Givers & Doers

Givers & Doers

Each year, St. Kate's recognizes outstanding alumnae for leadership excellence and service to others...
By Sara Berhow

...Here are the 2015 Alumnae Award winners honored at reunion weekend.


As a high school senior, Sister Connie Krautkremer attended a discernment retreat for those contemplating religious life. Here, she received her calling to her life’s work. “I had this clear knowing I would be a missionary,” she says.

The Maryknoll Sisters Congregation, dedicated to serving poor, ailing and marginalized people around the world, seemed a good fit for her. But the congregation required a year of college or work. She applied to St. Kate’s, expecting to stay for just one year. She spent four years, earning her biology degree in 1965.

“Everything I learned at St. Kate’s has helped me,” she says. “Coming from a small farming community, I was exposed at St. Kate’s to a world that excited and challenged me.” Sister Connie made her first vows in 1968. Her first assignment was Tanzania.

Arriving in January of 1969, she taught science and religion at a secondary school in Bukoba, Tanzania. From there, she moved to Dar es Salaam where she was a youth worker. In 1978, she began teaching at Nangwa Girls Secondary School in Babati, and became the school’s principal in 1981. Nangwa is an experimental school that prepares young women for leadership roles in their villages.

Sister Connie spent six years on the Maryknoll congregational leadership team. She traveled the world — including Myanmar, American Samoa, Nepal, Cambodia, Yap, the Marshall Islands and Albania — to see the work of the Maryknoll Sisters. She considers these trips among her most rewarding experiences.

In 2009, Sister Connie returned to Tanzania as a teacher, counselor and program facilitator for high school students. She also works with widows, who face poverty and homelessness.

“What holds it all together for me is my commitment to women,” she says. “The various ways I have engaged with women, shared my skills and learned, have been
so meaningful.”


Joan Kuzma Costello’s lengthy and successful career in higher education began when she was 18. “My father chose St. Kate’s for me,” says Costello, the first in her family to attend college. “He was very pro-women’s education. It turned out to be a great choice for me.”

Advised by then-registrar Helen Margaret Peck, CSJ, ’24, Costello prepared for graduate studies. Upon graduation, Costello received a Ford Fellowship to study English at the University of Chicago. She earned her master’s degree a year later.

Costello’s résumé includes teaching positions at Winona State University, Minot State University, University of Maryland University College and St. Louis University, where she earned a Ph.D. in English. Her career moves matched the Air Force duty assignments of her husband, Stephen. During a stint in Germany, she also taught servicemen and women, and their spouses.

In 1989, the Costello family returned to St. Paul. Joan joined the English faculty at Inver Hills Community College, where she taught many non-traditional and first-generation college students. She spent 24 years at Inver Hills, becoming provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“When I arrived at St. Kate’s, I could’ve never imagined a career in higher education or getting my doctorate,” she says. “My dad just wanted me to get a secure teaching job. He never imagined the possibilities.”

Costello was named 2010 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Administrator of the Year. Her colleagues praised her professionalism, depth of knowledge and leadership.

When asked why she’s done what she has for so long, Costello shares a quote from Mary William Brady CSJ, ’31, former St. Kate’s president: “We’re not educated for ourselves, we’re educated for what we can do for others.”

Since retiring in 2013, Costello has kept busy as an education consultant for the Higher Learning Commission’s Academy for Student Persistence and Completion. She’s also active at her parish, Nativity of Our Lord, and serves on St. Kate’s Alumnae Council.


Mary Emery Shearen’s college career didn’t begin at St. Catherine University, but she’s grateful she found her way there.

One of her favorite memories happened during her first campus visit. She had an appointment with Marie Corrigan ’26, then dean of students, for what she thought was an informational talk about St. Kate’s. Shearen, at the time, was an unhappy student at another university.

“Before I left campus that day, she had me signed up for three semesters of classes,” she says. “I didn’t know what happened to me. I went home and said ‘I think I just transferred to St. Kate’s.’ Now I know that she saved me. I’m so grateful for her.”

With nursing degree in hand, she landed on the transplant floor of the University of Minnesota Hospital. “What we were doing there was cutting edge at the time,” Shearen explains. “It was fast-paced and I worked hard.”

After several years and careful consideration about her career path, Shearen left nursing to attend law school. As the daughter of a nurse and an attorney, she was raised with a connection to both professions.

She was valedictorian at William Mitchell College of Law in 1988. In 1989, she joined Best & Flanagan in Minneapolis, where she continues to practice as an attorney. She joined the firm’s executive committee in 2013.

“A common denominator in everything I’ve done is that I cared for others,” Shearen says, when asked the secret to her success. She also credits her alma mater: “The culture established by the Sisters is one of quiet confidence. They instilled a standard of conduct — to care.”

Carol Delage ’80, who nominated her, says: “Truly outstanding leaders want to serve others, not themselves; Mary Shearen understands and lives this principle each day.”

Shearen is also an active volunteer. She’s the chair of the Friends of St. Paul College and gives her time to St. Kate’s, William Mitchell and the Cornerstone Council.

“We’re not educated for ourselves, we’re educated for what we can do for others.”

— Joan Kuzma Costello



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