University of Mary Honors Distinguished Alumni at 2023 Homecoming Festivities

2023 Alumni Awards graphic with the Mary Seal

BISMARCK, ND — The 2023 class of Alumni Recognition Award recipients has been announced at the University of Mary. These alumni are coming home to Mary’s annual Alumni Recognition and Hall of Fame Induction Celebration Friday, October 27, 5:30 p.m., in the Lumen Vitae University Center’s (LVUC) Founders Hall. 

President Monsignor James Shea says he and the university are grateful for the impact alumni have had on their communities and society as they continue to be role models for current University of Marystudents. 

“We graciously welcome home alumni who honor us all with their ‘lumen vitae’ — The Light of Life, by their selfless everyday actions and honorable deeds,” added Shea. “You give us hope and joy as the University of Mary intends to do nothing less than to bring light into the world by the transformation of lives, as our students continue to demonstrate that they too, were made for more. Saint Gianna Beretta Molla once said, ‘Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering, and we cannot suffer without love.’ Each alum represents that spirit, that mission of the University of Mary and our pioneering founders, the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery.” 

The University of Mary Presidential Leadership Award: This award is conferred on individual alumni for distinguished achievements as servant leaders regionally, nationally, or internationally.

Stephanie Olson-Alzyood first came to Mary in 2008 to earn a degree in education. She had wanted to be a teacher her entire life, but Providence had other plans. Ambivalent about her major, she spoke with a member of our social work faculty, and from that point forward, she knew what God was calling her to do. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work in 2012 and started her career at Charles Hall Youth Services here in Bismarck. 

For the next three years, Stephanie served with Pride, Inc. in a number of capacities, including as a behavior analyst and a program coordinator. At a certain point in time, one of her mentors from her undergraduate years, Sue Chaussee, made it her mission to persuade Stephanie to earn her master’s degree. Stephanie relented in 2017 and moved to New York City to pursue her Master of Social Work at Columbia University. 

She’s lived in New York City with her husband, Laith, ever since. Today, she works with the New York City Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood Education, providing young learners across the Five Boroughs access to free, top-quality, full-day care and educational services.

A member of the Columbia School of Social Work Alumni Association, the National Association of Social Work, and the United Federation of Teachers, Stephanie feels that her journey’s come full circle — she came to the University of Mary to study education, shifted paths, and then found herself supporting students, parents, educators, and administrators as a social worker. In her free time, she likes to wander the streets of the big city with Laith, picnic with her friends in the park, and put as many miles as she can on her bike. 

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.

Colin Kudrna grew up in Dickinson and came to Bismarck to earn his undergraduate degree with us in 2007. After graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science in 2009, he entered our Physical Therapy program, completing his doctorate in 2012. He took his first job at Optimum Therapies in EauClaire, Wisconsin, where he met his professional mentor and current business partner. 

Five years later, in 2017, Colin returned to his home state with his family and opened Optimum Therapies of North Dakota, Inc., an independent physical therapy clinic, here in Bismarck. He and his colleagues offer a wide variety of essential services, from post-surgery care to chronic pain treatment, and they do so with the whole person in view. Their core aim is to promote whole-life well-being—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. 

At Optimum Therapies, Colin and his team reflect often on their “why,” what motivates them to roll out of bed and come to work in the morning. Colin puts his own “why” this way: to elevate the quality of health care for our region because his friends and family – and those categories include everyone who walks through the door of his clinic – deserve the best. 

A member of the Catholic Medical Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, and the Knights of Columbus, Colin often comes to campus to guest lecture and visit with our Physical Therapy students. He and his wife, Brittany, our new Coordinator for the Family Nurse Practitioner program, live in Bismarck and have four children together. 

The University of Mary Harold Schafer Alumni Leadership Award: This award recognizes graduates who have attained distinction as leaders in their professions while exemplifying the values cherished by the University of Mary.

Some of us didn’t figure out what God wanted us to do with our lives until we were full-grown. Not Ryan Capouch. He found his calling after going blind at the age of 12. After a week at MeritCare hospital in Fargo, an hour from his home in Portland, North Dakota, he could see again, and he knew that he wanted to do for others what his doctors had done for him. 

Ryan came to Mary six years later, in 2010, to study biology and minor in chemistry and theology. He wanted to become an optometrist. During his undergraduate years, he played and sang in several music ensembles, served as Student Body President for two years, and won the 2014 Outstanding Senior Award. He graduated with honors in 2014 and, soon after, he headed south to complete his professional studies at the Arizona School of Optometry. After earning his doctorate, he settled in Fargo and spent two years at Eyes on Broadway, serving patients alongside one of the doctors who had been instrumental in his rapid recovery back in junior high, Dr. Michael Rexine. 

Ryan founded Lumen Vision in 2018 with the intention of bringing high-quality, affordable, person-centered eye care to his neighbors in south Fargo, particularly children. He and his colleagues have brightened the lives of hundreds and hundreds of patients and their families since, and they show no signs of slackening. 

A member of the Catholic Medical Association and a Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, Ryan lives with his wife, Maggie, and their son, Benedict, in south Fargo.