A Night of Celebration

Hall of Fame honorees standing by their portraits.
Debbie Higgins, Director of Communications

A consistent element of every De Smet Jesuit Hall of Fame induction dinner is the expression of gratitude – for friends and colleagues, for inspirational and memorable moments, and for lives changed because of the time spent in these halls. The 2019 celebration was no exception when the De Smet Jesuit community gathered on September 19 to honor Denny Cerneka, Mike Nooney ’83, and Ken Luecke.

Described by his longtime friend and colleague, Greg Vitello, as a man who “gave his heart and soul to De Smet,” Denny Cerneka came to De Smet in 1969. He served as a faculty member, athletic director, and coach of many sports, including football, soccer, and track. He also created the school’s “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” strength and conditioning program. “The most important thing that happened here was that I met a bunch of great kids,” he said. 

An attorney who spent his career fighting for social justice, Mike Nooney ’83 has been a lifelong supporter of his alma mater, his parish, St. Ignatius, and Cathedral School for Boys in San Francisco. During his remarks, Mr. Nooney made special mention of two De Smet Jesuit teachers, Chris Mess, who “taught me to do the right thing the right way,” and Carl Evola, who “taught me how to think, reflect, and ask the right questions.” 

Following an entertaining video tribute, Ken Luecke shared fond memories and words of gratitude. Reflecting on his induction, he said, “Whatever it was that we did, we did because we thought it was the right thing to do. We did simple things – be present to others, listen to them, respect them and when possible care for them and most of all, enjoy them . . . tonight is a night of celebration about all of you for in many ways we are the creation of your influences on us.”

Three men sitting, man in center has his head thrown back laughing.
Hall  of Fame members in a large group.

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