The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president, with Caritas Medal honoree Eddie Burnett.

As part of its celebration of Vincentian Heritage Week, Niagara University recognized the extraordinary contributions of six individuals who have lived the mission of St. Vincent de Paul at its annual convocation, held in the university’s Alumni Chapel on Sept. 29, 2021.

This year’s honorees were Rev. Bernard Tracey, C.M., executive vice president for mission, St. John's University, who received the Perboyre Medal; Niagara alumna Lauren Paul, ’19, MBA’21, director of operations, Cornell University Women’s Lacrosse, who received the Rev. Thomas Augustine Judge, C.M. Award; Eddie Burnett, Vincentian Residence porter, UG2 Facilities Services, who received the Caritas Medal; Adrienne Kasbaum, director of nursing services, Niagara County Health Department, who received the St. Louise de Marillac Award; and Niagara University associate professors Jennifer Beebe, Ph.D., and Dana Radatz, Ph.D., who received Vincentian Mission awards.

Rev. Bernard Tracey, C.M., who also delivered the convocation address, was honored for his widespread impact as an educator intent on the development of and care for the whole human person, and as a promoter of the Vincentian mission at local, national, and international levels. Fr. Tracey served as the director of Campus Ministry at Niagara University before he returned to his alma mater, St. John’s University, in 1984, as campus minister and director of the university’s Vincentian Service Corps. Since then, he has held a number of positions at St. John’s and currently serves as its executive vice president of mission. Fr. Tracey’s call to service also impacted a wide variety of organizations and agencies which benefited from his leadership, including the St. John’s Board of Trustees, the St. John’s Italian Cultural Center, the local Community Business Advisory Board, St. John’s Preparatory School, the DePaul Catholic School, and the Germantown Systemic Change Initiative. Since 2009, he has chaired the board of trustees at DePaul USA and extended his impact to the global level as a board member of DePaul International – the Vincentian family branch dedicated to the elimination of homelessness throughout the world. A past board member and chair of the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service, Fr. Tracey currently serves on the board of directors at Covenant House Pennsylvania.

Lauren Paul is an athlete, scholar, and servant who exemplifies the dedication to the Vincentian mission Niagara University seeks to instill in its students. A standout member of the lacrosse team, Paul is one of the best defenders in the program’s history. She became the program's leader in career-caused turnovers with 91, and her 149 career ground balls are second-most. Her academic accomplishments are noteworthy, as well—she was named to the dean’s list in both her undergraduate program (Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting) and her graduate program (MBA). In her current career at Cornell University, she continues to be guided by Saint Vincent’s core belief in shaping the whole person.

Eddie Burnett characterizes the five gospel virtues that St. Vincent saw in Jesus Christ: simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification, and zeal for the salvation of souls. The lifelong resident of Niagara Falls joined Niagara University in 1980, when Fr. Louis Trotta, C.M., hired him to care for its Vincentian community. He has been part of the university and the Vincentian family ever since. In 1991, he had a kind of conversion experience while working on the eighth floor of Niagara’s O’Shea Hall, when he realized that the charity of Christ was gazing upon him. He suddenly knew then that Christ loved him—all of him: his body, mind, and spirit; his past, his present, and his future; indeed, that Christ’s charity was an integral part of his whole being. This charity illuminates his daily work at the university, and especially his service to the Vincentian brothers and priests.

Adrienne Kasbaum, former director of Health Services at Niagara University, was responsible for leading the campus community through the COVID-19 pandemic. As the university’s resident health expert, she guided the university’s response to all aspects of the pandemic, collaborating with every sector and always maintaining a calm, quiet, and measured spirit that communicated our core qualities of confidence, clarity, and purpose. Now, as director of nursing for the Niagara County Health Department, she continues to be the university’s staunch ally and advocate.

Dr. Jennifer Beebe, associate professor of education, and Dr. Dana Radatz, associate professor of criminal justice, have dedicated their academic careers to the study of domestic violence and to strengthening the systems created to prevent abuse and empower its victims, who often suffer in the shadows and whose wounds are often hidden from sight. Since 2016, they have organized the annual Take Back the Night and the Red Flag Campaign on the NU campus. These events, among multiple other outreach initiatives throughout the year, have galvanized hundreds of university students and employees in an effort to raise awareness of domestic violence and to support the various community agencies that are working to end abuse. In 2017, they created the “Awareness and Action” curriculum that provides new students with education on relationships and sexual violence, Title IX reporting, and bystander intervention practices. And in 2020, they secured a $300,000 grant from the Office of Violence Against Women to establish and institutionalize violence prevention efforts on campus.


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