Discover the Difference: Educators, Administrators & Volunteers to be honored

February 26, 2024

Logo for Bishop's Celebration of Catholic Schools event

The Diocese of Des Moines announced it will honor administrators, educators, and volunteers for their exceptional service to Catholic education during the third annual Bishop's Celebration of Catholic Schools on Aug. 24. This event unites the entire diocesan community in celebration of the life-changing impact our faith-centered education has provided for more than 150 years. The honorees were selected based on their demonstrated impact on the diocesan Catholic schools and their commitment to faith, academic excellence, and fostering a vibrant school community. This year's honorees include:

Administrator of the Year

Ann Andersen, Shelby County Catholic School in Harlan

Ann Andersen has dedicated 30 years of her life to Shelby County Catholic School, serving as an administrator for the last 13 years. She earned an associate degree in Business from Iowa Western Community College, a bachelor's degree in Education from Buena Vista University, a master's degree in Effective Education with a Reading Coach concentration from Drake University, and a specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Drake. Her vocation as an educator goes beyond professional qualifications; it reflects a selfless commitment driven by faith. Described as compassionate, understanding, patient, resilient, gracious, and giving, Andersen exemplifies ideal qualities for a school leader. Her leadership style prioritizes others, exhibits patience in teaching, and embodies love, setting an inspiring example for Shelby County Catholic students, teachers, and families.

Teacher of the Year

Jane Brown, St. Augustin Catholic School in Des Moines

Praised for her unique approach of being firm but supportive, Jane Brown fosters a safe and supportive learning environment at St. Augustin. With an innate ability to connect with students deeply, she tailors her teaching to individual strengths, instilling high expectations that help students reach their full potential inside and outside the classroom. Considered the heart of St. Augustin Catholic School, Brown has embodied a commitment to academic excellence and social-emotional development for 38 years. She leads by example, integrating faith into every aspect of her teaching and inspiring students and parents. Her dedication and leadership extend beyond the classroom, mentoring her fellow educators to help improve the school culture for all members of the St. Augustin community.

Volunteer of the Year

Megan Kluesner, Sacred Heart Catholic School in West Des Moines

Megan Kluesner is a dedicated and selfless contributor who exemplifies servant leadership by actively supporting Sacred Heart Catholic. Serving as an ambassador for the school, she shares the good news of Sacred Heart Catholic with pride and joy. Her commitment to faith is evident in her active involvement with her family at Sunday Mass and her role as a sponsor couple in the marriage preparation program. Her joyful witness in both the classroom and the broader community reflects her dedication to the principles of service and volunteerism. Kluesner's impact is felt in visible roles and through countless small tasks that often go unnoticed, showcasing her kindness and genuine dedication to the Sacred Heart community.

"This year's nominees exemplify unwavering commitment to putting faith into practice and a dedicated effort to propagate the Catholic faith through thriving, energetic Catholic schools," said Donna Bishop, superintendent of Schools. "It is always a challenge to select just three individuals among the outstanding pool of nominees. However, I am confident that the chosen three represent the epitome of excellence in our schools. I continue to be awed by the abundance of individuals who ardently champion for our Catholic schools."

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The event also recognizes honorary chairs. These individuals stand as esteemed ambassadors, embodying a profound commitment to the values and principles of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Des Moines. Selected for their unwavering dedication to fostering the growth and success of Catholic schools, these individuals play a pivotal role in championing the mission of education grounded in faith. This year’s Honorary Chairs include:

Frank Harty, Des Moines

Frank Harty, currently serving as the chair of the Labor and Employment Department at Nyemaster Goode, is a legal luminary with an impressive academic and professional background. He earned a B.B.A. with honors in Industrial Relations from the University of Iowa School of Business. He continued his education at Drake University Law School, graduating Order of the Coif and serving as the editor-in-chief of the Drake Law Review. Acknowledged as a Leading Individual Labor and Employment Lawyer in Iowa by Chambers and Partners, as well as recognized by The Best Lawyers in America, Harty is a member of prestigious organizations such as the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, the Iowa Defense Counsel Association, and the Employment Law Alliance. An advocate for education, he has taught trial advocacy and employment law at the Drake University Law School. He is the past chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the Iowa State Bar Association. Beyond his professional contributions, Harty has spent more than 40 years as a devoted advocate and legal counsel for the Diocese of Des Moines. He also served as the St. Francis Catholic Parish founding trustee in 1996, played a crucial role in the diocesan Building Commission from 1994-2000, supported the Holy Family School Foundation from 2000-2003, and contributed to the Dowling Catholic Foundation Board from 2006-2009. Harty has also been an active member of the Knights of Columbus since 1984.

Dennis and Connie Purdum, Creston

Dennis and Connie Purdum, originally from Creston returned to their hometown upon retirement after successful careers elsewhere. Dennis has played a significant role at St. Malachy School, serving as a guiding force with innovative ideas and project designs, contributing to the progress of the Creston community. Both are dedicated members of Holy Spirit Parish and passionate advocates for St. Malachy School. Dennis actively volunteers at the Rerun Creston Store, underscoring their commitment to various causes within and beyond the faith community. In addition to their contributions to the local Creston community, Dennis and Connie joined the Bishop's Council for the Diocese of Des Moines in March 2012. Dennis has mentored several diocesan priests, played a crucial role in establishing the Catholic Foundation of Southwest Iowa, and served in various capacities, including vice chair and Audit and Finance Committee member. The couple, known for their generosity, also enjoys spending time with their children and grandchildren, often traveling to support the Cyclones.

To learn more about the Bishop’s Celebration of Catholic Schools, visit dmdiocese.org/catholic-schools/support or call 515-237-5079.

The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools includes 16 schools in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa. Catholic schools in the Des Moines Diocese build Christ-centered, collaborative, inclusive partnerships with parents, students, and parishes to provide students with innovative academic excellence and inspirational faith formation.