News

End of an Era

For almost 12 years, President Thomas M. Mengler — the second most famous face of the University behind Rattler Man — has shared his vision of St. Mary’s University’s Catholic and Marianist traditions while continuing to educate servant leaders for future generations. In this issue, Gold & Blue magazine honors the impact Mengler has made as he prepares to retire in May 2024.

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News

Alumni

Couple who met in Biology class celebrate 10 years together

Marina Salgado (B.A. ’17) and her husband, Mario Salgado (B.A. ’17), didn’t expect to find chemistry in a Biology class. But in Fall 2013, the couple, in the first semester of their first year of college, met in Biology 1301 at St. Mary’s University.

Mengler’s steadfast work helps The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign reach new heights

The success of St. Mary’s University’s largest campaign didn’t happen without President Thomas M. Mengler, J.D., logging thousands of miles, shaking hundreds of hands and emphatically sharing a vision about the future of its campus and schools.

St. Mary’s authors offer diverse collection of fall reads

Poetry, public relations, knitting and novels about crime and culture — these recently published books from St. Mary’s University alumni cover a wide variety of fascinating topics.

Military veteran MBA alumna becomes knitting author 

Ashleigh Wempe started knitting and pattern designing to pass the time while transitioning from the U.S. Air Force to the St. Mary's University MBA program.

Giving Day 2023 fuels Rattler success

Jaclyn Quilantan, Ph.D. (B.S. ’12), said St. Mary’s University was good to her when she was attending school for her undergraduate degree. Now, she is working to give someone else that same chance. Quilantan is one of many alumni who donate during the annual St. Mary’s University Giving Day.

Keep your mind active with our summer read picks

These books, written by St. Mary’s University students, faculty and alumni, take readers on an educational journey, ranging in topics from philosophy to neurology.

Alumni entrepreneurs discover career and companionship at St. Mary’s 

Despite both being students in the Greehey School of Business, Aaron Thomas and Nisi Heredia (B.B.A. ’11), now Nisi Thomas, didn’t cross paths until they met at a student gathering.

St. Mary’s alumni find benefits through post-graduation guide

From social media to local chapters, from campus events to fun perks, St. Mary's University alumni can find many paths to stay connected to their alma mater through the guide below.

Beat the heat with summer reads

Need a break from the heat? Stay inside with a one of these books written by our very own St. Mary’s University alumni and faculty. 

A St. Mary’s degree 70 years in the making

For Charles Anderson, 88, the Doctor of Commerce, honoris causa, was more than just another milestone in a life full of accomplishments. Instead, this moment 70 years in the making.

St. Mary’s alumnus ditches backpack for guitar case to open stage at Fiesta Oyster Bake

Trey Gonzalez (B.A. ’18) has played crowds of varying sizes, but his performance at Fiesta Oyster Bake is a little more exciting than others.

Defining Moment: Alumnus hopes to give students a chance

When asked about his defining moment at St. Mary’s University, Antonio “Tony” Sanchez Jr. (B.B.A. ’65, J.D. ’69) paused for a moment before answering, “economics.”  

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Arts and Humanities

Forensic Science transfer student finds path to community impact

As a St. Mary’s University junior transfer student majoring in Forensic Science (Criminology Option), Anna Marie Wojnar believes working as a crime scene investigator or in forensics can impact others.

Wall Street Journal recognizes Economics professor for accurate 2023 predictions

She may not have a crystal ball, but Economics Associate Professor Belinda Román was recognized by the Wall Street Journal for giving a most accurate 2023 U.S. economic forecast.

St. Mary’s Spanish professor wins major Peruvian literary award

Christian Elguera Olórtegui, a novelist who teaches Spanish at St. Mary’s University, has won a top literary prize in his home country of Peru, the Copé Award.

Big grants and revamped career services enhance the student experience

Through grants and a realigned career services office, the University’s faculty and staff continuously look to improve the college experience, give hands-on learning opportunities and pinpoint a vocation that aligns with students’ passions.

Brothers excel with Marianist education at St. Mary’s

Brothers Kai and Aidan Solonka chose St. Mary’s University to continue the Marianist education they first encountered at Central Catholic.

St. Mary’s professors to lead panel at weekend anime convention

Benjamin “Josh” Doty, Ph.D., said he has been an anime fan since he first stumbled upon an episode of Dragon Ball as a child. Now, he and Associate Professor of Philosophy Eric Chelstrom, Ph.D., will have the opporutnity to share their passion for anime.

MPA student helps communities from Brownsville to White House

Emmanuel Sanchez believes in the power of civil servants to improve their communities. The combined-degree Political Science and Public Administration student has seen the impacts first-hand during internships from Brownsville to the White House

Leading Ladies: Nancy LaGreca seeks inclusivity through humanities

Nancy LaGreca, Ph.D., is no stranger to diversity.  Growing up in Niagara Falls, New York, she heard multiple languages at home — from her father’s Sicilian to her mother’s Slovakian to their common language, English. 

Alumna continues her passion for service at USAA 

As the corporate responsibility director at USAA, Laura Cabanilla has helped distribute tens of millions of dollars to philanthropic projects that make a difference in the San Antonio community and individuals’ lives.

St. Mary’s scholars and staff preach environmentalism for Earth Day and beyond 

From the time she noted bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, growing at St. Mary’s University Kayla Garcia has wanted to push for a brighter future for the University’s ecological community. 

St. Mary’s course offers a glimpse of international policymaking

As the Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science at St. Mary’s University, Betsy Smith, Ph.D., wants to give her students a chance to learn how political bodies operate.

Psychology major embraces family spirit, campus living

For Lucia Martinez, the St. Mary’s University spirit runs in the family.   Growing up in San Antonio, she would often hear her parents tell stories about their time as Rattlers.

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Athletics and Recreation

Rattler Baseball team member takes computer science talents to the major league

Combining his computer science studies at St. Mary’s University with his passion for baseball, Cayden Garcia made a splash with the Appalachian League, one of the longest-running baseball leagues in the history of professional baseball.

St. Mary’s soccer standout dreams big on and off the field

Many children dream of becoming a professional soccer player, a lawyer or an international businessperson. For international student Daniel “Dani” Gimena, these aspirations aren’t just fantasies.

Basketball alumna makes Harlem Globetrotters’ roster 

With a personality matching her ability on the court, Arysia Porter (B.A. ’19) has taken her talents from studying Criminology and playing Rattler Women’s Basketball around the world with the Harlem Globetrotters.

STUNT program hurdles its way into Rattler Athletics varsity sports portfolio

Toe touches, back tucks and high-air basket tosses signaled the very first practice this summer by   recruits to St. Mary’s University’s newest varsity sport — STUNT. 

Rattler Athletics uses new technology to improve performance 

St. Mary’s University student-athletes — especially in Soccer, Golf and Volleyball — are accessing the latest technology to improve their game, which was made possible partly by donations to Rattler Athletics. 

Women’s Basketball player brings her talents to school and courts

As a five-sport student-athlete in high school in Fredericksburg, Hannah Wilson (B.A. ’21) learned to balance school, sports, a social life and more.

Golf alum journeys from St. Mary’s to the airwaves

Before Peter Burns (B.A. '02) ascended to among the most prominent personalities in college sports, he was searching for direction and guidance in the classrooms of St. Mary's University.

St. Mary’s soccer coach discovers passion for public history

While attending the Master of Arts in Public History program at St. Mary’s University, Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach Adam Nerio (M.A. ’20) started his days on the field at 5 a.m. for team training.

Pivoting with excellence: Men’s Soccer captain continues studies from Brazil

Deni Cresto, a junior from Curitiba, Brazil, studying Exercise and Sport Science, often refers to a message from St. Mary’s University Men’s Soccer Head Coach Johnny Clifford: “Control what you can control.”

Rattler Baseball player graduates to research scientist

Like young baseball fans around the world, Jeff Wigdahl dreamed of making the big league — Major League Baseball.

New St. Mary’s coach among first female varsity collegiate esports coaches

Breaking into the world of esports has been a challenge for women. At St. Mary’s University, Kaitlin Teniente found her chance to become the first head coach — leading the new varsity Esports Program.

Big Solve: Changing the culture

The loss of the opening game of the Fall 2019 Men’s Soccer season felt like a make-or-break moment. But it wasn’t just the loss that stung — it was the way we lost.

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Business

MBA, Industrial Engineering alumna mentors aspiring students

Local alumna Valeria Garza graduated from the Industrial Engineering bachelor's program to earn an MBA with online coursework while working as a software engineer at USAA.

Fall graduate follows family tradition by becoming St. Mary’s alumna

As a self-described “sometimes procrastinator,” Isabella Tamez knew the small class sizes at St. Mary's would hold her accountable to herself and her classmates.

St. Mary’s students gain access to business attire

The Rattler Wardrobe at the Greehey School of Business loans clothing to business students who need attire for professional events.

St. Louis alum discovers vocation at St. Mary’s

Andrew Tague (B.B.A. ’23) decided to take a chance on Texas and St. Mary's University to continue exploring a Marianist education.

Business and Law undergraduate sees big potential in new major

Layla Dickerson went from being an elementary student who had to sit in the hallway because she kept acting out to a rising sophomore at St. Mary’s University who helped advocate for the new B.B.A. in Business and Law.

U.S. Army Reserves major earns MBA while serving in Germany in support of Ukraine

Raul Rodriguez, a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, was a year into his Master of Business Administration program at St. Mary’s University in Summer 2022 when he received orders to relocate to Germany to help support Ukrainian efforts.

Leading Ladies: Rowena Ortiz-Walters looks to foster growth in business students

Since joining St. Mary’s University as Dean in 2021, Rowena Ortiz-Walters, Ph.D., said her mission is to find ways to be inclusive by fostering a program that welcomes students from all backgrounds. 

Texas Facilities Commission director oversees massive construction at the Capitol 

Overseeing $1.5 billion in facilities projects across the state falls to Executive Director of the Texas Facilities Commission Mike Novak (B.B.A. ’75).

Finance and Risk Management senior dives into service 

Zane Smith fell in love with St. Mary’s University the first time he set foot on campus for his college tour. Now, he makes an impact as a tour guide, President's Ambassador and scholar.

Alumnus transitions from military law to the business world

When serving in the United States Army, William Brown, J.D. (M.B.A. '20) now a regulatory relations attorney at USAA’s Chief Legal Office, regularly packed up and went wherever needed.

Defining Moment: Bill Greehey’s gifts fund multiple ventures

As the largest donor in St. Mary’s history, Bill Greehey has continuously shared his success to benefit students.

Defining Moment: CEO’s scholarship supports women in business

Lynda Ellis knows the business world can be tough. But the lessons learned at St. Mary's University have helped her in her career, and she wants to help future women leaders a chance to succeed.

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Community

Retiring President Thomas M. Mengler leaves lasting mark

Over the course of 12 years, Thomas Mengler — the second most famous face of St. Mary's behind Rattler Man — shared his vision of expanding the University’s Catholic and Marianist traditions.

Board Chair reflects on President Tom Mengler’s tenure

Nearly a dozen years of visionary leadership and unwavering dedication have reshaped St. Mary’s University under the guidance of President Thomas M. Mengler, J.D.

St. Mary’s community speaks about Tom and Mona Mengler’s tenure

As Thomas M. Mengler, J.D., prepares to retire as the 13th president of St. Mary’s University, those who worked closest with him and his wife share their thoughts on the couple.

St. Mary’s students share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions

As thoughts of turkey and gravy dance in people’s heads, we asked a few St. Mary’s University students about their favorite holiday traditions.

St. Mary’s employee reflects on Jovita Idár’s new quarter

St. Mary’s employee Rose Ann Martinez celebrates her great-great-aunt, Jovita Idár, a Mexican American journalist and activist, being recognized on a U.S. quarter.

Leading Ladies: Five women at the top of their fields help steward academic excellence at St. Mary’s

Since the University’s origins as an all-male school 170 years ago, women will hold all four dean’s roles as well as the role of vice provost for academic affairs for the first time.

Leading Ladies: Carolyn Tubbs relies on open communication as Vice Provost

Working with people of diverse backgrounds on topics requiring intense listening and understanding is something Carolyn Tubbs, Ph.D., has been doing most of her career.

San Antonio King Sejong Institute knits cultures together

With the help of the San Antonio King Sejong Institute at St. Mary’s University, the two cultures are brought together through Korean language, art, music, drama and history classes.

St. Mary’s University gardener shares his path to U.S. citizenship

St. Mary’s University gardener Jose “Luis” Sanchez doesn’t just watch his garden grow. His perseverance and care have helped the University to literally blossom for nearly 10 years. Last year, the University was able to return the favor. 

Student finds new home with alumni and on campus 

When Victoria Van Winkle was 12 years old, her birth mother was diagnosed with cancer. She spent much of her teenage years looking after her younger siblings and in hospitals with her mother. She didn’t have much time to study or think about her future — until she met a doctor who would change her life.

St. Mary’s University featured on Amazon Prime’s “The College Tour”

St. Mary’s has been featured in an episode of The College Tour, an Amazon Prime series that spotlights colleges and universities around the country.  

The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign succeeds in bringing the University’s vision to life

The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign gifts fund scholarships, endowed professorships, world-class facilities, academic programs and research.

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Faith and Service

The Rev. Brandon Paluch revels in role at St. Mary’s University 

Before he began to consider becoming a Marianist, the Rev. Brandon Paluch, S.M., learned the foundations of ministry on the golf course.  

Outgoing president’s faith touted as benefit to University

Since being selected as the University’s 13th president, Thomas Mengler’s goal has been to make St. Mary’s not just a top-notch Catholic institution in the Southwest, but a premier university where people can “revitalize and expand” what makes exceptional Catholics and servant leaders.

Integrating Catholic Intellectual Tradition helps students become critical thinkers

Focusing on educating students to think beyond themselves, the core curriculum is instrumental to giving them a liberal arts education integrated with Catholic and Marianist values.

Presidential duo creates 12 memorable years at St. Mary’s helm

Since 2012, Tom and Mona Mengler have embraced St. Mary's University, the Marianist charism and San Antonio. The couple shares their thoughts on what the University's community has meant to them.

Alumna receives U.S. Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022

From helping her community in her native Ghana by starting her first corporation at the age of 11, to years later receiving the U.S. Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award, Brenya Twumasi, J.D. (M.A. ’98), has lived to serve.

SM Friends Program at St. Mary’s encourages partnership

Arely Reyes, a member of the Marianist Leadership Program, met Brother Dan Stupka through the SM Friends Program, which enables students to pair with a Marianist brother as part of their community service requirement.

Theology alumna recognized globally for humanitarian work at the border

Before Sister Norma Pimentel (M.A. ’89) became executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, was named among TIME’s Most Influential People or was recognized by Pope Francis for her work with refugees at the U.S.-Mexico Border, she dreamed of being an artist.  

St. Mary’s University puts its all into a seven-year climate effort

On Earth Day 2022, St. Mary’s University faculty, staff and students were learning about the seven-year commitment to “care for our common home."

Defining Moment: Alumnus credits mission for his success

When Charles T. Barrett Jr. (B.B.A. ’62) decided to enroll at St. Mary’s University, he did so wanting to get back to a school with Marianist teachings.  

Alumnus priest pens book of homilies during pandemic

When the Rev. David Garcia (B.A. ’71) was approached to write weekly homilies during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he initially refused.  

Through transformational leadership, St. Mary’s enhances academic programs, student development and faith formation

With new challenges arising daily, and old ways of life coming into question, St. Mary’s University believes one answer to uncertainty remains one of the bedrocks of a Marianist university — educating for transformational leaders.

After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican double-major regains confidence at St. Mary’s

When Wilzave Guzman thinks of her homeland — Puerto Rico — she is filled with good memories of growing up in a tight-knit neighborhood, volunteering with military organizations to help feed the island’s needy. But for the senior double majoring in Environmental Science and in International and Global Studies there is also pain and, at the same time, acceptance and awe at the vast power of Mother Nature.

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Law

St. Mary’s Law clinic students help keep our community housed

Eviction prevention is the focus of the St. Mary's University School of Law Consumer Protection Clinic and the Real Estate Clinic.

Associate Dean makes humanitarian causes her career mission

St. Mary's Law Associate Dean Ramona Lampley inspired much of her legal work on preventing forced labor in international supply chains.

Military veteran turns legal interest into second career

Using his military mindset and 20 years experience as a combat medic in the United States Army, David Louis would excel in his studies as he made the leap to St. Mary’s School of Law.

Urban litigator brings small-town values to practice

Julia Mann (J.D. ’94) has held just about every job one could have at a law firm. She is the managing partner of Jackson Walker LLP’s San Antonio office and as a high school student, worked at the law firm of her father's office in Lake Jackson.

Law alumnus goes from academic struggles to top Dallas attorney

After his first semester at St. Mary’s Law, C. Gregory Shamoun’s GPA was below what was required to continue. Undeterred, Shamoun not only raised his GPA, but graduated and became a sought-after attorney in Dallas.

Law alumnus founds environmental clean-up nonprofit

Tyler J. Ryska (J.D. ’17), an Austin-based attorney, founded a new environmental clean-up nonprofit, The Clean Initiative Project.

Alumnus leads international legal transactions in Mexico, philanthropic efforts at home

Many may see Alex Pérez (J.D. ’96) as an international attorney, a tax law expert or a leader in San Antonio’s philanthropic efforts as the San Antonio Area Foundation’s board chair. But he views himself, fundamentally, as an interpreter.

School of Law graduate aims to become a military attorney  

December School of Law graduate Meagan Folmar (J.D. ’23) plans to join the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

Double alumna tackles Master of Jurisprudence program 

Bhakta is pursuing her Master of Jurisprudence with a Concentration in Compliance, Business Law and Risk: her third degree at St. Mary’s.

Lawyer turned Marianist Novice finds his ministry at St. Mary’s Law

As a young criminal lawyer in his home state of Querétaro, Mexico, Guillermo “Memo” Peña Contreras had no interest in the priesthood. Peña Contreras imagined life as a priest would leave him stuck inside a parish in a sedentary life. 

The nation’s first fully online J.D. students reflect on law school and life

Scattered across Texas and the United States, 25 students have created the tight-knit inaugural cohort in the School of Law’s Online J.D. program, the first of its kind in the nation.

St. Mary’s Law supports students all the way to the bar exam

Law school can feel like one hurdle after another. St. Mary’s University School of Law saw a need to extend support to students beyond graduation. In true Marianist charism form, this extra helping hand comes in the form of the Raise the Bar program.

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Science and Tech

St. Mary’s student studies native plant species for more sustainable landscape

Growing up in Lima, Peru, Jose Cornejo became environmentally conscious after studying at a Marianist high school that valued God’s creations. He would take those values to heart and decided to do something about to benefit the planet. 

Founding Director of Nursing shares path toward the St. Mary’s Nursing Program

Gold & Blue magazine sat down with Donna M. Badowski, DNP, Vice Dean of the School of Science, Engineering and Technology, and Founding Director of Nursing, to learn more about her background and get the inside scoop on the planned Nursing Program.

Pediatric nurse finds calling at St. Mary’s University

Enrique Salinas, a first-generation student originally from Eagle Pass, earned his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from St. Mary’s in 2019. After participating in undergraduate research opportunities and shadowing a medical doctor, a single day spent shadowing a nurse made all the difference in his career decision. 

St. Mary’s Software Engineering graduate student improves systems

St. Mary's University alumnus and master's student Ian Wells is fascinated by software engineering because it can improve processes and make lives easier.

Leading Ladies: Teresa Beam gets ready to start new dean’s role

Growing up in Columbia City, Indiana, Teresa “Teri” Beam, Ph.D., was an inquisitive child. Beam found herself fascinated with the sciences, specifically the subject of genetics.

Trailblazing couple immortalized with new campus building

Despite bestowing generous gifts, the couple, Leland T. Blank Ph.D. (B.S. ’67) and Sallie V. Sheppard, Ph.D., said teaching has always been their reward. So, when they learned their names would be immortalized on the Blank Sheppard Innovation Center now under construction, both said they were “beyond surprised.”

Alum at Department of Energy positions U.S. for its future

Zack Valdez, Ph.D. (B.S. ’10), finds motivational fuel in explaining complex science and increasing public trust in scientific findings by everyone from community members who need to understand their environment to Congressional decision-makers.

Environmental Science and English major studies coyote-red wolf link

Originally from Mexico, Bianca Ramos joined the St. Mary’s community, eager to explore her passion for sharing the wonders of the natural world with others.

Biology junior sets sights on medical school and inspiring others  

Overcoming a lack of economic or educational resources, Jocelyn Torres is studying Biology and aiming for her next degree through the Joint Admission Medical Program.

Cybersecurity degree nets prestigious designation from NSA, DHS 

Being recognized as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense is more than securing a prominent designation for St. Mary’s University — it also guarantees for students that their program is recognized by the federal government.   

Seasoned faculty, new equipment take the Forensic Science program to the next level

With the help of a multimillion-dollar grant, updated equipment and new professors, the Forensic Science program at St. Mary’s University gives students specialized knowledge in identifying and analyzing physical evidence needed to succeed in their careers. 

Biology alumna appointed to presidential scientific committee

When Erika Gonzalez, M.D. (B.S. ’98), learned she had been chosen to sit on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science, she was in disbelief. 

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Media

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