Honoring the Class of 2018 Distinguished Alumni

While the academic rigor was a cornerstone for future success, it was the faith, faculty and the Chaminade Julienne family that left a lasting impression on the Class of 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. While their paths after leaving CJ varied greatly, the recipients' dedication to the values instilled in them remains constant.

Sr. Nancy Gnau, SNDdeN, ’48 – Professional Achievement
Sr. Nancy Gnau believed in Chaminade Julienne High School even before there was a Chaminade Julienne High School.

Sr. Nancy, who entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur after graduation from Julienne High School in 1948, was a driving force behind the merger of her alma mater and Chaminade High School as she was principal of Julienne when the conversation first began. It was in that role that she reached out to the Chaminade principal to discuss the future of both schools. It was her foresight that led to the formation of a committee that, after two years, merged the two schools into Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School where she served as its first executive director.

“If another Sister had been principal at the time, who knows if they would have started that dialogue,” said Sr. Kim Dalgran, SNDdeN.

While her life as a Sister of Notre Dame took her away from Dayton for several years, her heart was always at CJ.

“We joked that her blood ran blue and green,” Sr. Kim said with a smile. “She had generations of nieces and nephews who attended CJ and she was always interested in what was happening there.”

Sr. Nancy – a proud third generation graduate of Notre Dame education in Dayton – returned to CJ in the early 1990s as a teacher and administrator.

“Part of the joy in that for her was seeing how the school had developed,” Sr. Kim said. “She saw how well it worked.”

Sr. Nancy passed away in January 2017 and is being recognized posthumously by the school that always had a special place in her heart.

Todd Walker, ’95 – Professional Achievement
While Todd Walker left the Chaminade Julienne campus in 1995, education has remained a priority to him throughout his career.

Todd – who received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a master’s degree in English education and a doctorate in education from Ohio State University – began his educational career with Columbus Public Schools before becoming the Director of the Columbus Africentric Early College Campus (CAEC). The vision for CAEC is high achievement and early college for each student while affirming positive leadership of African Americans to benefit the global community. He successfully planned and executed the first recognition of emerging African American leadership “Sankofa,” which was created to bring attention to the mission and goals of his school while highlighting music, fine arts, literary excellence, and dance. Todd credits Chaminade Julienne for creating the foundation for his professional success.

“Chaminade Julienne played a critical role in providing foundational academic knowledge, social skills and faith awareness that I have carried with me into my adult life, so to be recognized as a distinguished alumni by this institution means a great deal,” he said. “CJ impacted my life because its faculty and coaches demanded the best of me and the school provided a milieu that cultivated, for me, significant relationships and key life long friendships.”

Coach Jim Place was among those who left a lifelong impression on him.

“Coach Place had a profound impact on my life and those in my cohort,” he said. “The class of '95, which included his son, Jim, Chris Anderson and Barrett Robinson – to name just a few – was a special group indeed.”

Dieter Krewedl ’61 – Professional Achievement
Dieter Krewedl and his parents came to the United States from their native Yugoslavia in 1949 with little more than the clothes on their backs. But they had something much more valuable than worldly possessions.

“My parents constantly stressed the importance of education,” Dieter said. “They would tell me, ‘No one can take from you what is inside your head.’”

It was a message that Dieter took to heart with a strong work ethic that he maintained throughout his academic and professional career.

After he graduated from Chaminade, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Dayton, a master’s degree in geology from Bowling Green State University and a doctorate in mineral exploration from the University of Arizona. During his career as a geologist, Dieter was instrumental in gold, silver and uranium exploration and development worldwide. His successful career took him across the country and around the world, to more than 30 countries.

“Much of any success I’ve had can be traced back to Chaminade Julienne,” he said.

It was more than academic rigor that he looks back on fondly.

“Having brothers and priests as teachers was really a blessing,” he said. “They gave me a good spiritual education but they were more than teachers and mentors, they were also friends.”

Living “basic Christian values” has been important to Dieter and his wife Beth as they raise their four children. Those same values were a resounding theme in his nomination, which focused on his concern for his family, friends, colleagues and church.

“I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life and receiving the distinguished alumni award is another one of those times.”

John Zaidain, ’68 – Chaminade Julienne Community Award
To say John Zaidain is a Chaminade Julienne mainstay is no exaggeration. For more than half a century, John has been a part of the CJ family as a student, teacher or coach.

He wears many hats at CJ as a social studies and physical education teacher and a football and men's volleyball assistant coach. He is the epitome of what it means to be part of the CJ community. But those are roles he plays, not who he is. Those who work with him describe him as a man of integrity. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone on campus who doesn’t smile when you mention his name. He treats everyone – students, faculty and staff alike – with respect and compassion and goes out of his way to make them feel loved and secure.

John lives his life based on Catholic teachings and has been active in his parish, along with his wife, Kathy and their children. He is kind, generous, humble and loyal – the perfect Chaminade Julienne ambassador.

“It is humbling to be recognized as a distinguished alumni considering the quality of the thousands of graduates of Chaminade, Julienne and Chaminade Julienne,” he said. “In reality, I feel that I am just one of thousands of graduates who used my education at Chaminade as a foundation to become a dedicated teacher, coach, a loving husband and father. So, I feel like my accomplishments are nothing special, just what a person is supposed to do.”

Deger Family – Legacy Award
It all began with family matriarch Agnes Hochwalt Deger, who graduated from Notre Dame Academy in 1906. In the century that followed, there seemed to rarely be a time when a member of the Deger family wasn’t attending Chaminade, Julienne or, more recently, CJ.

Agnes’ sons, Thomas and Robert, graduated from Chaminade in 1929 and 1930, respectively, and Robert and his wife, Winifred, had seven children graduate from CJ or one of its predecessor institutions – Dr. Grant Deger, ‘57, Ronald Deger, ‘59, Dr. Robert Deger, ‘61, Christine Deger O’Brien, ‘63, Elizabeth Deger, ‘68, Philip Deger, ‘74 and Douglas Deger, ‘75. Paula Deger Cooper attended Julienne but graduated from Ursuline Academy. Philip also had three stepdaughters graduate from CJ between 1993-99.

“Our family was very fortunate to have been filtered into life through the prism of Catholic education and CJ in particular,” Grant said. “I am the eldest of eight children who attended CJ. All of us graduated from college and five have advanced degrees.

Chaminade helped me develop a moral compass and introduced me to wholesome men who became lifelong friends. I was so well taught in the sciences at Chaminade that premedical education at the University of Dayton almost seemed easy.”

Ron shares Grant’s assessment of Chaminade’s academic rigor and credits the school with his success in the Marine Corp and, later, in a lengthy career in executive management.

“Wilber Wright once commented that the secret of achieving success is to ‘pick good parents and be born in Ohio,’ I would add ‘and attend a school like Chaminade Julienne High School,’” Ron said.

The Distinguished Alumni Class of 2018 were honored at a dinner at CJ on Thursday, April 26. Congratulations to all recipients!

Posted April 26, 2018