, recipient of the Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award

MOTHER ROSE MEAGHER SENIOR AWARD – Kristen Garren, Bachelor of Science in Social Work

The Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award is presented annually to a member of the senior class who has performed well academically and has a proven record as a mature leader and member of the campus community.

Garren was an exemplary student who earned high praise for the meaningful, diligent work she did during her senior practicum at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute. During 475 hours of unpaid service, she supported patients with spinal cord injuries and illnesses with their cases, helping them attain durable medical equipment and receive appropriate care.

Garren’s practicum supervisor described her as a joy to work with and someone who is kind, respectful and empathetic.

In having developed an understanding of trauma-informed care, Garren would like to pursue a career in social work in a medical setting, advocating for patients and families who are navigating the complex health care system. Her effectiveness in social work and understanding of others’ needs is deepened by her background teaching and working in public schools.

Ware, who also earned a minor in addiction studies, is a nine-time Dean’s List selection who has achieved a near-perfect GPA. She has been praised by faculty for her valuable contributions to class discourse.

Her professionalism, helpfulness and proactive approach as a work-study in the Spalding Library and at the enTECH assistive technology resource center have also been praised.

Spalding Alumna of the Year Vicki Hines Martin with Tori Murden McClure at Spalding Commencement
Caritas medalist Vicki Hines-Martin

CARITAS MEDAL (Alumna of the year No. 1) – Vicki Hines-Martin

At a time when the nation and world continue to celebrate the contributions of nurses during the pandemic, School of Nursing graduate Dr. Vicki Hines-Martin, who received the degrees of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (1975) and Master of Arts in Education (1983) from Spalding, was one of two School of Nursing graduates this year to be presented with the Caritas Medal. It is considered the university’s highest honor.

An educator and researcher who is acclaimed for her work focused on health disparities, access to care and healthcare needs of minority populations, Hines-Martin serves as Associate Dean for the University of Louisville School of Nursing’s Office of Community Engagement and Diversity Inclusion, as well as Director of Community Outreach for the U of L Health Sciences Center’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Hines-Martin has been on the full-time faculty at U of L since 1998. She has also taught at the University of Kentucky, Indiana University Southeast and Jefferson Community and Technical College and served on a range of national journal editorial boards, advisory panels and peer review boards.

In addition, from 2019-20, she was President of the International Society of Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses, and she has served in a variety of roles since 1980 with the Kentucky Nurses Association, including Co-Director of the Kentucky Nurses Helping Nurses Project in 2020.

In addition to her Spalding degrees, Hines-Martin earned a PhD in Nursing from the University of Kentucky (1994) and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Cincinnati.

Spalding Alumna of the Year Mary Romelfanger with Tori Murden McClure
Caritas medalist Mary Romelfanger 

CARITAS MEDAL (Alumna of the year No. 2) – Mary Romelfanger

The other School of Nursing graduate to be honored with the Caritas Medal was Mary Romelfanger (BSN, 1976), who has been a longtime leader, administrator and consultant in geriatric and senior care who recently became the Director of Operations for Hildegard House.

Romelfanger, who received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Spalding in 1976, has been a longtime leader, administrator and consultant in geriatric and senior care who recently became the Director of Operations for Hildegard House, Kentucky’s first and only comfort care home. Hildegard House provides a home and compassionate care for individuals at the end of life who have no home or loved ones to care for them so that they may die with dignity.

Romelfanger previously served as Associate Director for the University of Louisville School of Medicine’s Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging (2013-16), and she was Vice President for Clinical Services for Presbyterian Homes and Services of Kentucky (2008-09). From 1994 to 2005, Romelfanger was Director of the U.S. Office of Health Services for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and before that she spent 14 years as Deputy Executive Director of the Kentucky Board of Nursing.

Romelfanger’s civic service includes membership on the Board of Directors of ElderServe since 2016. She also served on the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission Alzheimer’s and Dementia Workforce Assessment Task Force, the Kentucky Council on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the U of L Department of Family and Geriatrics Advisory Board and the Spalding School of Nursing Advisory Board.

She has recently served as a COVID-19 testing and vaccination volunteer.

DESIGNATION OF FACULTY EMERITUS – Dr. Joseph Maloney, Professor, School of Nursing

Maloney was one two retiring faculty members from the School of Nursing to be honored by the trustees, who deemed that they have left a lasting mark on the university by displaying an intense love of learning and teaching, a powerful dedication to their students and a strong loyalty to Spalding that will be remembered and appreciated for years to come.

Maloney served and taught for 18 years in the School of Nursing. In recent years he has taught in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in the areas of medical/surgical nursing and pharmacology. His tenure at Spalding followed a 27-year career in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. In addition to teaching, Dr. Maloney has published more than 30 scholarly articles.

Spalding Faculty Emeritus Brother Ignatius Perkins and Tori Murden McClure
Faculty Emeritus Brother Ignatius Perkins

DESIGNATION OF FACULTY EMERITUS – Brother Ignatius Perkins, PhD, Chair and Professor, School of Nursing

Brother Perkins has been a key figure in nursing education at Spalding during its century-long history in downtown Louisville, having served two separate stints as Nursing Chair during more than a decade of total service on the faculty. In addition, Brother Perkins is one of the country’s leading scholars on bioethics and medical ethics, as well a leader in Catholic health care who has held numerous leadership roles within the Dominican Friars. Brother Perkins was Chair of the School of Nursing from 2003 to 2005 while dually serving as Dean of the College of Health and Natural Sciences. He returned to the role of Nursing Chair in 2019. Brother Perkins, who is a graduate of the nursing school and the College of Education, is a past recipient of the Caritas Medal as Alumnus of the Year.

At Commencement, it was also announced that the conference room in the Republic Bank Academic Center will be renamed in honor of Perkins.


In 2020, the Caritas Medal was awarded posthumously to the late Dr. Perry Sangalli (Doctor of Education, ’98), who was the longtime President at St. Xavier High School and a longtime Spalding trustee. Last year’s Outstanding Faculty Award recipient was Dr. Brenda Nash of the School of Professional Psychology. Psychology Professor Dr. Kenneth Linfield, who retired last year, received the designation as Faculty Emeritus. The undergraduate student award winners were Sally Rother, BFA in Creative Writing, Mother Catherine Spalding Service Learning Award; and Kasim Alsalman, BS in Business Administration, Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award.

MORE | Learn about 2020 honorees

Spalding University will hold its annual commencement ceremony on June 2 to celebrate 645 students who have completed or will complete bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during the 2017-18 school year.

The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at Canaan Christian Church, 2840 Hikes Lane.

Spalding will also recognize five individuals with honorary degrees or special awards that recognize service, philanthropy, leadership and dedication to the greater good.

Community activist Christopher 2X, retired banking executive and current nonprofit leader Carl M. Thomas and banking executive Steve Trager will each receive an honorary doctorate of public service.

Nursing leader Christe Coe (Master of Science in Nursing, 2008), will receive the Caritas Medal as the university’s alumna of the year – the highest honor Spalding annually bestows. Additionally, Barbara Carter, field director for the Spalding School of Social Work, will receive this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award.

Here’s more on those five honorees:

Honorary doctorate of public service

**Christopher 2X is an anti-violence and peace advocate in Louisville who has sought to be a “voice for the voiceless” since 2004, and he has been called upon multiple times to smooth difficult situations that arise in the community. He has created or co-created campaigns such as Fight Crimes Against Children, Connected Voices, Voices of the Survivors, Put Down the Gun, Project Build a Rapport, Let the Kids Grow, Team Hope NOLA, the Respect Project and Justice for LIL 1s. In 2012, he was appointed to the mayor’s Violence Prevention Work Group, and he has been featured in national media for his work related to violent crime and incarceration issues.

He serves as ambassador of public relations for the Global Mixed Gender Basketball League, recently created by the rapper and entrepreneur Percy Miller, aka Master P, and he has started a series of Balling for a Cause youth basketball camps that focus on leadership skills.

**Carl M. Thomas is the executive director of the V.V. Cooke Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations that support religious, educational and humanitarian causes.  He retired in 2015 as president and treasurer of the Gheens Foundation after 10 years in that position. He retired in 2005 as chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Bank and Trust Co., where he worked for 14 years and was one of its founding employees. He also is former senior vice president and director of the banking division at First National Bank of Louisville/National City Bank.

Among his civic and nonprofit roles, Thomas is the board chairman of the Filson Historical Society and is on the boards of the Home of the Innocents, the Lincoln Heritage Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Fund for the Arts, Stage One Family Theatre and Future Up. He is a former Spalding trustee.

**Steve Trager is the chairman and CEO of Republic Bank, where he has worked since 1987, and has held myriad roles in other professional, educational and charitable organizations. Trager is actively involved in the operation and retail management of Republic’s 45 banking centers in Kentucky, Indiana, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee with total assets of $5.1 billion. He is also past chairman for the Kentucky Bankers Association, the University of Louisville Board of Overseers, the 2016 Fund for the Arts Campaign and Leadership Kentucky. He is a former board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Louisville Branch and the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. Trager currently serves on the Bellarmine University Board of Trustees.

Among his accolades, Trager was in 2003 named the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Man of the Year and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southern Ohio and Kentucky region. He was a 2004 inductee into the Atherton High School Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame and the 2005 winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award for the U of L Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. Trager served as council chair with the Boy Scouts of America for the 2009 Friends of Scouting Campaign, and he was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame in 2015.

Caritas Medal (Alumna of the year)

Christe Coe, who came to Spalding as an adult to earn her MSN, is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has served 12 years on the Kentucky Board of Nursing, currently as the financial officer. She has been active with the Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives and has served as a board member at Spalding, a CPR instructor for the American Heart Association and a committee member for St. Agnes parish and school. Coe is a supporter of Kosair Charities, Little Sisters of the Poor, Louisville Metro Animal Services and other charitable causes.

The Caritas Medal is presented to an alumna or alumnus who has made a significant contribution to a particular field and who embodies the qualities and spirit of service encompassed in the mission of Spalding. “Caritas” – Latin for “charity”- is included in “Caritas Christi Urget Nos” (The Charity of Christ Urges Us), which is the motto of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, the Catholic order that founded Spalding.

Outstanding Faculty Award

Barbara Carter has served as the field director for undergraduate and master’s students in the School of Social Work for more than 10 years, ensuring that students receive rigorous and relevant field experience prior to joining the profession of social work. During her time at Spalding, Carter maintains a 100 percent placement rate for students, having placed more than 700 of them in social service agencies in Kentucky and other states.

Christopher 2X head shot
Christopher 2X
Carl Thomas head shot
Carl Thomas
Steve Trager professional head shot
Steve Trager


When Susan McKim Griffin reflects on a career of success in higher education and the advancement of nonprofit organizations, she praises her alma mater, Spalding University, for starting her down the path of professional achievement and satisfaction.

Early last summer, Spalding reciprocated, giving Griffin its highest order of praise as the 2017 winner of the Caritas Medal, which recognizes the university’s alumnus or alumna of the year.

Presented since 1961, the Caritas Award is the highest honor awarded by Spalding. The winner, who’s chosen from nominations by other Spalding alumni, is recognized for having made a significant contribution in a particular field and who embodies the qualities and spirit of service encompassed in the philosophy, mission and tradition of Spalding.

Griffin, the owner of Griffin Fundraising and Marketing and a former fundraiser at the University of Louisville and the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, has been a leading woman in her field and has left a lasting mark with her consulting firm having helped raised more than $100 million for clients over three decades.

Griffin also has contributed analysis on workforce diversity and was an administrator for the Kentuckiana Metroversity higher-ed corsortium.

The 1968 Spalding graduate also represents a little piece of history at her alma mater, having served as Spalding’s first admissions counselor. That was Griffin’s first job out of college and one she looks back on fondly.

“Spalding started me on this course,” she said.

Griffin said she was stunned to receive word in March from Spalding President Tori Murden McClure that she’d been selected as the 2017 Caritas winner.

McClure had requested a lunch meeting that day, but Griffin had no clue what McClure wanted to discuss. McClure also brought Griffin’s son, Bert, who is Spalding’s chief advancement officer. Bert Griffin hadn’t told his mother he would be there, which made her even more curious what the meeting was about.

“Tori said, ‘You’re probably wondering why I invited you for lunch,’” Susan Griffin recalled. After McClure gave her the news that she’d won the Caritas, Griffin got emotional.

“I could not speak,” Griffin said. “It just never crossed my mind. I just couldn’t speak for the longest time. ’ It has been a road of memories and such joy to go through the whole process. It took my breath away.”

Griffin said she was touched to have family, friends, clients and classmates attend the Caritas receptions that were held in her honor, including some who drove several hours to be there. At one gathering, McClure invited attendees to have an open-mike session of sorts to share stories about Griffin.

“It was incredible,” Griffin said. “You start thinking about the work you do every day and don’t give it much thought, and then (at an event like that) you start thinking about the organizations that you work with. … So it’s truly standing on the shoulders of other people so that we can do things that others care about. That night all exploded in my mind, and I will forever be grateful.”

An accomplished career

Griffin graduated from Spalding with a bachelor’s degree in history. She had given almost no consideration to what she wanted to do for a career after college, except for feeling confident her Spalding education would prepare her to succeed at something.

She didn’t have to look far for her first job offer. President Sister Mary Charlotte Fowler asked Griffin if she would like to organize the university’s admissions office and become its recruiter.

Griffin traveled up and down the East coast presenting at Catholic college fairs from Massachusetts to Florida – once riding out a hurricane in a Daytona Beach hotel.

After a year, she requested an opportunity to learn more about higher education, and Spalding administrators helped place her with a full scholarship at Indiana University’s graduate program for personnel administration.

The added training and the experience eventually propelled Griffin into four years of work in Florida – two at a community college and two at Florida State University. While at FSU, she was a part of a group that analyzed workforce diversity during the onset of Affirmative Action.

She moved back home to work at the University of Louisville, then ultimately took a job at Metroversity, spending 15 years developing programs and helping universities become more accessible to nontraditional students.

After stints in the advancement departments at U of L and the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, she set out on her own to start a private firm that has served dozens of clients over the years. It was the first such firm in the state to be owned by a woman.

She traces much of her success back to her Spalding roots.

“It wasn’t just about the time I was here,” she said. “It was the time I was here and when I graduated, you got me a job, and when I decided I needed to go back to school, you supported me with that, and it’s just kept on. I never really started thinking about Sister Mary Charlotte being the one who started me on that path until I started thinking about, ‘How did I get here?’”

With her 50-year graduation reunion coming next year and Spalding’s 100-year anniversary of being located downtown coming in 2019-20, Griffin encourages fellow alumni to come back to Spalding and see the changes that have occurred on the growing campus.

“Decisions are being made here that are really, in my opinion, cutting-edge for small universities and are having a big mark on our community,” Griffin said. “I think Tori McClure has put a name on this place that will forever and ever make us all proud. … I think anyone who’s ever stepped foot on Spalding’s campus needs to come and see the difference, the thoughtfulness that’s been put into new green spaces and the way the campus looks and the feel and the connectivity to downtown and the SoBro neighborhood. It’s magnificent.”

Griffin also encourages alumni to nominate classmates to become the next Caritas Medal winner. Nominations for 2018 are being accepted through Jan. 29.

Griffin keeps her Caritas medal on a chain given to her by husband and wears it on special occasions.

“It keeps Spalding in front of me all the time,” she said. “… For any future winner of the Caritas medal, that individual is in for a rare treat of recognition and honor and love, but more important, it’s a reflection on the whole institution.”