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Mount Mercy University’s two highest awards for graduates were presented during the 2016 commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 22, at the U.S. Cellular Center. Tessa Friason, a nursing major originally from Vancouver, Washington, received the Mary Catherine McAuley Award. This is the highest honor given to a student who has attended Mount Mercy for four years. Amazing-Grace Ighedo, a nursing major originally from Nigeria, received the Mary Frances Warde Award, the highest honor given to a student who transferred to Mount Mercy.
Aimee Redlinger became the first accelerated undergraduate student to win the prestigious President’s Award during Honors Convocation on Friday, May 20. The President’s Award is bestowed in recognition of outstanding perseverance and diligence in pursuing goals.
President Hamen bestowed Emeritus status on faculty members Jane Junge and Jim Grove.
Nearly 600 students graduated from Mount Mercy this spring — a university record — with 393 students completing undergraduate studies and 175 students completing graduate studies.
Dr. Herman B. White, Jr., a prolific scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for over four decades, served as the commencement speaker. Tessa Friason, winner of the aforementioned Mary Catherine McAuley Award, was the student speaker.
Tessa Friason received the Mary Catherine McAuley Award, which is presented to the graduate who, in addition to a high scholastic ranking of a 3.0 or above, has exemplified to a marked degree cooperation with administration, faculty and students; integrity in his/her personal relationships; and leadership and loyalty in furthering the ideals of Mount Mercy. The award is named for Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland in 1831.
While at Mount Mercy, Tessa has been a four-year NAIA Scholar-Athlete on the women’s bowling team, a Resident Assistant and a Student Ambassador. Tessa has been involved with the Student Leadership Society, Nurses of Vision and Action (NOVA), and Sigma Theta Tau International. She also took advantage of Study Abroad opportunities, most recently traveling to Ireland during spring break.
Assistant Professor of Nursing, Dr. Michelle Umbarger-Mackey recently said, “Tessa is a highly motivated and passionate young woman. As her advisor, I have had many opportunities to meet with Tessa and discuss her coursework, career path and her life at Mount Mercy University. Tessa takes her academics very seriously and this is demonstrated in her outstanding accomplishments in our rigorous nursing program. Her smile is infectious, her passion and ability is strong, and her heart much bigger than can be described. It truly has been my pleasure to have her as an advisee. I cannot wait to see what big things she will accomplish in her career as a nurse!”
This past summer Tessa received a prestigious internship with the Center for Disease Control Undergraduate Public Health Scholars Program where she studied the effects of gentrification on cardiovascular disease among Puerto Rican women – and worked with UPROSE, an environmental justice non-profit organization dedicated to fighting environmental racism in an industrial neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
Amazing-Grace Ighedo received the Mary Frances Warde Award, the highest honor given to a student who transferred into Mount Mercy and has acquired a minimum of 30 credit hours at the university. The award is conferred upon the graduate who, in addition to a high scholastic rating (3.0 or above), has exemplified to a marked degree cooperation with administration, faculty, and students; integrating in his/her personal relationships; and leadership and loyalty in furthering the ideals of Mount Mercy. The award is named for Mary Frances Warde, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in America in 1843.
Amazing-Grace came to the profession of nursing through difficult circumstances. At 16, Amazing-Grace had a horrific accident in her home country and was cared for by a group of nurses who unknowingly ignited a passion in her for helping and healing others. In 2009, Amazing-Grace moved to the United States and, thanks to a nudge from her husband, began taking nursing classes. After a bit of trial and error at another institution, she found her home at Mount Mercy.
While on the Hill, Amazing-Grace flourished in her studies. Impressively, she maintained a 4.0 GPA while also raising a family. She won the prestigious Minority Nurse Scholarship, a national award given by Minority Nurse Magazine, in 2015. Amazing-Grace has also worked at the Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids, tutored children, and been involved with her church. Because of her commitment to quality in her academic work, and her positive and encouraging attitude, Amazing-Grace is a role model to her classmates – especially those who are also raising children.
Aimee Redlinger received the President’s Award during Mount Mercy’s Honors Convocation on Friday, May 20. The President’s Award is given in recognition of outstanding perseverance and diligence in pursuit of goals. The award was unique this year, because it was given to a person who is both a student and employee of the university.
In 2011, Aimee jumped into Mount Mercy’s academic program with both feet. Finishing a bachelor’s degree was a commitment she made to herself after not having the opportunity to finish college directly out of high school. During her years at Mount Mercy, Aimee took one or two courses at a time, and worked fulltime as an NCAA Licensing Administrator for Adidas Corporation; traveling around the country to service her many clients. Aimee planned to put a newly minted business degree to very good use as a sports marketer.
Dr. Nate Klein said of Aimee, “Aimee brought great insight from her industry experience to the classroom. Our final project was a presentation to a local client and Aimee and her team provided well-thought-out research and valuable recommendations that helped move the organization forward. Her grit and resolve to grow as a business professional and person was evident in my class.”