(Sioux City, Iowa – September 27, 2020) On Sunday, Briar Cliff University hosted their 89th Commencement Ceremony at the Tyson Events Center. During the ceremony, Jim and Bev Wharton, Sr. Shirley Fineran, Dr. Gerald and Sheryl McGowan received recognition for their significant contributions to BCU’s caring community over the years.
The Briar Cliff University Medal, an award given to recognize human service by persons who have made great contributions to Briar Cliff or individuals whose contributions to education, religion or government have been significant, was awarded to Jim and Bev Wharton. Jim served in the President’s Office and Marketing Department and Bev serviced on our Board of Trustees for seven years prior to becoming the 9th President of Briar Cliff for the next 15 years, the longest tenure of any President. Throughout the years and even today, they are seen cheering on Charger student-athletes, attending choral performances, emceeing various events, and so much more. In 2019, the Whartons were inducted into the University’s Mother Dominica Society, recognizing their extraordinary lifetime generosity to the university. The Whartons have made indelible and significant impact on Briar Cliff.
The Spirit of St. Francis Award, meant to honor individuals who exemplify the Franciscan spirit of service and concern for others through contributions to society and a value-centered professional and/or family life, was presented to Sr. Shirley Fineran. Briar Cliff was blessed by Sister Shirley Fineran’s presence and service for 28 years. As an alumna, she made a remarkable impact as both a teacher and a mentor. Fineran’s active volunteerism within the community while advocating for peace, justice, and women’s issues for more than 50 years is inspiring.
The Presidential Distinguished Leadership Award recognizes distinguished service to the University that has resulted in significant achievement and advancement of the Briar Cliff Philosophy, goals, and programs. This award was presented to Dr. Gerald and Sheryl McGowan. The McGowan’s have held several board positions for local organizations and received numerous accolades, including Briar Cliff's Alumni Family Award in 2007. Their commitment to faith and our community is remarkable, a total of ~22 family members have earned a Briar Cliff education (including two granddaughter’s graduating in their year’s class) a truly outstanding legacy.
With the pandemic outbreak and the school’s rapid transition to online learning, Briar Cliff original 2020 commencement ceremony was rescheduled. With some slight adjustments to ensure the safe accommodations of all CDC requirements, Briar Cliff University finished their Homecoming Weekend by finally celebrating the graduation Class of 2020 and this year’s outstanding award recipients.