Stained glass window of Mary teaching Jesus, Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, University of Dayton
Stained glass window of Mary teaching Jesus, Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, University of Dayton

Two members of the St. Mary’s University community were honored Thursday with a 2020 Marianist Heritage Award. This year’s recipients are Elvia Quijano, Adjunct Professor of Languages; and Rosalinda Helbig, Administrative Assistant of Languages.

Leslie Alvarez, a third-year J.D. and a Master of Public Administration student; Paul Pruski, Fall 2019 Criminology graduate; and Josemaria “Chema” Soriano, senior Biophysics major and Master of Science in Engineering Systems Management student, also were honored as Marianist Heritage Student Leadership Award recipients.

The honorees were recognized during the Marianist Heritage Mass at Holy Rosary Catholic Church. The Mass brings together the St. Mary’s community to celebrate the life and heritage of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary.

About the award

The Marianist Heritage Award, given each year since 1981, recognizes faithfulness to the University’s Marianist heritage. It is expressed by an interest in the 200-year development of the Marianist charism through efforts at increasing knowledge and working for its transformation into practice in the University community.

The award recognizes recipients for their support and promotion of the Catholic and Marianist educational mission and tradition at St. Mary’s.

About the honorees

Elvia Quijano, Adjunct Professor of Languages

Elvia Quijano smiles during award ceremony.

Committed to excellence, Quijano believes in creating a balanced learning environment in which cultural exploration and language acquisition are enjoyable, useful and rewarding experiences. Helping students understand how to use foreign languages, particularly Spanish, to build bridges across cultures is what Quijano has done at St. Mary’s for more than a decade.

She is present to her students and colleagues far beyond her professional duties. An avid and passionate learner, she not only advocates and teaches on Hispanic topics, but also models the posture of lifelong learning. She instructs others in the Marianist commitment to an integral education. Quijano is generous with her time and talents, always responding to those in need.

Rosalinda Helbig, Administrative Assistant of Languages

Rosalinda Helbig

The Marianist educational characteristic of adaptation and change is embodied by someone who is open and ready to take on the diversity of any given day. Working with cultures and language, faculty and students as an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Languages, Helbig successfully performs her duties and beyond. Working at St. Mary’s since 2007, Helbig approaches her job as a personal vocation, meeting the needs of faculty, students, her peers and visitors. She takes great care responding to everyone, taking deep interest in their well-being.

Helbig is a pillar of the Marianist charism of hospitality and generosity responding to whatever needs to be done. Her willingness to share her faith has enabled students, faculty and staff to gather for the Day of the Dead Celebration. Her positive and engaging presence is contagious in inviting and encouraging all to participate in religious services and other university events.

Leslie Alvarez, third-year J.D. and a Master of Public Administration student

Leslie Alvarez accepts award from President Mengler and Father Eden.

Alvarez has emerged as a leader in the legal field, developing new and innovative pro bono services in San Antonio and South Texas.

“Leslie has grown and developed her counseling style with a genuine empathy as she engages with clients experiencing homelessness, mental health and developmental differences, modeling for her classmates how to interact with professionalism and with dignity,” said Greg Zlotnick, Marianist Educational Associate and Director of Pro Bono Programs at the School of Law,

Alvarez recently wrote an article about students with disabilities for The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review on Race and Social Justice, for which she was honored.  Alvarez embodies the Marianist characteristic of embracing an education “for service, justice and peace.” She has advocated for disability-related rights of children and families impacted by the family separation crisis. She has leveraged her internship with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to assist with organizing two community clinics focused on supporting the needs of individuals with mental challenges.

Paul Pruski, Fall 2019 Criminology graduate

Paul Pruski wears a lei to accept his award.

Pruski often engages in different University Ministry activities: from altar serving at a funeral Mass or daily liturgy to volunteering as a retreat leader at Rattler Awakening. Pruski exemplifies how students embrace the Marianist charism at St. Mary’s. Through his involvement with the Bridge ministry, Pruski nurtures our community.

In December, he graduated with a Criminology degree, summa cum laude. One of his nominators described Pruski as someone who does things with a whole heart. He is present for his peers when they need a helping hand, extends a listening ear and offers words of encouragement. Pruski’s leadership is quiet and humble, doing whatever is needed. Inspired by St. Mary’s and the Marianist educational philosophy, Pruski “seizes the moment” with a distinctive passion and joy — be it a cheerful voice at a sports game or leading the 3 O’clock Prayer on Wednesdays at the Barrett Memorial Bell Tower.

Josemaria “Chema” Soriano, senior Biophysics major and Master of Science in Engineering Systems Management student

Josemaria Soriano smiles during the award ceremony.

Soriano exhibits his commitment to Marianist education and how to live it through actions and behaviors. Soriano puts his hopes prayers into action as he brings radical hospitality into all of his interactions. Soriano grew up as part of a diverse community anchored by the Marianist school he attended in Peru. Growing up and being exposed to the Marianist charism from an early age, it was a natural next step for him to enroll at St. Mary’s University. Soriano is a dedicated dual Mathematics and History major and has completed significant research during summers at the University of Dayton and University of Notre Dame. Soriano uses his internship money to fund his sister’s tuition and support the needs of his family in Peru.

As an active member of the Marianist Leadership Program, he spends significant amounts of time coaching and mentoring his peers, not just with academics, but also helping others better understand the Marianist charism. Soriano volunteers with the poor and needy here in the United States and in Lima, Peru.

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