2013 Alumni Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Robert Edward Wilems ’63

In 1959, Robert “Bob” Edward Wilems ’63 brought to St. Edward’s an enthusiasm for science that he developed from a young age. Bob could often be found playing long hours of bridge and was an active participant in intramural sports, including tennis, volleyball, basketball and softball. In the classroom, Physics majors from the Class of 1963 were a close-knit group who challenged one another, even creating friendly rivalries for top grades. Their physics professor, Brother Romard Barthel, CSC, ’47, quickly realized Bob’s abilities to excel in physics and math and encouraged him to participate in a prestigious summer fellowship at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, where he was introduced to the cutting-edge technology that inspired his career: modeling on computers. After graduating as valedictorian, Bob married Cornelia “Nela” Ann Houseman Wilems. Together, they returned to the Oak Ridge area where Bob completed his doctorate in Physics at the University of Tennessee. There, he and Nela had their two sons, Todd Anthony and Mark Christopher.

Upon earning his Ph.D., Bob focused his career on computer modeling of complex systems and performance assessment of those systems. From 1968 to 1976, most of his modeling efforts were focused on strategic defense systems, leading him into the management of technical contracts with a number of government organizations. Beginning in 1975, Bob’s hard work again gained recognition; he was named vice president at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), with responsibility for Corporate Development and Growth. From 1976 to 1994, Bob transitioned his focus to nuclear waste disposal systems, but throughout his professional life he continued his combination of technical efforts, management of simulations and upper management responsibilities. His abilities and leadership assisted each corporation he worked for to grow substantially during his career.

As Bob’s career advanced, he always made time for his former physics professor, Brother Romard. When Bob and Nela learned in 2005 that Brother Romard was retiring from teaching, they felt the best way to honor him was to lead the way in endowing a scholarship in his name. In the time since, Bob and Nela have supported St. Edward’s in many more ways: volunteering at admissions fairs, mentoring students, hosting events and serving as chair of the School of Natural Sciences Advisory Board. They are also committed donors who are dedicated to ensuring that all St. Edward’s students graduate with an understanding of math and science.

Throughout their lives, Bob and Nela have worked to share their faith with young adults by teaching Catholic Christian Development (CCD) and staying involved with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) as well as other school activities. After Bob’s retirement in 1994, he and Nela followed one of their passions by setting sail on their sailboat for five years to cruise the Gulf Coast, East Coast and many islands in the Bahamas and Northern Caribbean. Afterward, they settled in Nassau Bay on the north shore of Clear Lake. In April 2012, Bob and Nela moved to Boerne to enjoy the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

Tim Russ '77

Professional actor Tim Russ ’77 has established and refined his talent for performance for more than 30 years. Born into a military family, his love for the craft developed as he was raised on Air Force bases around the world. In 1974, Tim enrolled at St. Edward’s because of the university’s active and challenging theater program. Over the next four years, Tim’s relationships with colleagues and professors laid the groundwork for his remarkable career, championed his courage to take risks and instilled lifelong Holy Cross values of human compassion.

Alongside students and seasoned theater veterans, Tim learned the discipline and professionalism he would need later for his most recognizable role: playing Tuvok, Vulcan Security Advisor in the immensely popular six-year-long television series Star Trek: Voyager. In fact, as a student he learned from the best when he served as understudy to actor Leonard Nimoy, famous for his role as Spock in the TV series Star Trek, during the Mary Moody Northen Theatre’s production of Albert Camus’ play, Caligula. Tim’s first professional job also came while attending St. Edward’s, when he appeared in a PBS Masterpiece Theatre production, Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree.

Within a few years of graduation, Tim moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. His efforts were split equally between film, television and the stage, but his most recognizable roles have been in television. Tim has starred in series such as NBC’s The Highwayman and made appearances on more than 49 primetime shows, including The People Next Door, iCarly, E.R., Journey to the Center of the Earth and many more.

In 1992, Tim and fellow St. Edward’s alumnus Nate Thomas ’79 began writing and producing their award-winning independent film East of Hope Street in Los Angeles. The film garnered praise at numerous prominent film festivals, including “Best Urban Drama” at the New York Independent Film Festival, “Best Feature Film” at the New Orleans Urban Film Festival, and “1st Place, Cross Cultural” at the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Festival. In recent years, Tim has indulged in his other passions — writing and music. A talented guitarist and vocalist, he has released three albums in the past 12 years and co-produced a musical children’s audio book entitled BUGSTERS, which won the National Parenting Award. Tim also wrote and directed a DVD collection of short stories entitled Frame of Mind, released in 2010.

Over the years, Tim has continued to remember his theater family on the hilltop. He performed with current St. Edward’s theater students in a 2001 production of E/R Emergency Room as a celebrity guest. In 2010, both Tim and Nate Thomas conducted a weekend theater workshop for students on the St. Edward’s campus with an additional workshop in 2011. In addition to receiving the 2013 St. Edward’s University Distinguished Alumnus Award, at this year’s Homecoming, Tim will be celebrating the theater program’s 40-year reunion along with his colleagues.

Alumni Achievement Award

Katharine Baragona ’87

When Katharine Baragona ’87 enrolled at St. Edward’s University in the mid-80s, the ability to craft a personal degree plan and graduate in a timely manner made it a good fit with her dream to become an international lawyer. She had no way of knowing at the time just how beneficial the university’s global courses and connections would be to her future career. Today as she works regularly with Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Baha’i and Hindus, Kate is grateful to recall lessons and insights from her World Religions class that directly impact her ability to understand her multinational clients and provide acceptable solutions. Today, Kate’s successes domestically and abroad are a model for St. Edward’s students who seek to thrive in an increasingly global world.

After completing her studies in Economics and Finance at St. Edward’s in 1987, and honored with the distinction of “top graduate in Economics,” Kate was awarded an internship on Wall Street that was made available through James Koch, professor of Economics at St. Edward’s and a fellow St. Edward’s alumnus. Following her financial experience in New York, Kate enrolled in the University of Pacific-McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California. In her time there, she continued developing her international expertise by participating in McGeorge’s LL.M studies and internship programs in Salzburg, Austria, and London, England. Kate earned her Juris Doctorate in 1990 and, in 1993, was one of the first five American lawyers to dual qualify as a U.K. Solicitor with the Law Society of England and Wales.

Kate’s professional experiences took her all over the world. By the mid-90s, she was a partner with the London law firm of Richards Butler, advising the governments of Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on project finance and energy development. When the firm transferred Kate to Brussels, Belgium, she became the first woman to be named head of an international law office in the city. Later, Kate worked with the U.S. law firm of Hunton & Williams, in both Brussels and New York, as a member of the firm’s project development, finance and leasing practice group.

After nearly 10 years of living and practicing overseas, Kate left the practice of law with an extensive amount of knowledge and experience in international finance and project development. She went on to hold senior investment banking positions with Citigroup, in both New York and London. In 2010, Kate moved from private sector to international development, joining The World Bank in Washington, D.C., where her goal is to create financially sustainable infrastructure transactions that support the Bank’s mission of poverty alleviation. Kate’s focus is now mainly on countries in Africa, where she travels extensively to advise governments seeking to bring electricity and opportunity to people in need.

Throughout her many life adventures, Kate has remained a continuous supporter of St. Edward’s. She has been active in the St. Edward’s New York and Washington D.C. Alumni Chapters and represented the university on numerous occasions, including volunteering at admissions fairs and serving as a delegate at the 2009 inauguration of Cedar Crest College’s incoming president. Kate is also committed to the university’s goal of graduating students that are distinctive for their understanding of the world and its cultures and for being prepared to make significant contributions globally. In fact, her relationship with the university has now come full circle, as recently she has worked to negotiate internships for St. Edward’s students at The World Bank, providing others with the kind of opportunity she enjoyed at the beginning of her career.

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