September 26, 2012
BISMARCK, ND - The University of Mary, America's Leadership University, honored two outstanding alumni at its annual Alumni Recognition Awards and Hall of Fame Induction, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Sarah (Kaspari) Baker, '08, was presented with The University of Mary Bell Banner Award, and Paul D. Laney, '04 & '05, was recognized with The University of Mary Presidential Leadership Award at this year's celebration. The ceremony took place during Homecoming 2012.
Sarah (Kaspari) Baker was the 2012 recipient of The University of Mary Bell Banner Award. In recognition of the ideals of the university's sponsors, the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, the Bell Banner Award honors alumni for modeling the values of respect, hospitality, moderation, service, community, and prayer.
A 2008 alumna of the University of Mary's graduate nursing program with an MSN as a family nurse practitioner, Baker (Kaspari) has taken the Benedictine values to heart - and to people in this region and beyond. As a nurse practitioner and sole provider at Northland Community Health Center, in McClusky, ND, she brings primary care and sincere caring to rural families, from babies to great-grandparents, making a 130-mile-a-day roundtrip from her home in Bismarck, Monday through Friday, to do it. She also provides emergency coverage at Turtle Lake Community Memorial Hospital, Heart of America in Rugby, ND, and St. Alexius Medical Center, and is known for her leadership and advocacy in rural health care.
Born and raised on the family farm near Sheldon, ND, with four older and five younger siblings, being a caregiver came naturally for Baker; and after graduating from Sheldon High School, she set out to make it her life's work. Earning an associate's degree in nursing from North Dakota State University in 1984, she began her nursing career with the Association for Retarded Citizens summer camp staff. Sarah met Ray, the Wesley Acres camp director and her husband-to-be, that summer. She went on to earn a BSN from Moorhead State University while working full-time nights at St. Luke's in Fargo, ND. Marrying Ray in 1986, Baker was a nurse manager in Kansas City, MO, while Ray completed seminary.
Sarah and Ray have served in many communities in North Dakota and South Dakota,and in 2006, inspired by her St. Alexius ER colleagues, Sarah decided to pursue a master's degree and a career as a nurse practitioner. She chose Mary's program because of its primarily online format and the Benedictine values, which mirror her own.
Since graduating, Baker has put her wide-ranging clinical experience to work at Northland, treating everything from tick bites to heart attacks and thriving on the amazing variety of challenges. "It is a ‘frontier practice' without the benefit of much of the technology that has become such a part of today's health care," she notes. But it's also a practice where she has the time to listen to each patient; and she views her relationships with the people she serves as especially rewarding. "It was an intentional decision to take this position, and I have never enjoyed my work more," she says. "It is a privilege to interact in people's lives during joyful and difficult times." In 2010, Baker expanded her commitment to serving others as part of a medical team in Haiti during the catastrophic earthquake.
Baker is a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the ND Nurse Practitioner's Association, and Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society, and is a preceptor for nurse practitioner and physician assistant students. She was recognized with the 2006 St. Alexius Higher Standard Award and the 2012 American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Award of Excellence for North Dakota, and named Paramedic Hospital Preceptor of the Year in 2007 and ND March of Dimes Nurse of the Year for Advanced Practice in 2010.
When not working or commuting, Baker enjoys reading, knitting, and flower gardening - along with her staff she planted a memory garden at the clinic honoring patients who have died. Baker and Ray have two sons, Michael, who lives and works in Fargo, and Steven, who attends NDSU. Baker's parents are David and Sally Kaspari of Fargo.
Paul D. Laney was the 2012 recipient of The University of Mary Presidential Leadership Award. This award is conferred on individual alumni for distinguished achievements as servant leaders regionally, nationally or internationally.
Laney is a University of Mary alum twice-over - and a servant leader many times that. He earned a BS in management in 2004 and an MMGT with an emphasis in human resources in 2005 in U-Mary's accelerated adult learning programs, and has modeled servant leadership throughout his 23-year law enforcement career. Now in his sixth year as Sheriff of Cass County, ND, Laney is committed to serving and leading the 180 men and women of the Cass County Sheriff's Office and the people who elected him.
A rural Cass County native and West Fargo (ND) High School graduate, Laney loved playing cops-and-robbers as a boy - and "always wanted to be the cop." Following four years as U.S. Marine, he realized his childhood ambition in 1989 by joining the Fargo Police Department. Over the next 17 years, Laney served as a patrol officer, gang/narcotics investigator, and field training and tactical officer. Rising to lieutenant and commander of the Red River Valley SWAT Team, he retired from the FPD in December 2006, and was sworn in as Cass County sheriff the following January. He is currently serving his second term.
Although initially Laney had simply wanted to be a police officer and "chase bad guys," as he gained experience, he realized that he wanted to expand his service in a leadership role and needed a college education to do it. Mary's adult program fit his educational and scheduling needs and more - so much so that upon completing his bachelor's degree, he "re-upped" for a master's. "The servant leadership philosophy is something I believe to the core of my being, and with its emphasis on the Benedictine values, the education I received at Mary was something I could completely embrace as a person and as a leader," he explains.
"After 23 years, I still have a passion to serve the public as a law enforcement officer," Laney says. "I enjoy serving beside some of the most amazing law enforcement officers I have met and am privileged to wake up every morning and serve the community where I grew up. I always wanted to be in a profession where I could make a difference, and I feel I have found my niche."
Laney has demonstrated his commitment to servant leadership in many ways. He supervised 2009 flood rescue efforts and coordinated the Red River Valley multi-agency flood response for the past three years, was instrumental in forming a Tactical Operations Center that received FEMA recognition as a best practice concept, and provided assistance to other parts of the region during the 2011 flood. Laney also helped organize a United Emergency Action plan for Cass and Clay county schools and programs addressing officer staffing needs and disturbances in corrections facilities, as well as an Office of Professional Standards for the Cass County Sheriff's Office. In addition, Laney currently serves as president of the ND Sheriffs and Deputies Association, on the Board of Directors for the ND Association of Counties, and on two national committees for the National Sheriff's Association. He also hosts "Law Talk with Sheriff Laney," a weekly radio show. Laney's efforts on behalf of his profession, community, and country earned him recognition as the E911 Institute's 2011 Government Leader of the Year. In 2012, he was also the first North Dakotan to receive the National Sheriff's Association's Ferris E. Lucas Sheriff of the Year, one of the highest honors in law enforcement.
Laney enjoys reading, riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle, and spending time with his wife Patty (Roscoe), and daughters Danielle (15) and Kaitlyn "Katie" (13). Paul is the son of Chester "Chet" and Eileen Laney, and stepson of Lynn Prazak. They all reside in Fargo.