Spring event to showcase the sciences for Chicago alumni

Domanico, Finbar and Mann

Dr. John Domanico ’77 visited with Brother William and Brother Finbar McMullen ’46 at the Chicago Centennial Event.

Doctors James Dolan ’79 and John Domanico ’77 hadn’t seen much of each other since the ’70s. Dolan was a freshman at Saint Mary’s when Domanico was a junior, but the two shared at least one physics class and did some late-night cramming together, back in the day.

During the next 30-plus years, the two Chicago-area doctors (Dr. Domanico is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Chicago, and Dr. Dolan is an gynecologic oncologist in Park Ridge) bumped into each other periodically, often at Saint Mary’s alumni events.

Because of their love of their alma mater and their desire to enhance the sciences at Saint Mary’s, the two have been chosen to chair a spring science gala in Chicago. Needless to say, their correspondence has increased significantly. “Now it seems like I’ve never not talked to him because we talk a lot,” Dr. Domanico said. “You just pick up where you leave off.” Dr. Dolan says he has considered Dr. Domanico a buddy for the past 35 years.

The idea for this event was sparked when Dr. Dolan spoke to Brother William Mann back in 2012. The two discussed Saint Mary’s beginning a unique, black-tie event in the Chicago area with the express purpose of raising money for — and  awareness of — the sciences at Saint Mary’s.

“The Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine has an event each year where they engage the alumni from the medical school and give out the Sword of Loyola and the Stritch Medal. That was the genesis,” Dr. Dolan said.

“I had the thought that we could highlight the past, present and future by recognizing some distinguished alumni, re-engaging alumni and convincing them to invest in our future students,” he said. “We have a lot of successful alumni and many of them are very grateful to the university.”

When looking for a partner, Dr. Domanico, a long-time Saint Mary’s supporter and volunteer, was quickly tapped.

“We hope to engage alumni and re-introduce them to Saint Mary’s,” Dr. Domanico said. “We’re riding on the coattails of the success of the Centennial, by design. The purpose of this event is to engage alumni and to make them aware of the wonderful science initiatives already in the curriculum, the partnerships we have with the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, Gundersen Health Center and Cascade Meadow, plus our Prairie Island Field Station. We call it the triangle, our undergraduate location between La Crosse, Wis., and Rochester, and the many opportunities we have in these areas. Saint Mary’s is continuing the legacy of excellence in the sciences at Saint Mary’s.

“We want to honor our alumni and raise awareness of the breadth of opportunities and areas of interest there are at Saint Mary’s. When I was a Saint Mary’s student, there was chemistry, biology and physics. Now there are so many other  subfields like environmental studies and GeoSpatial Technology.”

Dr. Domanico said it was Saint Mary’s that prepared him for the next step in his academic career. He quickly lists the many names of those associated with the sciences at SMU through the years: Sister Clare Korte, OSF, M’67 D.A.; Dr. Dave  McConville; Dr. Donald Alsum; Dr. Lawrence Dieterman; Dr. Dick Kowles M’67; and Brother Jerome Rademacher, FSC ’58, Ph.D.

And the associations with Saint Mary’s, he said, didn’t stop at graduation. “Every step of the way there was a Saint Mary’s alum who opened a door during my career that might not have otherwise been easy to enter through. And that included getting into dental school. It was a continuum of Saint Mary’s influence and people helping me through in my career. I’ll never forget these people.”

Dr. Dolan’s list of favorite professors is also long. “The wonderful instruction we got from Brother I. Ambrose Trusk FSC ’43, Ph.D.; Dr. Doug Foster; Brother Jerome Rademacher, FSC ’58, Ph.D.; Dr. Dick Kowles M’67, Dr. Larry Dieterman; and Sister Clare Korte, OSF, M’67 D.A.; inside and outside of the classroom, was wonderful. They were great caring individuals. And Dr. Phil Cochran ’77 tutored both John and I. He is one of the smartest men in my life and continues to be — and I’ve met some smart people.”

Their goal for the May 17, 2014 event is to include 350 guests at the Union League Club in Chicago. The beautiful old building and its extensive art collection sets the stage for an elegant evening of music, dinner and cocktails.

Saint Mary’s students will display their academic abilities and faculty their latest research through on-site poster presentations; Brother William will speak; and honorary awards will be presented to alumni. Videos will be incorporated into the active presentation, and the evening will begin with a special Mass at St. Peter’s in downtown Chicago.

Their intention is to invite every science major and every Chicago alum, as well as to make this a regular event. And they’ve brought in other successful science alumni as honorary co-chairs: Dr. Gene McEnery ’53, a renowned urologist of Oak Park, Ill., and Dr. Sam Cascio ’48, a long-time successful dentist in Harwood Heights, Ill.

“We want to tell the country, ‘This is who we are and this is what we do,’ ” Dr. Domanico said. “My dream for Saint Mary’s is eventually to construct a state-of-the-art building on the Winona campus to support our programming. The sciences now are so integrated with biology, chemistry, physics, computer science and psychology. The dream is to have programs where students can find direction for their careers and partnerships where they can be welcome and learn at Gundersen or the Mayo Clinic or for engineering students, at the University of Minnesota. Wouldn’t it be neat if within five years, there’s a state-of the art building, and students are fighting to get in?”

“I hope that we invest in our future students, based on the tremendous legacy in the sciences of the past 100 years,” Dr. Dolan added. “My wish for Saint Mary’s is that they are competitive, modern, and allow students to get a contemporary and competitive education that can be transferred into a great career. I want the university to stimulate great thoughts,  stimulate students’ minds and expand their knowledge so they can be wonderfully successful. And I want Saint Mary’s to continue to offer a wide breadth of opportunities so students can find their passion.”

For more information about the university’s Science Initiative contact Audrey Kintzi, vice president for development and alumni relations, at akintzi@smumn.edu or (507) 457-1486.

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