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Wheeling University Students Receive Recognition from Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

Pictured Let to Right: Brian Gannon, Abigail Witucky, Joshua Zimmerman

WHEELING, W.Va., May 4 ­– Each year, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston honors young people enrolled in its Catholic schools for being model students. They are recognized at the annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools, where the Aquinas and St. Sebastian awards are bestowed. Three Wheeling University students were among those honored this year.

Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused the dinner to be cancelled again this year, the diocese still made this time special for the honorees. Each award recipient received a packet with their medals, as well as letters of congratulations from Bishop Mark Brennan and Catholic Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Deschaine.

“These awards openly recognize young people who exhibit the faith, character and skills that Catholic schools try to foster in the young,” Bishop Brennan said in his letter. “Students, your hard work, concern for others and trust in God have brought you this far. I congratulate you and pray that you may advance even farther.”

The Aquinas Medal is presented to one student from each school and Wheeling University who best embodies the qualities of Catholic school education: excellence in learning, faithful discipleship, leadership, and service to school, parish, and community. Senior Joshua Zimmerman of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, was chosen as Wheeling’s Aquinas Medal winner.

Zimmerman, a Biology major with a 3.27 GPA, said he has learned a lot about himself and others during his time at Wheeling University.

“Although the road has had many bumps and curves along the way, I can proudly say that my experiences here have made me a much better person. I have learned to ‘love my neighbor’ as I have made many bonds that will last a lifetime with many people of different backgrounds. Wheeling has allowed me to connect and hear stories and experiences of people that I never before experienced, and this has really opened up my view of the world,” he said.

In addition, Zimmerman said, the University has taught him how to be a strong leader, “who even in hard times, will find the ability to rise up and keep moving forward, and to push others to follow in my stride … I have found that with my teammates and friends, through our various hardships, that if we come together as one, we truly have the ability to accomplish greatness. When the world around us seems so divided and harsh, I believe that best thing we can do is to extend a hand to anyone in need, and help bring them to the light.”

The St. Sebastian Award recognizes two high-achieving student-athletes from each high school and WU who exhibit sportsmanship, teamwork, academics (maintaining a 3.0 or higher GPA) and a high degree of respect for school, classmates, teammates, opponents, parish, and the community. Two seniors, Brian Gannon of the Rugby team and Abigail Witucky of the Volleyball team were chosen for the St. Sabastian Award.

Gannon of Oak Lawn, Illinois, said, “My family has been involved in the Catholic Church my entire life. I started playing rugby my freshman year at Brother Rice High School (in Chicago), along with football. My decision to transfer to Wheeling was one of the best decisions I have made, and I am proud to be graduating from this institution.” The Nursing major has a 3.54 GPA.

Witucky is a Nursing major and Psychology minor, who is carrying a 3.60 GPA. “I am captain of the Cardinal Volleyball team and after graduation, I plan to work as a NICU/nursery registered nurse and continue my education as a nurse practitioner.”

Wheeling University President Ginny R. Favede said, “I am extremely proud of Joshua, Brian and Abby on their recognition from the diocese. Each of them embodies the ideals Wheeling University strives to instill in its students – excellence in the classroom, a grounding in their faith and a commitment to serve others. They are excellent examples how our students live our mission to be men and women for life, leadership and service.”

Deschaine said in her letter, “These young people are exceptional examples of faith-filled students who represent the Catholic schools of West Virginia. I have had the pleasure to witness first-hand the wonderful Catholic heritage our schools bring to our communities. I congratulate the families, parishes and schools which are home to this year’s honorees.”