by Steve Johnson
ATCHISON — Swing music from a live band, a high-spirited dance routine, remarkable vocals and an emotional appeal filled the night at the annual Benedictine College Scholarship Ball. And that was just the student contribution to its success.
Over 600 alumni and friends attended the event on Feb. 27 and contributed nearly a half million dollars to fund scholarships to the school. John Holt, Fox4 News anchor and the evening’s master of ceremonies, said the 39th ball was possibly the most exciting he has witnessed.
Overseeing the festivities in the Century Ballroom of the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, Mo., were co-chairs Lawrence and Linda Kaminsky and Steve and Peggy McBride. Honored with the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict that evening were Darryl Jones and Jim and Katie O’Brien. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn had received the award during his historic visit to the college on Jan. 31.
While dining, the attendees were entertained by the Benedictine College Jazz Band, Chamber Singers, and Dance Team. The Nigro Brothers conducted the live auction, as well as the special Fund-A-Raven auction that garnered more than $250,000 on its own. The evening concluded with dancing to the Michael Beers Band.
The honorees were both impressive and impressed.
“We are here because we love this college,” said Jim O’Brien, speaking for his wife as well. “And this recognition is greatly appreciated.”
The O’Briens have been associated with Benedictine College for many years, going back to Jim’s football days as a student athlete at St. Benedict’s College, now Benedictine College. Following a brief coaching career, he took his business administration degree and went into the pharmaceutical industry. He met Katie, a Kansas City native and graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in elementary education, and they were married in 1962. The couple now has three grown children and four grandchildren and are members of Church of the Nativity Parish in Leawood.
Jones, too, has been a steadfast supporter of the school, contributing to a wide variety of programs, including the new Academic Center. He joined the board in 2004. He currently runs his own State Farm Insurance agency in Texas and is the father of three grown children.
“I think we all know Benedictine is a special place,” said Jones during his acceptance speech. “Everything you’ve heard about me tonight is true, and I made a conscious decision to work hard and change my life. Everything I have accomplished, all of my success, I owe to the experiences and the education I got at Benedictine.”
Jones is considered by many an example of all that a Benedictine education can offer. A basketball star, national champion, winning coach, loving father, and successful businessman, he acknowledges it was all made possible by his Benedictine experience.
During his four years on campus, he was both a student leader and a basketball standout, taking the Ravens to three consecutive tournament appearances and the 1967 NAIA national basketball championship. The NAIA recognized him as a four-time All-American, inducted him into its Hall of Fame, and included him as a member of the 50th anniversary NAIA All-Star Team.
The Cross of the Order of St. Benedict was established in 1969 as a way for the college to recognize alumni and friends who have supported charitable institutions, provided civic or religious leadership, and demonstrated professional excellence. This year’s honorees have exhibited tremendous support for charities, plenty of leadership and business expertise, and true inspiration.