Spalding University held its annual Commencement ceremony on Saturday at Canaan Christian Church, conferring bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to 614 students. Spalding also extended its tradition of conferring honorary degrees to members of the public who have made contributions to the greater good as well as awards to outstanding alumni, faculty and undergraduate students.

This year, the Spalding Board of Trustees presented three honorary doctorates – to business and community leader Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman (Honorary Doctor of Laws), to Humana co-founder David Jones Sr. (Honorary Doctor of Public Service) and to Sister of Charity Federation NGO representative to the United Nations Sister Teresa Kotturan, SCN (Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters).

Spalding presented the Caritas Medal – its highest honor for alumna of the year – to nursing leader Shirley Powers, who earned her bachelor of science in nursing from Spalding in 1972.

Dr. Pattie Dillon, Associate Professor of history and the Chair of the School of Liberal Studies, was named the Outstanding Faculty Award winner for 2019.

Spalding bestowed the honor of Faculty Emeritus/Emerita on three long-serving faculty members who are retiring with at least 25 years of service each at the university – School of Business Assistant Professor of Management David Hudson, School of Nursing Professor and Graduate Program Director Dr. Pamela King and School of Natural Science Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Marlene Will.

The two undergraduate student award winners were Teresa San Ngyuen, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, who received the Mother Catherine Spalding Service Learning Award; and Kelsey Hamilton, Bachelor of Science in Education (Secondary and Middle Grades), who received the Meagher Senior Award.

Here’s a closer look at the honorary degree recipients and award winners from 2019, and congratulations to them all:

Honorary Doctor of Laws – Junior Bridgeman
He’s the owner and chief executive officer of Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Co., LLC, which owns and operates a Coca-Cola production and manufacturing facility in Lenexa, Kansas, and 17 Coca-Cola distribution facilities sprinkled across the American heartland.

Prior to the 2017 acquisition of the Heartland bottling operations, Bridgeman was the owner and chief executive officer of various companies operating over 450 restaurants in 20 states, including 263 Wendy’s restaurants and 123 Chili’s restaurants, and his companies received several prestigious awards within the industry.

Bridgeman attended the University of Louisville, where he graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. He was a three-year letter-winner and starter on the U of L basketball team, receiving All-American honors as a senior. He played professionally from 1975 to ’86 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers.

Bridgeman serves or has served on multiple governing boards, including for Meijer Inc., Churchill Downs, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the James Graham Brown Foundation, Simmons College, the West End School and U of L, where he was board chair.

Bridgeman’s personal honors include membership in the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame and being named a recipient of the Volunteers of America Tribute Award for Outstanding Service to the Commonwealth of Kentucky; the John Thompson Foundation Outstanding Achievement Award; and the Coach John Wooden Key to Life Award.

Honorary Doctorate of Public Service – David A. Jones Sr.
He co-founded Humana Inc. in 1961 and served as chief executive officer for 37 years and board chair for 44 years prior to retiring in 2005. He served as founding board chairman of Hospira until his retirement in 2007. He is a retired director of Abbott Laboratories and several other companies.

Jones was a member of The Business Roundtable and co-founder and past chair of the Healthcare Leadership Council, a group of about 50 CEOs of the nation’s largest health care organizations.

Jones, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and his wife, Betty, have five children and 11 grandchildren.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in 1954, where he won the outstanding senior award.  He also became a Certified Public Accountant that year. After three years of Navy service he entered Yale University, earning a law degree in 1960, while also serving on the economics faculty from 1958 to 1960. He received the Yale Law School Medal in 1990 and the Yale Medal in 1992.

In 2003, he received Romania’s highest civilian award, the Order of Merit, for his role from 1990-2006 in rebuilding that nation’s devastated health care system.

He also holds honorary doctorates from the Chicago Medical School, the Claremont Graduate School, the University of Louisville, Middlebury College, Transylvania University and Ovidius University, Constanta, Romania.

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters – Teresa Kotturan, SCN
In her role as the NGO representative at the UN for the Sisters of Charity Federation, Kotturan’s primary objective is to bring the concerns of the 2,700 members of the federation and all those with whom and to whom they minister in 26 countries to the global stage of the UN. She is committed to raising awareness through the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people live in peace and prosperity.

Kotturan has been a Sister of Charity of Nazareth for 49 years and previously served as Vice President of the SCN. She has also served as the Provincial Superior of the India Province for eight years.

Kotturan works to ensure that the voices of women religious and those they serve are heard. She strives to raise awareness for pressing global concerns such as poverty eradication, lack of access to education, human trafficking, human rights, global citizenship, migration and inter-religious dialogue, social development, financing for development, climate change and environmental sustainability.

Caritas Medalist (Alumna of the Year) – Shirley Burns Powers
The 1972 graduate of Spalding with a bachelor of science degree in nursing contributed to the advancement of health care and the profession of nursing in Louisville. She served  as the Chief Information Officer for Norton Hospital and implemented the first clinical information system in the state. She advanced to become Administrator for Norton Hospital and Senior Executive Officer for Norton Healthcare.

Upon retirement, Shirley started Powers Consulting Inc. and worked as Coordinator of the Greater Louisville Workforce Consortium for the Kentucky Hospital Association and Jefferson County Public Schools to implement the health care magnets in three high schools. She has served as a consultant to the Humana Foundation on a tour to Romania to assist in the writing of a health care plan for that country and to Spalding University on matters of nursing and finance. Burns has served on the boards of many organizations, including ones focused on health care, nursing and helping children. Among the myriad awards and honors she’s received, Burns was a recipient in 1996 of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Spalding for Leadership in Nursing. Now she is receiving the university’s highest honor for any alum.

Outstanding Faculty Award – Pattie Dillon
With courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, Jim Crow, gender history, and U.S. history since 1945, she has been praised for creating curriculum that is both rigorous and relevant to current events, and she is well-known around campus as being a very engaging teacher.

Dillon has undertaken scholarship work with the National Council for History Education, the Lilly Conference on College Teaching, and the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Dillon serves as Faculty Senate President and the Board of Trustees’ Faculty Representative. She is also the faculty mentor for the mission societies and has served on several search committees. Off campus, she serves as President of the Kentucky Association of Teachers of History; as school board member for St. James Catholic School; as a member of the Dialogue on Diversity Conference Committee; and as Lead History Scholar for the Rivers Institute at Hanover College and the NEH Picturing America Grant’s Picturing America’s Changing Landscapes Workshop.

Designation as Professor Emeritus – David Hudson
He has taught of range of management courses in the School of Business while also possessing knowledge and experience in human resources, sales, marketing and public relations. He has been a faculty athletic representative for the Golden Eagles’ athletic program, and he is a 20-year U.S. Army veteran

Designation as Professor Emerita – Pam King
She has trained scores of nurses, nurse practitioners and other health care leaders as the director of the graduate nursing program. Outside of Spading, she has volunteered at the Family Community Clinic, which provides medical care to individuals and families who lack health insurance, and she’s used her position there as a platform to provide service learning opportunities for Spalding students.

Designation as Professor Emerita – Marlene Will
Dr. Will has spent most of her adult life associated with Spalding. She earned a bachelor’s degree in math and a master of arts in teaching at Spalding, then spent more than four decades as a professor at the university, where she also earned her doctorate in education. In teaching a variety of math courses – from college alegbra to statistics, as well as mathematics for teachers – Dr. Will played a part in the college journey of countless students from all manner of majors and degree programs.

Mother Catherine Spalding Service Learning Award – Teresa San Nguyen
Annually, this award recipient embodies the spiritual values of faith, hope and charity, which emulate Spalding’s founder, Mother Catherine Spalding. On campus, Nguyen has been a work-study in the library and a psychology tutor. Off campus, she has been heavily involved with the Vietnamese Eucharist Movement, leading youth groups there, and she volunteers at Centerstone in the crisis management center.

Mother Rose Meagher Senior Award – Kelsey Hamilton
This award goes annually to a person who has performed well academically and has a proven record as a mature leader and member of the campus community. Hamilton has been praised by faculty for her academic excellence, work ethic, maturity, judgment, helpfulness and creativity. As a work-study in the College of Education and as a student teacher at the Brown School, she has been praised for her initiative to complete tasks, her professionalism and her knowledge of mathematics content. She has also been a successful member of the Spalding track and field team and active member of the Kentucky Education Association Student Program. Hamilton collected more than 500 children’s books for the Rutherford Elementary Reads program.

With Spalding University approaching the 100-year anniversary of the creation of its downtown campus, members of the university community will have an opportunity on Nov. 8 to learn more about the history of Spalding and its continued focus on compassion and social justice.

President Tori Murden McClure will host the “Changing Our World through Courage and Compassion: Historical and Current Realities” presentation and community conversation from 2-4:15 p.m. Nov. 8 in the College Street Cafe. The event is sponsored by the Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal and the Office of the Graduate Dean.

Sister Frances Krumpelman, the historian for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, which is Spalding’s founding body, will begin the program with a presentation about the university’s history.

Then McClure will lead a talk about present-day issues and challenges and opportunities to change the world through courage and compassion and the lessons we can learn from the Sisters’ example.

Chandra Irvin, Director of the Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal, said Sister Frances “tells a captivating and compelling story of the courage and compassion which led to Spalding’s founding despite difficulty times. ”

Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal Program Coordinator Liz Anderson said that attendees can expect Sister Frances to share stories about the compassion that inspired Mother Catherine Spalding to found Spalding University and the courage it took to make that a reality in 1814.

“It is so important, especially as Spalding approaches it’s 100-year downtown anniversary, for us to remember the vision and mission of Mother Catherine, know that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and be inspired to continue the work that she and her fellow Sisters of Charity of Nazareth began all those years ago,” Anderson said.

Anderson said that after Sister Frances’ presentation, the community will participate in talking circles that will consist of structured reflection and sharing around the importance of the courage and compassion we can (or maybe can’t) find in our own lives. The discussion, Anderson said, will challenge the group to continue carrying out the mission to meet the needs of the times that began with Mother Catherine.

“As we approach our 100-year anniversary in Louisville, it is important to reflect on how we are writing our own chapter in Spalding’s history,” Irvin said. “… As President McClure has said, the degree to which we embody both courage and compassion in our time will determine how our chapter will be read the future.”




NAZARETH, Kentucky – As Spalding University celebrates its founding body – the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth – and all Spalding alumni the next two days during Founders’ Weekend, the university will welcome the new leaders of that founding body to campus, and, appropriately, they’re all Spalding alumni.

The new SCN Central Leadership Team was installed on Aug. 25 with three Spalding alumnae at the helm: Sister Sangeeta Ayithamattam as president and Sisters Jackulin Jesu and Adeline Fehribach as vice presidents. Sisters Sangeeta and Jackulin are both from India, and it’s the first time that two India natives are on the Central Leadership Team.

All three are expected to attend the Spalding Founders’ Weekend reunion dinner on Saturday evening.

They’ll serve a five-year term leading an SCN congregation that includes hundreds of sisters participating in ministries in five countries: the United States, India, Nepal, Botswana and Belize.

“We keep searching for ways to reach out in compassion and justice and to speak our truth in the spirit of the gospel,” Sister Sangeeta said. “I believe Spalding is following in that path and tradition.”

As a 26-year-old, Sister Sangeeta came to Nazareth and Spalding in 1985, her first time ever in the United States. She majored in business administration with a minor in biology. The business program was a small one at the time, and she was its only international student. She knew that when she came to Spalding that she would eventually be headed back to India to pursue SCN ministries and to work in hospitals, and she said her college education prepared her well.

“There was such a friendly atmosphere, a welcoming atmosphere, which helped me a lot to get adjusted,” she said. “That time really stretched my world view about things, and I found the education system as very broadening. It really prepared me.”

Sister Sangeeta graduated in 1988 and went on to earn a master’s in hospital administration at Xavier University. She worked in administration at three hospitals in India and has served in various SCN leadership roles, including the term that just ended as vice president alongside President Susan Gatz, SCN, who’s also a Spalding alumna.

Sister Adeline, who is a Louisville native and alumna of Angela Marici High School, graduated from Spalding in 1974. She also served on the Spalding faculty from 1996 to 2007 as a religious studies professor.

“It was a good time for me,” she said of her undergraduate years. “I had some really good teachers, many of whom were our own sisters. My time there (as a student and a faculty member), especially my early days, were quite fulfilling. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the people in what was then the College of Arts and Sciences. We had a great group.”

Sister Adeline, who was the provincial of the SCN Western Province from 2012-17 and vice provincial from 2007-12, also holds a master’s in theological studies from Catholic Theological Union and a doctorate in scripture from Vanderbilt.

“I was the first college graduate in my family,” she said, “and I know many of the students at Spalding are first-generation college students. It’s important that Spalding continues to be that niche in Louisville.”

Sister Jackulin, whose work has also primarily been in hospital administration, studied nursing at Spalding from 1990 to ’94. Known as “Jackie from India” because she had three classmates and a dean who were also named Jackie, she was, like Sister Sangeeta, the only international student in her program.

“It was a great experience,” Sister Jackulin said. “My classmates were so good to me.”

She fondly recalls her commencement ceremony in which she won the nursing class’ humanitarian award as voted on by faculty and students.

Sister Jackulin passed her nursing boards and did a brief stint as a nurse in Lexington before returning to India to work in nursing, then administration at various hospitals.

By doing her clinical work in hospitals all around Louisville, “nursing at Spalding gave me a good foundation” for her work in India, she said.

Sister Jackulin said there are many Spalding SCN alumni serving outside the United States, spreading the spirit of service and compassion that Mother Catherine Spalding helped foster.

“But even if they have not studied at Spalding, the Spalding spirit is there – in ministries across India, Nepal, Botswana,” Sister Jackulin said. “Mother Catherine found that spirit, and we carry it everywhere we go. She responded to whatever the need was at that time, whether it be cholera, caring for orphans, whatever it was at that time, and her legacy is lived out today wherever the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are.”





The Spalding community joins the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in saying a loving goodbye to Sister Julia Clare Fontaine, a former Spalding biology professor and department chair who died on Feb. 22 at the age of 97. Here is a link to her obituary and video replay of her funeral.

Among Sister Julia Clare’s many contributions to Spalding and her religious community, she will be fondly remembered as the creator of one of the university’s proudest and most fun campus traditions: the annual Running of the Rodents. The first Spalding rat race, as its commonly called, took place in 1973, and the 46th edition will be held on April 12.

In honor of Sister Julia Clare, let’s look back at an interview with her about the history of the Running of the Rodents that was originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of the former Spalding Magazine:

When former biology professor Sister Julia Clare Fontaine overheard a student complain about the “rat race” of finals, she immediately had an idea for a stress reliever before spring session final exams—racing lab rats. Since 1973, the Running of the Rodents has been a fun-filled, annual Louisville tradition that serves as both a stress reducer and a unique method of teaching students about animal care as well as behavior modification techniques.

Since its inception, the Running of the Rodents has received much attention, and, according to Sister Julia Clare, it has made news on national syndicates as well as BBC London, BBC Mexico and BBC Canada. Trivial Pursuit® coined the race as “The Most Exciting Two Seconds in Sports” after 1987’s rat, Deep Throat, won the Rodent Derby in 1.8 seconds.

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the event. With the theme “Viva Rat Vegas,” the campus was alive with decorations and costumes representing everything Vegas from Elvis and Frank Sinatra to characters from movies such as “Vegas Vacation” and “The Hangover.” Racing rodents donned names such as Lady Luck, Roulette, Burlesque and LibeRATce.

Spalding University sat down with Running of the Rodents creator Sister Julia Clare after the event to talk about the event’s history.

SU: From your perspective, how did the rat race begin?

SJC: It was a biology senior seminar, and I was giving out assignments when one of the students said, “Oh, I’ll be so glad to get out of this rat race.” And I thought, “We have pet rats in the lab. Let’s go outside and race them.” We found boards about 10 feet long, and we assembled them in to four tracks. We put the rats in and let them run. And then, [over the years], it developed into a whole take on the Kentucky Derby.

SU: In what ways has the rat race developed?

SJC: Well, we had a student’s father who made us a round track, and then a few years later, [Spalding alumna and former Rat Queen] Madonna (Ebernez) Wilson, who was studying architecture at U of K, constructed a oval track with an infield, starting gate, a quarter pole, a three-quarter pole and a final. I think it’s the one they are still using today.

Two to three years after the first race, we got the students, regardless of their major, to train the rats prior to the race. We used FrootLoops® in those days. A rat would run so far. and then it would get rewarded with cereal. Then it would run a little farther, then farther, then farther. It took a long time to train them, but those students were very careful with training and taking care of the animals, and the rats would learn to know their trainers. It’s a whole thing on animal behavior.

Students also used to use what I call thoroughbred rats—the Norwegian lab rat—a black and white rat. They are a loving animal like a kitten, and they are not as big as the other rats. One student said her rat would watch television with her. They learn their trainers so that as soon as they hear the trainer’s voice they will come to him [or her]. I used to get them from the medical and dental research building.

SU: Tell us a little bit about the themes of rat race over the years.

SJC: The students picked the themes over the years, but my favorite was probably the year we used the theme of Dallas. Of course, we had a rat named JR. At the time on the show, there was a character named Kristin, and I don’t know if she had her eyes on JR or what, but she got pregnant. It just so happened that year, one of the rats was named Kristin, and don’t you know, she got so pregnant that she wouldn’t fit in the starting gate so we had to scratch her. CBS national news picked it up that year, and they started the news program with Cliff [from Dallas] saying, “I’m gonna get that dirty rat.”

SU: It must be satisfying knowing that something you created has grown from something so small to something that has lasted the past 40 years. How do you think the Running of the Rodents has changed over the years?

SJC: Well, we used to race outside in the [Mansion] parking lot and in those days I got four sets of bleachers from Metro Parks brought in to the lot. [The location now in the ballroom] is the biggest change, I think, but we also used to have betting. You’d put a quarter down on a winner, and you got 30 cents back. [Laughs.] There was one Courier-Journal reporter that said, “Now, how can you as a Catholic condone gambling?” And I said, “You’ve got to be kidding; it’s more of a gamble to walk across Fourth Street and get there safe then it is to put a quarter down on a rat.” [Giggles.]

I’d be interested to see the trainers get back in to using the “thoroughrats”—it would be more scientific. Honestly, I can’t think of anything more that Spalding could do for the Running of the Rodents that it isn’t doing now. When I was there, I was a full-time professor with a full load organizing the race. It’s nice that university has [Student Development and Campus Life] to organize things like the cereal eating contest and penny wars. It’s all right. … I am proud of them.