McAuley Hall of Honor

Established in 2013, the McAuley Hall of Honor highlights inspiring members of the McAuley family whose stories reinforce the belief that McAuley's influence provides the foundation to achieve extraordinary things. 

Induction is a high honor bestowed upon members of The McAuley Family, which includes alumnae, parents, faculty, staff, and all who have supported, led, or served Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School/Saint Xavier Academy, including the Sisters of Mercy. To be considered for this prestigious honor, nominees must have distinguished themselves through achievement or service, inspired others through their courage or selflessness, served McAuley/Saint Xavier Academy faithfully and/or brought credit to McAuley/Saint Xavier Academy.

We are thrilled to announce the six women who will be inducted into the Hall in 2019:

Jennifer Costello Fortner '94
Carla Hall '73
Mary Cartan Hendry '63
Jennifer Lim, MD '80
Dawn Jenkinson McKenna '86
Sr. Ellen Marie Ryan RSM


Join us on Sunday, April 7, 2019 to celebrate these inspiring women at an induction ceremony and alumnae Mass, followed by a champagne brunch. More details to follow.

Nominations will open for 2020 in the spring/summer of 2019.

McAuley Hall of Honor Inductees

Jean Rooney Prendergast

The Honorable Jean Prendergast Rooney was appointed Cook County Circuit Court Judge in 2010, the first woman from her local class to become a member of the judiciary. Previously, Jean was in private practice at the Chicago firm of Schulyer, Roche and Crisham, where she led the firm’s litigation practice, including trial and appellate work in both federal and state courts, and the Illinois Supreme Court. She earned the distinction of “40 Illinois Attorneys Under 40 to Watch” in 2007 by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and was named an “Illinois Super Lawyer” for four consecutive years. Jean passed away in December 2015. Her friends and family continue to speak warmly of her unwavering friendship, intellect, successful career and love for her family.

Mariann Rebenson Piano '75

Dr. Mariann Piano is the Nancy & Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing and Senior Associate Dean for Research at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She has a distinguished career in substance abuse research, focusing on understanding the adverse effects of unhealthy alcohol drinking patterns on the cardiovascular system. Her work has been supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Center for Research Resources. Mariann spent nearly 30 years teaching graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she holds the title of Professor Emerita, and was instrumental in developing the college’s first adult nurse practitioner programs.

Mary Jean Ryan '76

Mary Jean Ryan is the founding director of Community Center for Education Results (CCER), a non-profit based in Seattle. CCER staffs the regional Road Map Project: a collective impact initiative aimed at dramatically improving education for low-income students and students of color. The program has signed up over 30,000 low income students for college scholarships through its relationships with schools and other partners. Mary Jean’s work has earned her the Passionate Citizenship Honoree Award from the Wales Foundation, the Parent Magazine Award, and the Washington PTA’s Statewide Friend of Children Award. Seattle Magazine named her one of their Most Influential People in 2009.

Joy Bivins '94 Headshot

Joy Bivins is the Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Chicago History Museum, where she channels her expertise on African American history, the Great Migration, Chicago’s world’s fairs, gospel music history, and urban history into a number of diverse exhibition projects. Joy’s love for history began kindling during her time at McAuley. Joy presents regularly at local elementary and high schools, at annual meetings of museum associations, and has taught classes on museum interpretation at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Joan Bransfield '52

Joan Bransfield has enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the Chicago Archdiocesan schools.  Most notably, as principal of the School of St. Mary in Lake Forest, Joan helped oversee a $6.1 million campaign for the construction of a new building. Under her leadership, St. Mary’s grew to become one of the 10 largest elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joan’s commitment to education earned her recognition as a National Distinguished Principal by the U.S. Secretary of Education, and Most Distinguished Catholic Principal in the Midwest by the National Catholic Education Association.

Sr Cathleen Cahill

Sister Cathleen Cahill served as Curriculum Director and then Principal of Mother McAuley from 1978 to 1987. Throughout her time at McAuley, Sister Cathleen embraced her commitment to education and her leadership role with faith. Her work today remains integral to many of the Sisters of Mercy education initiatives. Most recently, she filled the role of Chair of the Education Sponsorship Council of the Sisters of Mercy West-Midwest. For Sister Cathleen Cahill, mercy is not just a word, it is a gift to be shared and passed on to others.

Jean Morman Unsworth - 2017 Inductee

Jean Morman Unsworth is a renowned artist, lecturer, author and founder of the Mother McAuley art department.  She also is a professor emerita of fine arts at Loyola University.  Her extensive portfolio of media includes sculptures, stained glass, fabric, photography, paints, drawing and metal. Most recently she endowed the Jean Morman Unsworth Art Expressways Gallery at Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). 

Marita Carey Sullivan '65 - 2017 Inductee

Marita Carey Sullivan ’65 is the former Chief Executive Officer and remains Chairman of the Board of JMG Financial Group Ltd., an independent wealth management firm. In 2008 and 2009 Marita was named as one of The 50 Distinguished Women in Wealth Management by Wealth Management Magazine. She is a member of The Chicago Network and Illinois CPA Society. Marita serves on the Board of Almost Home Kids, a charity that provides transitional care to children with complicated health needs.

Kathy Wendt Sudeikis '64 - 2017 Inductee

Kathy Wendt Sudeikis ’64 has been a leader in the travel industry for more than 45 years. She has served as president and CEO of The American Society of Travel Agents, earning her induction into its Hall of Fame and the honor of being named Travel Agent of the Year.  Since 2004, Travel + Leisure magazine has named her a Top Travel Agent.  Kathy appears in Travel Agent Magazine as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Travel.  In 2015, Kathy was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Travel Weekly Magazine. 

Dr. Bernadette Ryan '76 - 2017 Inductee

Dr. Bernadette Ryan ’76 is an accomplished scientist, business owner and author.  In 2000, she cofounded, Experimur, a company dedicated to conducting research for the development and safety evaluation of pharmaceutical and biotechnology based medicines.  During the company’s 2007 expansion, Bernadette oversaw the design and construction of the 54,000 square foot state-of-the-art research facility and labs. Bernadette also is a diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology.

Renée Popovits '82 - 2017 Inductee

Renée Popovits ’82, a nationally-recognized thought leader, strategist and policy advocate in the behavioral health field, is founder and principal attorney of the law firm, Popovits Law Group.  She lectures extensively on ethics, parity, confidentiality and managed care issues.  She serves on the boards and committees of several organizations, including the Catholic Charities Legal Advisory Committee and the Illinois Opioid Crisis Response Advisory Council.  Francis Cardinal George awarded her with the Compassion in Action award. 

Kathy Roche Napleton '68 - 2017 Inductee

Kathy Roche Napleton ’68 is a former educator who embodies the values and vision of Catherine McAuley.  Kathy is an advocate for Catholic grade school education and support services.  As a family volunteer and philanthropist, she has devoted countless hours supporting local organizations and parishes, including Circle of Friends, The Illinois Club for Catholic Women, and several Catholic high schools in the Chicago area.

Nancy Jean Coleman Mulcahy ‘64 - 2015 Inductee

A strong work ethic and passion to help others was first cultivated within Nancy Jean Coleman Mulcahy during her time as a McAuley student.  In 1999, along with her sister Carol Moriarty and friend, Lisa O’Brien Garmes, Nancy started the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk. What began as a local event with 25-30 participants has grown into fundraiser attended by 14,000 people.  Proceeds from the walk benefit the Little Company of Mary Hospital Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center.

Theresa Beran Kulat ‘80 - 2015 Inductee

Teri Beran Kulat has been a practicing attorney for over 20 years, using Collaborative Law to help families and businesses.   Integrating her faith into her professional life, she founded Trinity Family Law -- a firm with a mission to empower people during legal negotiations so that they are enabled to build healthy new lives, prosper financially and co-parent children effectively.  Teri serves as a mentor to McAuley alumnae who are looking to practice law in a more holistic manner, and participates in the McAuley Law Society. 

Kathy Gordon Davis - 2015 Inductee

Kathy Gordon Davis has been a faculty member in the Art Department at McAuley for more than 26 years.  Beloved by her colleagues, peers and students, Kathy’s love of her profession exemplifies the superior teaching that makes McAuley stand out. Her dedication to and love for the McAuley community is further affirmed through her role as art instructor in a program she’s created for the retired Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Rosemary Connelly, RSM - 2015 Inductee

Sister Rosemary Connelly has influenced the Chicago community for more than 40 years as the executive director of Misericordia.  Her leadership has been integral to Misericordia growing into a loving, challenging and dignified environment for more than 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities.  To the residents, families, friends and staff of Misericordia, this special place truly has become “home.”  Mother McAuley students have strengthened their own cultural empathy under the inspiring leadership of Sister Rosemary and through various volunteer opportunities.

Barbara McCann Bansley, SXA ‘50 - 2015 Inductee

Barbara McCann Bansley a graduate of Mother McAuley’s predecessor, Saint Xavier Academy, dedicated her life to teaching and fostering the creativity of others through art.  A highly-regarded artist, her work was featured in displays at the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College and the Beverly Art Center.  Barbara passed away in March of 2009, but today her work adorns the halls at Mother McAuley, and her commitment to Catholic education lives on through her daughters and granddaughters who attended McAuley.

Roberta “Robbie” Kuchler O’Shea ‘81 - 2015 Inductee

As a licensed physical therapist and a professor at Governors State University, Robbie Kuchler O’Shea brings her compassion and care to assist children ages 0-3 who have developmental difficulties, particularly underprivileged and at-risk infants and their families.  Additionally, Robbie has worked with Chicago Area Families for Adoption and sits on the board at the Center for Independence, a non-profit committed to improving the lives of children with disabilities.

Anne Bigane Wilson ‘76 - 2015 Inductee

Anne Bigane Wilson was one of the first women enrolled in the Construction Engineering and Management program at Purdue University.  The fourth generation family member to oversee Bigane Paving Company, Anne is a highly-respected colleague within her profession.  Her dedication to McAuley continues today. Anne and her sisters established a scholarship in her mother’s name. She also serves as chairperson of the Board of Trustees.

Katie Schumacher Cawley ‘97 - 2014 Inductee

Since 2008, former NCAA All-American and national champion at Penn State, Katie Schumacher-Cawley has served as head coach of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) women’s volleyball program, where she has led the team to 71 victories.

Trish Biondo Soltys ‘85 - 2014 Inductee

For the past 28 years, Trish Biondo’s voice has streamed across the Chicago airwaves for US99 FM Radio, where she’s been well-known as an on-air personality for the morning and mid-day programs.

Barbara Patrick O’Toole, SXA ‘55 - 2014 Inductee

A staunch supporter of women’s education, Barbara Patrick O'Toole was a specialist in freedom of speech issues as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois for more than 40 years.  Barbara passed away in September 2013.

Margaret Dee Merrion ‘67 - 2014 Inductee

Known as “Peggy Dee” to her classmates, Margaret exhibited leadership skills throughout her four years at McAuley. She served as chair of her homeroom for two years and was a member of student council. As a senior, Margaret was in Sister Simeon’s first advanced music appreciation class. This set the stage for Margaret to pursue music education at Chicago State University and then the University of Missouri where she earned a Ph.D. She later enrolled in a Management Development Program at Harvard University.

Sister Nancy Houlihan, RSM - 2014 Inductee

For more than 30 years Sister Nancy Houlihan has served McAuley as an English teacher, beloved by the thousands of young women who have come to know her as teacher, mentor and friend.

Anne Edwards Cotter ‘73 - 2014 Inductee

Anne is owner and president of Cotter Consulting, Inc., a Woman-Owned, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and expert Program Management and Construction Management Firm she founded in 1990. 

EcoMacs: Operation Haiti - 2013 Inductee

Visionary builders of a solar-powered biodiesel processor designed to be fueled by oil from the “McAuley Jatropha Farm” to create an economy for Pichon, Haiti (a village in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country), to enable the children of Pichon to attend school beyond the 5th grade by providing light to the village and school. Eco Macs include: Eileen O'Donnell ‘12, Mary O'Donnell ‘10, Ana Vasquez ‘11, Kim Schmidt ‘11, Christine Schmidt ‘13, Jenna Krukowski ‘12, Christina Lopez ‘12, Danielle Crispo ‘12, Katherine Kezon ‘13, Sarah Zwickl ‘12 and Dr. Roz Iasillo.

Sylvia Reed Curran ‘75 - 2013 Inductee

American Diplomat who has served the United States of America for more than 25 years including as the Charge d'Affaires to Turkmenistan and United States Counsel General to Vladivostok, Russia.

Nancy Cunningham Benacci '73 - 2013 Inductee

Director of Equity Research for KeyCorp, an investing group that oversees more than 500 companies; chartered financial analyst and tireless board member working on behalf of underprivileged youth and Catholic education.

Sharon R. Chester '60 - 2013 Inductee

Renowned author of 15 natural history books and travel guides, wildlife photographer, talented illustrator, natural history lecturer and former PanAmerican Airlines flight attendant.

Sister Mary Brian Costello, RSM - 2013 Inductee

Master English teacher, architect of the Mother McAuley liberal arts curriculum, McAuley Principal, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago and former Chief of Staff for Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

Sheila Taaffe Reynolds SXA '39 - 2013 Inductee

World War II cryptographer (code breaker), gifted linguist, 37 year volunteer at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, member of the Archdiocese of Chicago Lumen Cordium  Society, champion of Catholic education, lifelong learner and mother of 12 children including five McAuley alumnae.

McAuley Hall Induction Photo Gallery