Backer Award

Congratulations to our 2018 Backer Awardees!

Fr. David Baltz, MCCJ ‘58

Remarks from SLUH President David Laughlin (Bicentennial Mass & Celebration, 4.21.18)

Fr. Baltz grew up on his family farm in Florissant, Missouri. At SLUH, he was a member of the football team. Upon graduation in 1958, he went to the Comboni Missionary Seminary.

He was ordained a priest in 1967 and left the United States in 1975 and for 42 years became a missionary messenger of the Gospel to the people of Uganda. He survived the dictatorship of Idi Amin, all the while ministering to those who were victims of the oppression, violence, injury and death. He lived for three years in a refugee camp in Congo, ministering to the displaced. He delivered the Eucharist by riding his bicycle throughout the places of those he served, with his Mass kit strapped to his back.

The St. Louis Review documented his ministry in a 2016 article.

He ministered to people in 60 chapels, had a “parish” of 50,000 Catholics and 27 primary schools. He did so by bicycle, establishing catechesis programs throughout the territory. It is said that he logged 50,000 miles by bicycle in Africa. In bringing the Sacraments to people throughout the territory, it was not uncommon for Fr. Baltz to baptize 30-40 infants at a time and one memory is of his baptizing 160 infants at one time.

Following his 50th reunion at SLUH, Fr. Baltz wrote back to SLUH to let us know he would not be able to make it to his 55th reunion. He wrote: “I’m writing from my mission among the Logbara tribe, up in the northwest corner of Uganda, in east-central Africa… Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it to my 55th reunion…as I’ll be here in my beloved mission in Uganda. But I can certainly offer a Mass for all the classmates, both living and dead…by the way, since returning to Uganda after our 50th reunion, I’ve pedaled another 13,089 miles…I call it “biking for Jesus.”

Thank you, Fr. Baltz, for your witness to the Gospel. Today, we present to you the Backer Award and I invite all present to join me in congratulations.

Fr. Ralph Houlihan, S.J. '52

Remarks from SLUH President David Laughlin (Bicentennial Mass & Celebration, 4.21.18)

Fr. Houlihan grew up just west of SLUH and attended St. James in Dogtown. The youngest of several brothers, he was the only member to attend St. Louis University High School, with his older siblings attending CBC. Ordained on June 9th, 1965 at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, Kansas, Fr. Houlihan has a dedicated and continuing ministry to Jesuit secondary education with impact all across the United States.

Fr. Houlihan taught Latin as a scholastic at SLUH and following ordination was a teacher of religion at DeSmet Jesuit, where he also became Principal. Now, imagine this, he moved immediately in 1974 from being Principal at DeSmet to Principal at St. Louis University High School, where he served as Principal for five years.

In 1979, Fr. Houlihan became the President of Regis High School in Denver, Colorado. During this unusually long run of 16 years as President, he also led the effort to establish a new campus for Regis High School in Aurora, Colorado, a move that most certainly has resulted in great things from his vision.

In 1996, he returned to SLUH to teach Theology and Latin, and since 2005 has also served as the Assistant to the President for Mission. Fr. Houlihan was among the founding Board members for the Jesuit Secondary Education Association – which coordinated the national vision for Jesuit Secondary education in our Country. He has been instrumental in serving on a multitude of Catholic educational boards, both high school and university.

Fr. Houlihan, SJ is known for his sincere work in the promotion of vocations – both religious and married life, as well as his mentoring of many, many younger members of the Society of Jesus. He has been, in many ways, the animation of Mrs. Backer’s hopes for the promotion of vocation, here on the campus that she dedicated to her late husband.

Please join me in congratulating Fr. Ralph Houlihan on receiving the Backer Award today.

View a SLUH Archive interview with Fr. Houlihan (below).

Tom Santel '76

Remarks from SLUH President David Laughlin (Common Good Day, 4.20.18)

Joining Tom today are his wife Mary Pat, his brother Don Santel ‘78 (in from California), his 1976 classmate and friend Chris Fava and his wife Mary, and long-time SLUH faculty member and dear friend Mr. Jim Raterman.

Tom and his brother Don are the sons of Walter and Catharine Santel. Tom’s father was a member of the teamster’s union in St. Louis and together with Cathy knew they wanted a Jesuit education for their sons.

Tom is a graduate of two universities: SLU – Accounting, UMSL – MBA. In 2011 he did a fellowship year at Harvard in their Advanced Leadership Initiative Program. After graduating from SLUH, where he was proudly Chief Editor of the Prep News under the direction of Mr. Raterman, he began his career as a Certified Public Accountant at Earnst and Whinney. Soon thereafter, he became a budget analyst for Anheuser-Busch. He finished his career at Anheuser Busch as the President and CEO of Anheuser Busch International and the Vice President for Corporate Planning.

Tom is an avid reader, with particular interests in history. Since the late 1980’s, he has made retreats at White House Jesuit Retreat. His experience with Jesuits during his postgraduate days, along with his passion for reading, piqued his interest in Jesuit spirituality.

Examples of Mr. Santel’s commitment to the Common Good include:

  • 18 years St. Louis University High Trustee, twice Board Chair
  • Board Chair who led Presidential Search Committee to welcome Alan Carruthers
  • SLUH Alumni Board member
  • Board Member of Boys Hope Girls Hope International
  • Board Member of Grace Hill Settlement House, emphasizing work with Head Start educational programming.
  • Board Member of Homeworks – a program for public schools specializing teacher home visits to students in need.
  • Former Board Member of KETC Channel 9 – Public Broadcast System
  • Former Board Member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
  • Following his career at Anheuser Busch, Mr. Santel chose to enroll in the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, which seeks to take high-level executive skills and utilize them in specific service to the community. Upon completion of that program, Mr. Santel worked for BJC Healthcare where he founded and ran for five years – a program now housed at St. Louis Children’s Hospital entitled “Raising St. Louis” Raising St. Louis is a program from pregnancy to 3rd grade with an emphasis on early childhood health, development and medical care and socialization which seeks to help low income families.
  • As a family man, Tom is a loving husband to his wife of almost 36 years, and a proud father of his daughter Laura (currently in studies at Harvard Business College) and his son Jim ’08 (currently in studies at Cambridge University in England). We will be providing a video of today’s ceremony, as they were unable to be present.

Please join me in congratulating Tom Santel!

Mark Wilhelm '72

Remarks from SLUH President David Laughlin (Common Good Day, 4.20.18)

Mark is joined today by his wife Debbie, their son Nick Class of 2007, daughter Breanne and their two grandchildren Luke and Amelia.

Mark’s father is a member of the Class of 1935 and was a decorated Executive Officer of a Naval Destroyer during World War II.

Mark grew up in Baden and worked, starting at age 8, at his family’s dry goods and Catholic school uniform store. In his Holy Cross Parish, he was an altar server and sang in the choir. As a student at SLUH, Mark was a member of varsity swimming and water polo. He graduated from UMSL with his degree in Accounting and while there was Secretary of the Campus Student Council and his fraternity’s president. He also completed an MBA at Saint Louis University in Finance.

In December of 1977, he began working as an underwriter at Safety National Insurance. His whole career at the same company, in 2010 he became the CEO, instrumental in moving the company from a $1.5 million company to its present net worth of $2 billion.

Examples of Mr. Wilhelm’s commitment to the Common Good include:

  • While growing the company’s business success, he has also been instrumental in establishing its culture, implementing:
    • A Days of Service Program which encourages employees to take paid time to be involved in the community in programs like Crisis Nursery, Habitat for Humanity, Food Bank, Boys Hope Girls Hope and Support Dogs.
    • Leading endeavors for programs like Variety Club, Pathways to Independence – programming for special needs individuals, St. Patrick’s Center, Backstoppers, Komen and The Peanut Butter Project – seeking to support nutritional resources for those in countries where starvation is rampant.
    • His leadership includes Safety National being recognized for five years running as an Insurance Industry Best Place to Work and also the past two years, has been recognized in with Achievement in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge.

Personally, Mark and his wife Debbie (who will be married 40 years the day after tomorrow – and Mark wanted us to deliver you these flowers), have prioritized being involved in their faith lives at their parish and children’s schools, St. Anselm, Visitation and SLUH. There he has been:

  • Youth sports coach for his children, and member of his parish advisory councils.
  • President of SLUH’s Fathers Club
  • Member and Chair of SLUH’s Board of Trustees.
  • He is also a member of a National Board for an organization entitled Kid’s Chance, an organization that seeks to provide resources for the education of children who have had a parent injured in their line of work.
  • Mark has been involved in many civic and community endeavors, including the St. Louis Zoo, the Muny, St. Patrick’s Center, Pro-Life causes, Veterans groups Ahlzheimer’s Association and Cardinal Glennon.
  • Mark is a loving husband to his wife Debbie, their children, Breanne and her husband Patrick, and his son Nick, Class of 2007. But, the love of his life right now, it must be said, are his grandchildren Luke and Amelia.

Please join me in congratulating Mr. Mark Wilhelm!

John Wunderlich '66

Remarks from SLUH President David Laughlin (Common Good Day, 4.20.18)

With John today are his wife of 29 years, Jeanne, and children Brian and Crystal and Michael and his wife Mindy. John’s father is a 1929 Graduate of SLUH. He probably knew Mrs. Backer.John attended St. Louis University and graduated magna cum laude with a major in Accounting and a minor in Business Law. He was a member of Pi Delta Theta Fraternity.

John’s professional background is as a Certified Public Accountant. He has worked for both “Big Five” firm and also as a partner in a local CPA firm as a tax specialist for both. John was also the Executive Vice President and CFO at Fred Weber, Incorporated, a member of the Board of Directors and one of three people making up the Executive Committee. The story of John’s commitment to the school’s mission partners his professional competency with his willingness to place that intellectual talent at the service of many and varied organizations that care for people in need and shape community. Indeed, John is a familiar person at SLUH because he is a long-time Alumni Board and Board of Trustees Member, including being a former Board Chair. But, his service at SLUH is but a small window of all he gives to community. In 2009, John was recognized as one of the top 50 community shapers in St. Charles County. An avid horseman as well, examples of Mr. Wunderlich’s commitment to the Common Good include:

  • Three years as corporate coordinator for the United Way Campaign
  • Five years on the Board of Emmaus Homes – homes that support the mentally challenged.
  • 18 years on the Board of Crider Health Center – an organization serving mental health needs that covers the largest geography of any mental health organization in Missouri. During this time, John has been recognized with their Heroes Award and was so deeply involved that he was both Board Chair and called Bingo there every Monday for a period of years.
  • 10 years on the Board of Salvation Army St. Charles County, where he was both Board Chair and worked construction to renovate living quarters for the homeless.
  • 18 years on the Board of the SSM St. Joseph Foundation Board – the largest employer of St. Charles City employees, where he served as Board Chair.
  • In 2007, along with three business partners, he built an assisted living facility, which received awards from the St. Louis Ahlzheimer’s Association for caring for patients with dementia by creating an enclosed outdoor space to maximize visual natural stimulation while keeping patients safe.
  • Nine years on the Board of Boys Hope Girls Hope, serving as Treasurer.
  • He has worked one on one with students from Loyola Academy.
  • He has taken course work and spiritual direction on the Spiritual Exercises.
  • He is a devoted husband and father and grandfather.

Please join me in congratulating John Wunderlich!

Backer Award

The highest honor that SLUH bestows upon its alumni is the Backer Award. Named for George and Anna Backer, whose generosity brought about the creation of our campus, the award is presented to deserving alumni who best embody the principles and traditions of a Catholic, Jesuit education by serving as leaders in their communities, their professions and their church.