Alumnus of the year

The Mount Michael Benedictine School Alumni Board selects an alumnus who embodies the core Benedictine values that Mount Michael instills in its students. The main consideration for this award is to recognize an individual who symbolizes what it means to be a Mount Michael Benedictine graduate. Hall of Fame members also include those who were Knighted into the Hall of Fame in coordination with the Annual Night of Knights.

2023 Winner – John Wagner ’67

John was born outside of Creighton, NE and attended grade school at St. Ludger’s Academy, a school run by Franciscan nuns. In 1962, he came to St. John Vianney Seminary, now Mount Michael Benedictine School, where he would spend nine months of the year, until graduating in 1967. During his time as a Knight he accumulated various debate awards and was an honors students.

After graduating from St. John’s, he attended the University of Nebraska- Lincoln where he majored in math. He would continue onto the University of Nebraska’s Law School where he was on full scholarship. In 1972 he graduated with distinction from law school and the Order of the Coif/Law review in January 1973.

John was immediately hired as the 13th employee, by a then small law firm, Kutak Rock in Omaha. Initially, he assisted the ABA Kutak Rock Commission in its total rewrite of the national ethical rules for attorneys, which are still in use today. He then began handling municipal bond issues for Wall Street bankers, specializing in financing affordable housing, a specialty practice in which Kutak Rock has become the leading law firm in the nation. He was made a partner at Kutak in 1976 and served as managing partner of the Omaha home office from 1987-1989. From 1991-2019 he was the head of the firm’s National Public Finance practice group. Currently, John is a Senior Partner of Kutak Rock with an active national practice involving financing of affordable housing.

John and his wife, Carolyn McNamara live in Omaha and have three children, David, Anthony and Anne Marie and six grandchildren.



the athletic hall of fame

The Mount Michael Benedictine School Athletic Hall of Fame selects and gives lasting recognition to those individuals, teams, and coaches who have made exceptional contributions to the achievements and prestige of Mount Michael in the field of athletics and who have continued to demonstrate in their lives the values imparted by athletics. Those honored have contributed to the development of athletics at Mount Michael Benedictine School and its overall excellence. Teams, who by their record in their sport, have provided Mount Michael with an example of lasting leadership and success. The individuals and teams recognized must bring honor an positive recognition to Mount Michael Benedictine School through their sport, their service to the community, and for serving as an excellent representative of all that it means to be a Knight. This Hall of Fame recognition will maintain spirit, pride, and sense of community as well as serving as a historical account of the great athletic tradition that is Mount Michael Benedictine School Athletics.


alumni appreciation award

Established in 2021, this award is given annually to a former faculty/staff member or a friend of the Mount Michael Alumni Association that has had a positive impact on current students and/or alumni. This award is a symbol of the alumni association’s appreciation for this individual’s commitment to the Mount Michael community and their dedication to both past and present students.

2023 Winner – Sharleen Ball

Shar was born in Ogallala, NE and raised in the Grant area. She attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln where she graduated with a degree in Business Education. After teaching in Grant for a few years, she would go onto Colorado State University to earn a master’s in computer science education. Shar met her husband, Howard, after graduating from CSU while teaching in Pueblo. They moved several places and along the way they adopted their daughter, Veronica, and their son, Howard III. In 1990, they made their last stop to their permanent home of Omaha. That summer Shar applied for an open teaching position at Mount Michael Benedictine School.

Shar taught keyboarding, yearbook, computer programing, and journalism during her 22 years at Mount Michael. She had a strong commitment to the Mount Michael community and truly cared about her students. She helped her students excel in the classroom and while teaching journalism she helped lead Mount Michael’s Journalism teams to state runner up finishes in 2007 and 2012 and to state titles in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. In 2009 her team collected nine all-class gold medals, the most of any team in the state that year.

Upon retirement Shar and Howard enjoyed riding his beloved Harley Davidson motorcycle and riding in 1966 Mustang. Sadly, Howard passed away in 2021 from a stroke. Shar continues to live in Omaha. She enjoys spending time with her two children and three grandchildren.

2021                       2022  

knighted alumni

Kelvin (Kelly) Berens

Kelvin (Kelly) Berens
Class of 1969

Kelly Berens came to Mount Michael in 1965 when it was still St. John Vianney Seminary. While in school, Kelly’s main focus outside of classes was basketball. This focus resulted in a state runner-up trophy in 1968 and, more importantly, lifelong friendships with his coach, “Killer Kane,” and his teammates. After graduation in 1969, Kelly received his Bachelor of Arts degree of the University of Nebraska in 1972 and his law degree from Duke University in 1975. At the same time, he was raising a family. His two sons, Troy and Shawn Berens, graduated from Mount Michael in 1988. In 1979, Kelly founded a law firm that became known as Berens & Tate. After 30 years of practice, the firm merged with Jackson Lewis, the largest employment and labor law firm in the country. Kelly is still actively practicing law, enjoying life with his wife, Dawn, and trying to master the game of golf.

Father Patrick Cunningham

Father Patrick Cunningham
Saint John Seminary College

I grew up in a small town in Kansas the oldest of ten children. Growing up I alternately had three desires for my life. To someday take over our dad’s hardware store, or have a career with the military, or become a priest.

I came to St. John Vianney for two years fully expected to return for my junior year. But that summer I met a blue eyed, black haired Irish lass by the name of Judy Kennedy. As madly as I was in love with her, she had no use for me. It took me six years to convince her otherwise.
We were married for 42 years, have eight children, and 15 grandchildren. In 1995 I was ordained a deacon. In February of 2008, Judy was born into eternal life and in 2009 I entered the seminary. I was ordained a priest in 2013. I currently serve as the pastor of three parishes in the Diocese of Bismarck ND.

Most Reverend William J. Dendinger

Bishop William J. Dendinger
Class of 1957

Bishop William J. Dendinger graduated with the first graduating class of Saint Johns Seminary (Mount Michael High School) in Elkhorn in 1957. Bishop Dendinger graduated from Immaculate Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo., with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1961. He continued his education at Aquinas Institute in Dubuque, Iowa, and received his Master of Arts degree in theology in 1964. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 29, 1965, in the Omaha Archdiocese. In 1969, he received his Master of Science degree in counseling from Creighton University in Omaha. Bishop Dendinger taught at Petersburg and Elgin Catholic high schools, now Pope John XXIII from 1965 to 1970. Later that year Bishop Dendinger entered the military as a chaplain. Over the next 31 years, Bishop Dendinger served as a base chaplain, cadet wing chaplain, a member of the chaplain resource board for the United States Air Force Chaplain Institute, plans and programs officer in the Office of the Air Force Chief of Chaplain Service and then chief of the Air Force Chaplain Services. He retired in 2001 as a two-star general. Of his many duties, Bishop Dendinger said celebrating the sacraments is the most inspiring and has enjoyed seeing the changes since Vatican II with more congregation participation, evident in his position at St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Omaha.

Bishop Dendinger served as pastor there until October 2004 when he was named Bishop of the Grand Island diocese. Bishop Dendinger was ordained as the seventh bishop of the Grand Island Diocese on December 13, 2004 at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Grand Island.

Bill Doucette

Bill Doucette
Class of 1967

When I left St. John’s Seminary in May of 1967 I was certain I would never come back. At that time I didn’t appreciate the impact the four years there would have on my future. Several years later I realized, as many alumni eventually do, that you can leave the community, the school and the monks but the Benedictine experience will never leave you.

Entering college, I was surprised at how well I had been prepared. I had the discipline and study habits taught by the monks, and the enthusiasm for learning I picked up from my high school friends. I went on to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology at U.N.O. and spent five and a half years working with emotionally and developmentally challenged kids.

In December 1975 I married Mary Kay LaBute in 1978 we had our first child, Lindsey, who is now an 9attorney in Seattle. Our second daughter Terra was born in 1981. Today she is a Nursing Research Coordinator in Denver. We have three grandsons and two granddaughters.

Early in 1976 I was offered a job as a sales rep for a major orthopedic manufacturer. After three and a half years with little success, my wife and I decided we could do better as an independent distributor. In 1980 we started Surgical Specialties, a multi-state sales and distribution company focused on orthopedic and general surgery products. Three years later we acquired distribution rights to Biomet Inc., a five year old company with zero sales in our territory. By 1989 I was their “Distributor of the Year” and the Wall Street Journal called Biomet the fasted growing orthopedic company in the world. For the next fifteen years I rode the wave of a rapidly expanding total joint market. Having met my contractual and financial goals in 2004, I retired. For seven years Mary and I spent winters in Scottsdale, AZ and decided to move their full time in 2016. We hope to spend summers in Denver.

In retrospect it’s difficult for me to imagine where I’d be today had it not been for the unique education I received from my high school, now known as Mount Michael Benedictine.

Casey Eichler

Casey Eichler (Deceased)
Class of 1978

Casey’s first introduction to Mount Michael Benedictine was attending Camp St. John’s (now called Camp Mount Michael) soon after it was established in 1967. As St. John Vianney Seminary was transitioning to Mount Michael Benedictine High School in 1970 Casey continued to attend camp in the summer and established a connection with the community at Mount Michael enrolling in the fall of 1974. Casey took Physics from Abbot Michael as a senior, the first year he taught in 1978, which was quite an experience. Casey attended Saint John’s University where he graduated with a degree in accounting and soon moved to Dallas Texas with a classmate from Mount Michael (Tom Driscoll). He moved back to Omaha for a short time before relocating to Seattle to join a technology start up, Microsoft. In 1990 Casey moved to the Silicon Valley to work for Steve Job’s start up NeXT Computer which eventually merged with Apple Computer to form what is today known as Apple. Over the next 25+ years he was involved with several technology companies taking two public on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Casey was committed to his community beginning with teaching CCD in Dallas with Tom. He was president of the school board at his parish, a member of the Stanford University Rotary Club and remained active at both Mount Michael and St. John’s University. He served on the Board of Trustees at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga California. Residing in Redwood City California, Casey lost a battle with cancer and passed in March of 2022. He is survived by his wife of over 35 years, Kathleen, abd their three children Erin, Patrick and Maggie.

Dr. Luvern Gubbels, ED.D

Dr. Luvern Gubbels, ED.D
Class of 1962

A product of Catholic schools, Luvern followed his passion for Catholic education. After graduating from St. John Vianney Seminary in 1964, he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo.
He began his career teaching at his hometown school in Randolph, NE at St. Francis de Chantel Catholic Grade School. He also taught at Archbishop Rummel High School in Omaha before earning a master’s degree in administration and a specialist degree in education from the University of Nebraska – Omaha. He earned his doctorate in administration, curriculum and administration from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in 1987. He served as coordinator for Catholic Southeast School, principal of St. Robert Bellarmine Grade School and principal of Holy Name School (pre-K- 12), all in Omaha. He served as the director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Winona, Minn. before moving to Des Moines. He has served as the Superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Des Moines, IA since 1996. Additionally, Luvern has served on a variety of Board of Directors in Des Moines and Omaha and is a member of the National Catholic Education Association and Chief Administrators of Catholic Education
Dr. Gubbels will be retiring at the end of this academic year and plans to find ways to continue to serve in Catholic education in Omaha. He and his wife, Joyce, reside in the Omaha area. They have two sons, a daughter on-law and one granddaughter.

Archbishop Jerome Hanus

ArchBishop Jerome Hanus
Class of 1958

Archbishop Jerome (George) Hanus was born in Brainard, Nebraska in 1940. He attended St. John Vianney Seminary graduating in 1958. He joined Conception Abbey in 1961. He graduated from Conception Seminary College and continued advanced Studies at the Pontifical University of San Anselmo in Rome and Princeton University.
He became the sixth abbot of Conception Abbey in 1977 and served as Abbot President of the Swiss-American Congregation from 1984-1987. In 1987 he was appointed Bishop of Saint Cloud Minnesota until his appointment as coadjutor Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa becoming Archbishop in 1995. He retired in 2013. He then returned to Conception Abbey resuming his monastic life.

Thomas (Tom) Hastings

Thomas (Tom) Hastings
Saint John College Seminary

Tom Hastings, a native of Pender, NE, attended Mount Michael, then known as St. John Vianney Seminary, from 1967-1969. Tom served as assistant basketball coach under Jim Kane. Tom later went on to graduate from Wayne State College with a degree in Business Administration. In 1981 Tom started TSL, a family owned transportation business. TSL has 500 employees with locations in Omaha, Kansas City, Denver and Dallas. TSL Cos. Divisions include Transportation Specialists, LTD., Transpec Leasing, TSL Terminals, TSL Logistics and International Logistics, with 113 offices in 81 countries. The latter entity was recognized at the White House in May of 2012 as a recipient of the Presidential E Award. In addition to his business, Tom founded and has been involved in Twin River Valley, a middle school age basketball league for more than 800 boys and girls in Omaha and surrounding areas. Tom and his wife Patty have been married for 42 years and reside in Gretna, NE. They have 3 sons, David and wife Lindsay, Chris, Patrick and wife Kelly, and 3 grandchildren Jagger, Ava and Laurel.

Bill Heller

Bill Heller
Class of 1962

I grew up on a farm on the north edge of Omaha, the middle of three children. Having been born and raised to appreciate farm life, I originally thought that was where I would end up. But God’s plan for my life was better than I could have designed.

My first exposure to St. John’s Seminary was in September 1957 when I attended the Fall Festival. I had just started the eighth grade at my home parish school,
St Philip Neri in Omaha, and was considering where to attend high school. Exploring high school options that year, St. John Seminary kept rising to the top of the list. So in the fall of 1958, I enrolled as a freshman at St. John’s (now Mount Michael Benedictine) with the goal of becoming a priest. During high school, I was drawn to the lifestyle of the Benedictine Community. So during my junior year, I decided to join the Monastery as a Brother after the completion of high school. Under the direction of Father Anselm, I began my electrical career and in 1969 I left the Monastery and became an electrician in Omaha. In 1975 I bought Kenworthy Electric and then in 1993, merged with Baxter Electric to form Baxter Kenworthy Electric Inc. as it is known today. My training and experience at Mount Michael set the foundation for many of the rich and rewarding experiences I have since encountered as a business owner. I am proud that our company was able to install the electrical and data systems in the recently completed David “DJ” Sokol Learning for life Building, as well as other electrical projects around the campus.

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have spent my formative years under the influence of the Benedictine Community at Mount Michael Abbey. The lessons I learned and the experience I gained have served me well in my adult life and for this I will forever be grateful to God and the Mount Michael community.

Kevin Kennedy

Kevin Kennedy
Class of 1979

Kevin Kennedy is a 1979 graduate of Mount Michael Benedictine. After high school, Kevin completed his undergraduate at Stanford and his graduate degree at UCLA. Kevin’s work as a writer and producer have been seen on television and screen. In 1989, he was the writer of a film titled “Curfew” and in 2001 wrote the screenplay for “Sam the Man.” As his career progressed, Kevin was the executive producer and a co-writer of “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” in 2004 starring Sean Penn. In 2010, Kevin made the shift to television with the series “The Defenders” on CBS. The American legal comedy-drama starred Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell as Las Vegas defense attorneys. Kevin’s work on the series as one of the executive producers and writers had his family and friends glued to the tv every week. Kevin was one of the founding members of the Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project, the prestigious fellowship program which encourages new screenwriting talent. Currently, Kevin is working on new projects which will be made public in the near future.

Zachary (Zach) Nelson

Zachary (Zach) Nelson
Class of 1979

Zach Nelson is an accomplished software industry executive and visionary with more than 20 years of leadership experience. His career began with executive positions in marketing, sales, product development and business strategy at some of the most influential and innovative technology companies, including Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and McAfee/Network Associates. CEO of NetSuite since 2002, Nelson led the company’s successful IPO in 2007 and its rise from startup to a slate of over 6,600 active customers. Under Nelson’s leadership, NetSuite has grown substantially year-after-year to become one of the industry’s leading cloud computing companies. He was named one of the 10 Visionary CEOs of 2008 by Nelson holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from Stanford University.

Thomas (Tom) Searcy

Thomas (Tom) Searcy
Class of 1983

Tom Searcy is a nationally recognized author, speaker and the foremost expert in large account sales. His methods of unlocking explosive growth were developed through years of real-world success. By the age of 40, Searcy had led four corporations, transforming annual revenues of less than $15 million to as much as $200 million in each case. Since then, Searcy founded Hunt Big Sales, a fast-growth consultancy and thought leadership organization. With Searcy’s guidance, Hunt Big Sales clients have landed more than $5 billion in new sales with 190 of the Fortune 500 companies, including 3M, Disney, Chase Bank, International Paper, AT&T, Apple and hundreds more. Searcy’s revolutionary ideas are now more accessible than ever. He is the author of RFPs Suck! How to Master the RFP System Once and For All to Win Big Business and co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company. Searcy writes a daily blog called Sales Machine for CBS’ Money Watch, and a weekly blog for, which have a combined monthly readership of 16 million. He is also a regular blog contributor for SalesCrunch’s Sales School and Alltop. Searcy’s expertise has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times UK, and Inc. Magazine. Searcy has also established himself as a nationally renowned speaker. He is a regular contributor to the Inc. Magazine conferences, the Inc. 500/500 Conferences, and Vistage International, the leading organization for CEO thought-leadership, where he is ranked in the top 1% of speakers. He’s also a member of the Million Dollar Speakers Club for the National Speakers Association. Searcy has spoken to more than 5000 CEOs internationally about explosive growth sales.

Peter (Rocky) Snawerdt

Peter (Rocky) Snawerdt
Class of 1982

Rocky Snawerdt is a 1982 graduate of Mount Michael High School. He has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Tulane University and Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Texas – Arlington. Professionally, Rocky has held numerous executive management positions (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Technical Officer) within technology start-up companies and holds nine (9) patents for technical innovations with others pending. Currently, he is a Managing Partner of the venture capital firm, Melbourne Partners. Rocky and his wife, Kathy, have been married for 26 years and have three children and one grandchild.