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Distinguished Alumni Award

Since they’ve walked the halls of St. Joseph Academy, Maria High School, or Pacelli Catholic High School, our alumni have distinguished themselves in many exceptional ways. Their exemplary community involvement, devotion to Catholic/Christian principles, pattern of leadership and service, and personal/professional achievements make them eligible candidates for the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Nomination Criteria

  • Graduated from St. Joseph Academy, Maria High School, or Pacelli Catholic High School at least 10 years ago
  • Outstanding professional and/or volunteer achievements having brought honor and distinction to St. Joseph Academy, Maria High School, or Pacelli Catholic High School
  • Exemplifies a Catholic/Christian lifestyle
  • Successful in areas of leadership, service, and character in both private and public life
  • Honors, recognition, and reputation extending beyond the immediate environment in which he/she lives and works
Richard Pavelski '67
2020-2021 Distinguished Alumni
Award Recipient
Daniel Rashke '83
2019 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Fr. William Menzel '59
2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
James (Ness) Niespodziani '59
2017 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Suzanne (Kort) Koehl '78
2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
John '65 & Karen (Shannon) Clifford '65
2015 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
Alan Cundari '71
2014 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Don Slusarski '61
2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Sr. Carlene Blavat,
SSJ-TOSF '54
2012 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Anne (Derezinski) Fluno '59
2011 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Ken Shibilski '59
2010 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Sandy (Lepak) Retzki '82
2009 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Maureen (Rybicke) Colin '66
2008 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Andy Altenburg '83
2007 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Ron Retzke '66
2006 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Joseph "Rusty" Mitch '76
2005 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Sr. Jeanne Conzemius,
SSJ-TOSF '59
2004 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Justice William Bablitch '59
2003 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Jim Cooper '64
2001 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Fred Copps '64
2000 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Wayne Kostroski '69
1999 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
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Pacelli Honors Businessman, Philanthropist Dick Pavelski with Distinguished Alumni Award

A long awaited honor, Pacelli Catholic Schools was finally able to formally recognize businessman and philanthropist Richard “Dick” Pavelski as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. Pavelski, a Pacelli Catholic High School graduate of the class of 1967, was announced as the recipient last spring but the pandemic put plans to celebrate his many accomplishments on hold for a year.

Being kind to others will reap great rewards. Being generous to others, will return generosity from others.

Dick Pavelski '67

But on May 22, Pavelski was honored at a recognition brunch surrounded by his family, past award recipients, local pastors, and Pacelli Catholic Schools staff. Following brunch, Pavelski also served as the keynote speaker at the Pacelli Catholic High School Class of 2021 graduation ceremony.

“It does not matter where you start, it is where you end up that counts,” said Pavelski, addressing the graduates.

A force in Central Wisconsin agriculture, entrepreneurship, and stewardship for decades, Pavelski is most notably known for his legacy as a 4th generation farmer behind Heartland Farms, Inc., recognized globally for the significant role he’s played in pioneering many of the state-of-the-art best practices in agriculture today. Outside of farming, Pavelski is an active, dedicated community member having served in a variety of capacities on local and national boards, including past roles as Village of Amherst President, US Potato Board and National Potato Council, and Trustee for Pacelli Catholic Schools Foundation, to note a few.

Pavelski’s greatest success, though, is perhaps investing in the futures of his fellow community members. He is without a doubt on the leading edge of job creation and entrepreneurism, having backed over 36 closely held companies and creating over 2,000 new jobs nearly all in Central Wisconsin at places like River Cities Bank, Portage County Bank, Ki Mobility, Wound Zoom, Intevation Foods, Service Cold Storage, and 212 Fitness. 

His generosity is second to none, having been quietly very generous to numerous schools and community endeavors including supporting local STEM education, numerous scholarships supporting Central Wisconsin schools, and many community healthcare needs like the breast care center and EMS solutions for Portage County.

Currently, Pavelski has been working on a passion project to bring agricultural education to the broader public, ensuring everyone creates connections to where food comes from and changing the stereotypes of what it means to be a farmer. His project, the Farming for the Future Foundation, will help create education in many schools throughout the country and has plans in the works for a state-of-the-art interactive museum dedicated to agriculture located right here in Central Wisconsin.

“Being kind to others will reap great rewards,” said Pavelski. “Being generous to others, will return generosity from others.”

Distinguished Service Award

While they may not be alumni, we are blessed with many supporters of Pacelli Catholic Schools who have dedicated their lives to excellence in Catholic education and serving our schools in exceptional ways. The Distinguished Service Award is our way to honor and say thanks to those in our Catholic school community who have demonstrated that they were, and continue to be, an integral part of our schools.

2013 Distinguished Service Award Recipient

De La Salle Christian Brothers of the Midwest

2002 Distinguished Service Award Recipient

Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis