At Homecoming & Family Weekend 2020, we will celebrate many student and alumni achievements at the Alumni Honors Ceremony on Feb. 14, 2020! Learn about our 2020 Alumni Award Winners and Hall of Fame Inductees, and previous Homecoming Court & Royals, and Topper Cup winners. 

2020 Alumni Award Winners and Hall of Fame Inductees 

Brother Larry Atkinson, CSC, ’70 –  Alumni Service Award

Brother Larry Atkinson, CSC, ’70 –  Alumni Service Award

Nominated by: Stephanie Bazan ‘02, John Barajas hs ’62, ‘66 and Liza Manjarrez

 
Retired staff member and beloved campus icon Brother Larry Atkinson C.S.C ’70 is thankful to the Congregation of Holy Cross for helping him find his way to the Hilltop in 1967. Having never left the confines of New England before, Br. Larry was excited to explore Austin — “a laid-back college town with a true Western feel.” 

While earning his Bachelor’s degree in French, Br. Larry had a number of memorable St. Edward’s experiences. When recounting his fondest campus adventures, he exuberantly recalls selling pizzas in the residence halls to raise money for Holy Cross missions, taking judo classes from fellow student Brother Bill Randall, hosting lively soirees in Vincent Hall, and many more. “I still remember walking into the registrar’s office after my final summer class to pick up my diploma from Brother Silvan,” he reminisces, “But there are far too many great memories to count.” 

Br. Larry describes his stunning Hilltop accomplishments with remarkable humility, often crediting those around him for providing him with love and support. “My proudest moment at St. Edward's was when I was elected the first student Brother to the Student Government. Student brothers were just beginning to be able to participate more in student life, so being chosen was a great honor!" 

Eventually, Br. Larry deepened his commitment to educating hearts and minds when he earned his Master’s degree from Middlebury College in 1975, and later, his Master’s in Education from Boston College in 1993. True to his values and ambition to teach, Br. Larry worked relentlessly to inspire his students to “respect every person, to care for those who suffer and struggle in life, and to love God and others as themselves.”

Still, despite his deep wealth of knowledge and understanding, Br. Larry maintains that the most valuable advice he ever received came from his own mother: “Whatever you want to do in life, you can do it — just put your all into it. If you want to be a ditch digger, then be a good ditch digger!” 
Another piece of wisdom that shaped Br. Larry came from Novice Director Br. Elmo Bransby who, when Br. Larry confided his fear that he would no longer be able to enjoy dancing as a religious brother, said, “Keep dancing. Enjoy life.” During his unforgettable tenure at St. Edward’s, Br. Larry’s joy and exuberance for his mission and community touched every part of the hilltop and reached many places beyond.

Now enjoying his retirement, Br. Larry spends most of his time traveling, reading, and meeting new people. “I’m also enjoying the newfound quiet times that retirement brings,” he says. After faithfully serving his role in Campus Ministry for 19 years, Br. Larry is more than deserving of tranquility and time for himself.

Br. Larry’s leadership and loyalty truly fulfills the Holy Cross mission and sets a noble example of what it means to be a part of the St. Edward’s community. The Alumni Association is honored to present him with the Alumni Service Award.

Kelsey Baird (Yeatts) ’09 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Women's Soccer

Kelsey Baird (Yeatts) ’09 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Women's Soccer

Kelsey (Yeatts) Baird and St. Edward’s University have a unique relationship.

The bonding began when Baird chose to play soccer for the Hilltoppers. Following a standout career, Baird returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach for the women’s team.

Recently, the connection between the two went deeper as Baird became a member of the St. Edward’s Athletics Hall of Fame. For the former defender, that honor is the icing on the cake.

“It is cool,” Baird said. “You hear about the Hall of Fame and people who are special members of it. I didn’t think I would be part of that category. It’s even more special because I work here.”

Baird knew St. Edward’s was the right choice right off the bat. She welcomed the opportunity to play college soccer, but the overall campus atmosphere was a major attraction.

“The community is a big thing that stood out for me,” said Baird. “I hear a lot of people talking about it. You always see friendly faces. You always see people you know.”

Baird came to St. Ed’s totally prepared. The talent and competitive nature were in place. Plus, her mother was a P.E. teacher and personal trainer, so being well-conditioned was mandatory.

Baird led the Hilltoppers to two Heartland Conference championships and NCAA appearances in 2006 and 2007. That led to plenty of recognition.

She was named Heartland Conference Woman of the Year in 2009 while earning All-Heartland first-team honors three times. She was also a three-time all-region selection and was named to the second team once. In addition, Baird received an honorable mention All-America selection (2008), along with being a finalist for NCAA Division II Woman of the Year (2009).

She was also chosen to the NCAA Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute team.

That solid effort was also present in the classroom where Baird became a CoSIDA Second-Team All-District pick in 2008.

The highlights are plentiful, especially the two NCAA Tournament appearances.

“Going to the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore was special after going through six wins the previous year,” Baird said. “Coach (Nick) Cowell came in our sophomore year and said he would dye his hair white if we won conference. We did. We were up in Montana State Billings when we won it and he dyed his hair.”

Although Baird’s playing career was over, the soccer success continued as she returned to St. Edward’s. In between starting Veritas Academy’s girls’ soccer program and winning two TAPPS state championships, she served as a volunteer assistant from 2012-2015 before becoming full-time in 2016.

Coming back makes it extra special,” Baird said. “It was the only place I wanted to coach. I wanted to be in a relationship with girls going through the same thing I did. It’s great to be giving back to a place where I grew a ton. I know what they go through.”

Matthew Hatcher ’10 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Men's Golf

Matthew Hatcher ’10 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Men's Golf

Coming to St. Edward’s University from Salisbury, England, was a bold move for Matt Hatcher.

After all, he was going to a school not only a long way from home, but in a different country. Being the adventurous type, Hatcher fit in nicely while becoming one of the top golfers in SEU history while excelling in the classroom.

It was a life-changing experience filled with numerous highlights, such as playing for an NCAA Division II championship. Now, another big moment is coming Hatcher’s way as he becomes a member of the St. Edward’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

“It means a great deal to be honored this way,” Hatcher said. “I am

humbled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside so many incredible athletes.”

Hatcher’s talent as a golfer surfaced during younger days with much of the grooming coming at Millfield Preparatory School. Eventually, St. Ed’s coach Ryan Murphy noticed Hatcher’s profile through a United Kingdom-based agency that helped connect international students with NCAA schools.

“As soon as I visited Austin, I knew it was going to be an excellent fit,” Hatcher said. “I committed shortly after my visit. St. Edward’s offered a well-balanced education. The school offered great academics and an opportunity to play in a very competitive NCAA golf program. I liked the small class sizes, beautiful campus and the program’s commitment to playing at the highest level.”

Going to college was an eye-opening experience.

“It was a massive adjustment,” Hatcher said. “Boarding school prepared me well to leave home, but Texas was a huge culture shock. The heat also took some getting used to. I remember showing up for our first team practice and it was 102 degrees. I had never played in that kind of heat before. Luckily, over time, Texas and its heat began to feel like home.”

Hatcher’s ability to adjust showed in his steady play. The three-time all-region and All-Heartland Conference golfer guided the Hilltoppers to three conference championships and four NCAA regional tournament appearances.

The best season came in 2008. Not only was Hatcher the Heartland Conference individual medalist, he led the Hilltoppers to a runner-up finish in the NCAA National Tournament.

“We had two amazing coaches during my time as a player, Ryan Murphy and Todd Ohlymeyer,” said Hatcher, who shot 12 rounds in the 60s and was ranked 45th nationally his senior year. “Two very different coaching styles but they taught me how to win and how to bounce back from a tough day. They taught me how to become mentally stronger during good rounds and bad.”

Hatcher considered pursuing a professional golf career prior to graduation but decided to enter the business world instead. Like his decision to come to St. Ed’s going that route proved to be the right choice.

“When I look back at my time at St. Ed’s, what I remember most are all of the amazing people I was lucky enough to cross paths with,” Hatcher said. “Some of my fondest memories revolve around traveling with teammates across the country to compete. We were fortunate enough to play on many amazing golf courses against some of the nation’s best players. Competing in the national championship was an I experience I will never forget.”

Sonia Hurtado ’04 – Alumni Achievement Award

Sonia Hurtado ’04 – Alumni Achievement Award

Nominated by: Mary Ruiz '86

Growing up watching her parents toil in severe heat to earn very little pay, Sonia Hurtado ’04 realized how important it was to earn her college degree. In the fall of 1999, she entered St. Edward’s University through CAMP as an Accounting major. 

Her first semester was the hardest — she missed her family deeply and felt guilty for leaving her parents, who were reluctant to let her go. “The only thing that saved me was my CAMP family,” Sonia says. “Without the the family environment CAMP gave me, I would have dropped out of school and gone back home. Esther Yacono, Director of CAMP at the time, was very much a motherly figure, and my fellow CAMPers were my adopted siblings.”

Sonia discovered her calling when her high school accounting teacher invited Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent Mary Trevino ’79 to talk about her professional experience. “I couldn’t take my eyes off her,” Sonia remembers. “When I saw her, I saw myself.” After class, she asked Special Agent Trevino how she could follow in her footsteps; Trevino advised her to get her degree and take courses in accounting and business. 

Years later, in Sonia’s final year at St. Edward’s, a business communication assignment reconnected her with Special Agent Trevino, who immediately agreed to be her mentor. “She was ecstatic to see the impact she had made in my life,” Sonia reflects. A few months later, Sonia was accepted for an internship with IRS-CI, which became a permanent special agent position after her graduation. Now, Sonia marvels, "I'm still with this agency sixteen years later!"

Sonia's unwavering dedication to workforce equity earned her recognition as a finalist for the IRS Federal Executive Board Horizon Award 2012 — but her efforts didn’t stop there. Today, Sonia continues to serve as a leadership volunteer with organizations like The Hispanic Alliance, Wholesome Valley Foods, The Andy Roddick Foundation and more.

Of course, Sonia’s commitment to making the world a better place extends to her volunteer work for St. Edward’s as well. She frequently meets with freshman CAMPers and speaks to them about the career opportunities within her profession as an IRS-CI, motivating them to dream big, finish their degrees and excel in their careers, and always remember where they came from. She also invests her own knowledge and experience in today’s Hilltoppers as a member of The Bill Munday School of Business Advisory Council.

Sonia says that, while her proudest professional accomplishment was graduating from the federal law enforcement academy, she is also incredibly proud of becoming a mother to her two children — Cael Bellah (age 10) and Kyara Bellah (age 9) —  despite the odds being stacked against her.

When she’s not busy solving global challenges by securing financial resources for her investigations, Sonia enjoys reading, traveling, exercising, networking, mentoring, and of course, spending time with her beautiful children. 

Sonia’s dedicated service to the St. Edward’s community and her tremendous accomplishments make her the ideal Alumni Achievement Award recipient.

Robin (Becker) Keller ’08 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Softball

Robin (Becker) Keller ’08 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Softball

Robin (Becker) Keller saw something special the first time she visited St. Edward’s University.

Keller played a key role in St. Ed’s run to the 2008 NCAA Division II World Series where the Hilltoppers finished third, earning an all-Tournament team selection. The Hilltoppers ended the year with an overall mark of 53-17, setting a program record for wins in a season, with Becker compiling a 28-8 record in the circle which is the most wins in a single season in program history and ranked her 13th in the nation that season.

A three-time All-Heartland Conference pick, Becker boasts a career ERA of 1.90 and ranks in the top 10 in the St. Edward’s record books in six categories, including four in the top five. She is second all-time in pitching appearances (151), third with 18 shutouts and fourth in both wins (60) and starts (92). Now, the appreciation is being shown as Keller is being inducted into the SEU Athletics Hall of Fame.

“This is such an honor,” said Keller, now coaching volleyball and track and teaching physical education at Cedar Park Middle School. “It means that all the hard work, hours on the field and in the classroom, and any obstacles faced along my journey were worth every minute. It also gives my husband (Kevin) and children (Wyatt, Addie) an idea of the student-athlete I was prior to settling down and raising a family (aka bragging rights). We joke that my son has my arm and my daughter my strong legs and attitude.”

The honor and bragging rights are well-deserved.

While Keller enjoyed success on the softball field, St. Edward’s also provided a life-changing experience away from athletics.

“I learned how to manage my time wisely,” Keller said. “I had to stay focused, work hard and keep my passion for the game. Playing at SEU taught to me to become a better student in the classroom and on the field. It taught me how to become a more supportive teammate and stronger leader.”

No doubt the memories are plentiful. Of course, beating Angelo State in the bottom of the regional bracket to reach the World Series won’t be forgotten. However, a unique graduation day made it complete.

“The one that sticks out the most is graduating on the (softball) field,” Keller said. “We were playing in the (Heartland) Conference Tournament and our parents rallied us together to make sure we could still feel special on that special day of graduation. They came back with caps and gowns and diplomas for each of the seniors. Pretty dang sweet.”

Kevin J. Koch ’80, MBA ’84 – Distinguished Alumni Award

Kevin J. Koch ’80, MBA ’84 – Distinguished Alumni Award

Nominated by David J. Doherty, CPA & Financial Advisor

The 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award belongs to University Trustee Kevin Koch ’80, MBA ’84, whose personal and academic achievements prepared him for a lifetime of success. A born Hilltopper since his father first accepted a St. Edward’s professorship in 1962, Kevin has generously upheld and prioritized his relationship with the University ever since.
 
When asked about his most transformative campus memories, Kevin attributes his best experiences to interacting regularly with the Brothers of Holy Cross — both inside and outside the classroom. “Spending summers with Brother Emmett Strohmeyer at the tennis courts while growing up and while attending St. Edward's was always special,” he says. “Taking twenty-mile hikes with Brother Thomas McCullough while learning his perspective on the world was a vital education all by itself. Learning about creativity and other meaningful life lessons from Brother Lucian and Brother Daniel Lynch was invaluable.” Kevin recalls these moments in the fondest detail: “It true honor to be influenced by this knowledge and wisdom as I grew up in and around the St. Edward's community.”

He also reflects that the greatest advice he ever received was to “never give up —  because God does not give us challenges without giving us the skills to meet them.” In a similar fashion, Kevin advises today’s students to “get comfortable being uncomfortable” and urges them to persevere when faced with challenges and limitations. “The ‘prize’ is on the other side of the limits,” he says. “People who are comfortable exploring new limits experience more growth and happiness.” 

Kevin has seen the University from various roles and embodies its Holy Cross values in many ways, especially through his position as an executive with McLane Company, Trustee for the Callaway Foundation, a national expert on Texas tax law, a member of numerous professional associations, a board member for non-profit and service organizations, and a stalwart friend to the University community.

Together with his wife, Dr. Hope A. Koch Ph.D., Kevin gives generously to support future generations of Hilltoppers. In addition to establishing The Callaway-Koch Central Texas Endowed Scholarship and The J.L. and Bonnelle Callaway Foundation Endowed Scholarship, he donates regularly to other emerging University needs such as The Main Building Project, The St. Edward’s fund, and The Dr. George E. Martin Presidential Scholarship Endowment. 

In his spare time, Kevin enjoys pursuing events that challenge and strengthen his athletic prowess: Ironman distance triathlons, ultra-marathons, Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim (R2R2R) hikes, long-distance cycling events — anything that fulfills his passion for lively competition. Yet, despite these Herculean accomplishments, Kevin says that his proudest achievement is living within the standards of his beloved parents.
“My parents based their standards on the teachings of the Catholic Church and provided an atmosphere that supported and nurtured those standards,” he says. “Being part of the St. Edward's community played a significant role in learning and living these standards. The ability to be able to give back to the University a small part of what it gave to me has made both my parents and me very proud.”
  
In recognition of his accomplishments and dedication to St. Edward’s, the Alumni Association is proud to present Kevin with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
 

Mike Smith – Hall of Fame Inductee, Soccer Coach

Mike Smith – Hall of Fame Inductee, Soccer Coach

Mike Smith admits he didn’t know anything about St. Edward’s University when a friend told him about the men’s soccer coach opening back in 1987.

Unfamiliarity, however, wasn’t an issue. It was an opportunity to coach college soccer and that was enough to draw Smith’s interest. As he learned more about St. Ed’s, the enthusiasm grew and turned into a memorable 17-year stint, which also included 13 years as the women’s head coach.

Smith not only enjoyed success, but also found a home. While becoming familiar with the school, he made St. Edward’s a household name among NAIA and Division II soccer.

“I never had been in a real college soccer program. It was a great opportunity for me. It was lucky timing. I am a Christian and it was like God put me where he wanted me. I wasn’t complaining about His plans.”

Smith is experiencing that homey feeling even more these days as he is being inducted into the St. Edward’s University Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I was really taken aback by it,” Smith said. “I really wasn’t expecting it. I am flattered by it. To be recognized for those 17 years is really neat. When I saw the letter, it brought a tear to my eye.”

Building a strong soccer foundation at a small college isn’t easy by any means but Smith made it work, putting together a 175-135-27 record with the men and 74-71-7 mark with the women.

The Hilltoppers were still in the building process in the early years, but things started coming together with a NAIA district playoff trip in 1990. That set the tone for bigger results as the Hilltoppers won the district championship in 1992, before claiming the Heart of Texas Conference Tournament title and earning another district playoff appearance in 1993. Another district tournament appearance occurred in 1996.

When St. Ed’s made the leap to NCAA Division II in 1998, the Hilltoppers didn’t miss a beat, winning the Heartland Conference Tournament title that first season and adding another crown in ’99, along with their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

In 1990, Smith took his skills a bit farther by also taking over the women’s head coaching duties. Once again, good things followed with three postseason appearances and one regional berth.

“I had never coached women before,” Smith said. “It probably took me a couple years to adjust. It had different challenges, but I really enjoyed coaching the women.”

Along the way, Smith found something more valuable than accolades – lasting friendships.

“There’s such a community feel there,” Smith said. “I knew a lot of the professors. I was on campus watching a men’s game back in September or October and ran into a few people I know.

“I was fortunate to coach tons and tons of good kids through the years. I stay in touch with a of them. We are like family. It was the most impactful time period of my life.”

 

Nichole Stroup ’00 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Women's Basketball

Nichole Stroup ’00 – Hall of Fame Inductee, Women's Basketball

Nichole (Wiatrek) Stroup knew she was facing a challenge.

She dominated on the basketball court at Falls City High School but making the leap to St. Edward’s University was a whole new ballgame. Stroup, however, was not intimidated.

In fact, Stroup let it be known she could mix it up with big kids by becoming one of the top players in the Hilltopper women’s basketball program. Thanks to such accomplishments as helping St. Edward’s to the 1999 NAIA National Tournament and becoming a familiar name in the record books, Stroup’s contributions are being recognized even more as she joins SEU’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I was one of the lucky ones to even get to play at the college level,” Stroup said. “But to be named into the St. Edward’s Hall of Fame is truly an honor. It’s a reminder of my hard work and dedication to the sport I love most. It’s nice to know that people appreciate my accomplishments.”

Although success occurred, reaching that pinnacle was an adjustment. Stroup’s height gave her a major advantage in high school, but she quickly realized something extra was required to make the grade in college basketball.

Stroup had plenty of support, starting with coach Janice Wallace.

“Coach Wallace would say today I was a raw talent,” Stroup said. “There was so much to learn about the game I loved so much. It was now more of a physical game. I had always used my height and speed, but now I was learning to use my strength and power. Maneuvers like ‘posting up’ and ‘blocking out’ were unfamiliar to me. It was time to hit the weight room to hold my own against some of the best.”

As a three-time all-conference selection and second-team all-region choice twice, Stroup controlled the paint, pouring in 1,520 career points, which ranks third in SEU’s record books, while grabbing 779 rebounds and 68 blocks.

In addition to standing out on the basketball court, came other rewards.

“I mostly enjoyed the friendships that came out of my time at St. Edward’s and that feeling of what it was like to be a part of a team,” Stroup said. “You spend countless hours with the same people day in and day out. You sweat, laugh, cry, share secrets, and your lives pretty much mesh together. All the special memories become the topic of conversations you will have years later.”