Marist President Larry Tucker ‘79 presented the school’s esteemed Champagnat Educator Award to English teacher Kara Smith (from left), campus minister Mike Brennan ’99, and advancement team member Marty Wirtz ’72 during the school’s end-of-the-year celebration on May 27. The award recognizes those who share similar traits with St. Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marist Brothers.
Smith has taught English at Marist for 15 years. With many Marist alums in her family, she has made her own presence felt at the school. “Though her time is spent teaching what’s in novels, the most valuable lessons she offers students are those of living out the Marist mission to love students and love them equally,” Tucker said. A busy mom, devoted wife, daughter, and friend, one would never know how much responsibility she has to balance based on her laidback and happy attitude. She embodies the way of Mary in the way she trusts God on life’s path.
Brennan has taken on several roles while at Marist, including teaching in the Social Studies and Religious Studies Departments. He currently serves as a campus minister, coordinating retreats and service projects. Brennan is an assistant football coach and the head boys’ bowling coach. “As a coach, he helps student-athletes grow in maturity and responsibility on the field or at the lanes” Tucker said of Brennan. “And he has helped our students grow in faith and friendship while serving the least favored.” During his 14 years at Marist, he has always displayed a willingness to help in any way that is needed.
Wirtz has given four decades of service to Marist. A retired Chicago fire fighter, he began working part time at Marist in the maintenance department and then transitioned into the advancement office, helping with alumni efforts. After retiring from the Chicago Fire Department, he became a full-time gift officer, helping support the needs of our students and campus. The father of Patrick, a 1998 graduate, Wirtz has shown steadfast dedication to Marist and has been unwavering in his effort to strengthen both our foundation and future.
The award recognizes those who see what they do as vocation as much as occupation, they believe that Catholic schools are vital to our community, and they know that to make Jesus Christ known and loved that they first have to know and love Jesus Christ themselves. To be eligible to receive this award, the recipients must have worked at least 10 years at Marist Chicago. The winners are determined by the nomination and votes of the past years’ Champagnat Educator Award recipients.
Previous recipients are Mr. Vince Andiorio, the late Br. Vito Aresto, Rev. Ed Barrett, Mr. Don Barwacz, the late Mr. Al Brazen, Mrs. Alex Brown, the late Mrs. Cathy Chambers, Mr. Randy Coe, Mrs. Holly Cox, Mrs. Theresa Coy, Mrs. Sue Gardner, Mr. Mark Gervais, Mr. Owen Glennon, Brother Rich Grenier, Br. Hank Hammer, Mr. Patrick Hennessy, Rev. Tom Hurley ’85, Mr. John Hyland, Mr. Joe Inzinga ’77, the late Mr. Denis Kazelas, Mr. Mike Leahy, Mrs. Bonnie Littleton, Mr. Frank Manna, Mr. Larry Malito, Mrs. Ruth Maloney, Mr. Sean Maxwell, Br. Patrick McNamara, Mrs. Kim Myers, Br. Kevin Moran, Deacon Andy Neu ’78, Mrs. Mimi O’Keefe, Mrs. Beth O’Neill, Mr. Larry Ormond, Mr. Don Pirkle ’77, Mr. Patrick Quinn, Mr. Don Richardson ’77, Mr. Patrick Ryan ’01, Mr. Tom Samonski, Sr. Margot Schueneman, RSM, Mr. Tom Seputis, Mr. Jerry Sullivan, and Mr. Larry Tucker ‘79.