Fontbonne University recently presented Founders Awards to five people for their distinguished service to the greater St. Louis community.
Rebecca Byrne, of Des Peres, was honored for her distinguished service to grieving children and families. In the early 1990s, Byrne, then a pediatric nurse, established the first bereavement group for children, ages 6-12, at St. Louis Children's Hospital. In 1997, she helped found Annie's Hope, a nonprofit corporation in Kirkwood, that included grief programs and services for children and their families. Byrne created a variety of opportunities for the children, including a camp, teen retreats and a program designed for families with children who are facing an impending death.
Barbara Jahoda Freehill of Phoenix, Ariz., a 1960 Fontbonne graduate, was honored for her distinguished service in theater education. Freehill devoted her career to teaching theater and speech in St. Louis and Decatur, Ill., before moving to Phoenix. At the Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix, she elevated the theater department's role in curriculum and co-founded the Diocesan Fine Arts Festival for seventh and eighth graders of the Diocese there.
Veronica McDonnell of Frontenac, a 1991 Fontbonne graduate, was honored for her distinguished service in dedication to the community. As a registered dietician, McDonnell specializes in the care of people with renal disease. She is a member various professional organizations, including American Dietetic Association, Missouri Dietetic Association and the St. Louis Dietetic Association. She has taken leadership roles in several charitable organizations in the St. Louis area, such as the Kidney Foundation and the Lupus Foundation. She also was one of the original leaders of the Young Friends of the Science Center and participates in the Friends Board of the St. Louis Art Museum. In 2005, McDonnell organized the Friends of CHARACTERplus to raise public awareness of the importance of this program and to help provide financial support.
Lana Marshall Shepek of Belleville, Ill., a 1985 Fontbonne graduate, was honored for her distinguished service in promoting healthy dietary choices. Shepek currently works with the St. Louis District Dairy Council consulting dairy product consumer groups. The registered dietician developed a heart-healthy cooking program and gives numerous presentations on healthy eating habits. She has also helped local teachers develop a youth program to educate children on good nutrition habits.
Marion Weinzapfel, CSJ, of Denver, Colo., a 1966 Fontbonne graduate, was honored for her distinguished service to African-American and African Culture. She is a pastoral assistant of Cure' d' Ars Catholic Community in Denver, a primarily African-American parish. Weinzapfel participated in an exchange with missionaries in Gulu, Uganda, where she assisted children in and around the city. She also helped Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Denver.
Pictured, from left, seated, Marion Weinzapfel, CSJ and Barbara Jahoda Freehill. Standing, Veronica Fischer McDonnell, Lana Marshall Shepek and Rebecca Byrne.