Seven Honored as Distinguished Alumni

Tina Wagoner
Saturday, April 29 will mark a double celebration as Chaminade Julienne inducts seven to its Hall of Distinguished Alumni — five as members of the class of 2020 and two as members of the class of 2023. While the class of 2020 was announced that spring, the pandemic delayed the celebration until this year.

Being honored as Distinguished Alumni, Class of 2020 are Kathy Moeder Christensen ‘74, Jessica Jenkins ‘02, Chris Shillito ‘69, Peter Haley (honorary) and Charlie Hollis (honorary). The Class of 2023 honorees are Judi Jacobson MacLeod ‘88 and Debbie Bittner Stoeckel ‘82.
Even years after he first received word of the recognition several years ago, it’s still hard for Charlie Hollis to believe it.

“It took a while for it to sink in,” Hollis said. “I didn’t expect it, I was shocked. When I look over my life, I know I’ve truly been blessed.”

The Chaminade Julienne Distinguished Alumni are a distinctive group – people who truly exemplify the values and spirit of the institution. While, in some cases, years have passed since the honorees first heard the news, the impact of the recognition and their CJ experience are still being felt.

“It’s not something I feel like I’m completely deserving of, but I’m honored to be recognized in such a distinguished cohort,” Jessica Jenkins ’02 said. “It pushes me that much more to live up to it.”

While it’s been decades since Kathy Moeder Christensen ’74 left the CJ campus, she vividly remembers it as a place that shaped her life personally and professionally. 

“Those are such formative years,” she said. “Being together with people with the same type of values – both the students and the teachers – definitely had an impact.” A longtime educator and community volunteer, Kathy still serves as a mentor in her current home in Jacksonville, Florida.

The recognition is more than an honor for former Board of Trustee Chairperson Pete Haley, it’s a reminder.

“It reminds me of what a chance-in-a-lifetime it was to serve on the CJ Board,” Pete said. “I feel like I got more out of it than I ever gave. And now, it’s very gratifying to see the basic things we did years ago have been built upon.”

While many of the honorees will attend the event, others will be recognized for their contributions posthumously. While they are gone, they are most definitely not forgotten.

“Judi (MacLeod) was living her dream job, I don’t know how many people get to do that, but she did,” husband Don MacLeod said. “She definitely bled blue and green.”

While tears will be inevitable, this honor is one Don will happily receive on Judi’s behalf. “It’s a recognition I think she deserves,” he said.

Chris Shillito’s legacy lives on in his family, the business he founded and the scholarship he established. Service, integrity and value are integral to the EAGLE Certification Group’s mission.

“For my dad, it was always about doing things the right way,” his son Brad, ’03 said. “Integrity is the name of the game.”

Being of service was always a priority for Debbie Bittner Stoeckel. Despite her personal health battles, she was always concerned about meeting the needs of others.

“The thing about her is that, despite all the challenges she faced, she never felt sorry for herself,” her uncle Myron Achbach said. “She made a difference in other people’s lives right up until the end.”

While their lives varied greatly, that is something all the Distinguished Alumni had in common – they made a difference.

Class of 2023
Unselfish and unrelenting in their efforts to be of service – Chaminade Julienne Distinguished Alumni honorees Judi MacLeod and Debbie Bittner Stoeckel made a difference every day. While their lives were both cut short, their impact has been felt long after their passing.

Judi Jacobson MacLeod ‘88, Community Award

“She helped hundreds of teachers and thousands of students understand the beauty of having students with special needs included at CJ. That is the lasting legacy and gift that Judi brought to CJ.” — Greg Mueller, CJ principal.

Judi dedicated her professional career to students with disabilities, founding Cuvilly – the only Catholic high school full-inclusion special education program in the Dayton area – in 1999. 

“I feel truly blessed that I was able to work with and learn from probably the best intervention specialist ever, Judi MacLeod,” CJ intervention specialist John Gutendorf said. “To be part of this amazing program that she started – one that has helped so many kids not only have the opportunity to attend CJ but be successful – has made such an impact on my life.”

With her words and actions, MacLeod provided consistent support, advocacy, and encouragement for thousands of students with various disabilities during her tenure. And the impact of her work was felt by school staff and administrators as well as students and their families.

This is the third honor her husband Don MacLeod will receive on her behalf – including the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Respect Life Award – and the one that matters most coming from what he describes as his wife’s “dream job.”

Debbie Bittner Stoeckel ‘82, Christian Service Award
“Debbie left a legacy for her family and the many she encountered in her life of service and care for others. I know that the spirit and charism of the school produces graduates who make a difference in the world. I believe Debbie is one of them.” —  Myron Achbach

“‘A person’s most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an
ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help others.’ I love this quote and I think it perfectly describes Debbie,” said Jan Middleton, Pink Ribbon Girls director of peer support and education. “It’s hard to fathom just how many people Debbie helped and inspired during her short time here on this earth and her legacy lives on because she raised her sons to also be of service to others.”

Despite numerous health problems of her own, including multiple bouts with breast Cancer, a heart transplant and a stroke, Debbie worked tirelessly with the Pink Ribbon Girls and Change of Heart, Inc. to positively impact the lives of others.

“I had the privilege of knowing Debbie Stoeckel as an active member of our heart transplant support group, participating in all of our activities,” said Tony Mankus, Change of Heart president. “She provided comfort and gave hope to the heart transplant recipients by encouraging them to face their health concerns with prayers and medical advice.”

The oldest of six Bittner children who attended CJ, Debbie remained focused on her family and the organizations she supported until she passed away in 2019.

“She died with the same dignity she displayed in her too short life,” her uncle Myron Achbach said. “Debbie left a legacy for her family and the many she encountered in her life of service and caring for others.”

Class of 2020 (Originally published in April 2020)
Some of them walked the halls, books in hand, learning and growing in their faith. Some of them served the community in other capacities, working hard but never wanting praise. All of them are recipients of the 2020 Chaminade Julienne Distinguished Alumni Awards.

While their contributions to the CJ community and beyond, vary greatly, their appreciation for all-things-Eagles is the same. C J enriched their lives and all of them have, in turn, enriched the lives of countless others. They are CJ and we are better off because of it.
Chris Shillito ‘69 – Professional Achievement
“He believed in serving others, doing the right thing, even if no one is watching, and helping to improve the lives of others. Yes, my father did believe in having a strong education in math, science and English but he believed in the community, fellowship and family that CJ represents to this day.” — Brad Shillito ‘03

Chris Shillito founded EAGLE Registrations in 1994, an international quality certification business, not coincidentally named after the CJ mascot.

“My father was an Eagle for life,” his son Brad said. “My sister, my brother and I were fourth generation Chaminade/Julienne/CJ students. He always tried to help make CJ the best school it could be academically and athletically.”

By the time Chris died in 2007, the company had grown to 15 employees along with about 40 auditors as contractors and served about 600 clients. Since his death, the company – which is still owned and run by the family – has grown to 34 staff members, 120 auditors and more than 3,000 clients worldwide.

“It is still run with the founding values of service to the customer, doing our job with integrity, and adding value in all of our interactions,” Brad said.  “We still have many employees that had worked with him before he died, and they still talk about the positive influence he had on their lives.”

A member of the football chain gang, Chris was one of the early visionaries of an on-campus athletic stadium and spent years planning and fundraising.

“He dreamed of having a stadium on campus which, unfortunately, did not come to fruition until after his death, but it was something he pushed for and helped work toward even back when I was there (class of 2003),” Brad said.

The 1969 graduate also established the Shillito Scholarship fund in 1999. In the decades that have followed, the fund has provided assistance to countless CJ families – 50 students during the 2019-20 school year alone.

“This would be one of the proudest achievements of his life to be honored as a distinguished alumni.”
Jessica Jenkins ‘02 - Professional Achievement
“Jessica displays a great compassion for the work that she has been called to do as it relates to addressing the needs of the homeless in the county. She is probably one of the most compassionate individuals that I know, the kind of person that consistently goes out of her way to be of service to others.” — Beverly Jenkins

At her Baccalaureate Mass in 2002, Fr. Chris Wittmann’s homily challenged the graduates to live their lives “like a prayer,” and Jessica took that directive to heart.

“In times when I am challenged as a leader with what to do I am grounded by this wisdom,” she said.
As assistant director, Human Services Planning & Development for Montgomery County, Jessica encounters plenty of challenges but there are also incredible rewards.

In November 2016, Jessica led a team to help the community achieve the benchmark of effectively ending veteran homelessness, a critical problem in the community and across the country.

“While this distinction doesn’t mean there will never be a veteran who experiences homelessness, it does mean that our community worked diligently to develop a systematic response to identify homeless veterans and quickly connect them with housing and supportive services,” she said.

Her efforts aren’t limited to finding solutions for homeless veterans.
“What I am most proud of about my career is the opportunity to work alongside a dedicated team of public servants, community and nonprofit leaders to eradicate the injustice that is homelessness,” she said. “Access to safe, decent, affordable housing is a right that everyone deserves.”

Jessica credits CJ for preparing her for leadership in a diverse world.

“CJ instilled in me the fundamentals of servant leadership and the urgency for living out my faith,” she said. “While I don’t feel worthy of the honor of Distinguished Alumni, I take this recognition as a challenge to live up to the distinction.”
Kathy (Moeder) Christensen ‘74, Professional Achievement
“Kathy has made it her life’s work to serve others through the avenue of education. For all of those working alongside her, she has modeled leadership built on love and respect for all people.” — Jacqueline Draper

In 15 years, working with special needs students and their families Kathy learned as many lessons as she taught.

“Teaching is all about discovering the gifts and potential of each person – children and adults – and encouraging the use of those gifts to create a more loving and tolerant world,” she said. “When I left the classroom in 2000, I wondered if I would find work as fulfilling as teaching.”

She didn’t wonder for very long as she soon started working with Habitat for Humanity, initiating an education program for the students living in Habitat homes. A small group of concerned citizens, a community philanthropist and Habitat staff launched an education program that included an academic incentive program, an after-school tutoring program and college scholarships for eligible students. 

The after-school program for elementary students has since grown to include the entire community surrounding the Habitat neighborhoods. There are now more than 30 volunteers and 60 elementary and middle school students participating in this program. Through community partnerships, more than 50 middle and high school students have mentors meeting with them regularly at their schools. Other high school programs include college prep activities and the Congressional Award Program.

“The most fulfilling aspect of this work is when students return as adults to let you know you made a difference in their lives,” she said. “Now, I have the opportunity to say thank you to the teachers, administrators and families at CJ who made a difference in my life.” 

Kathy recently read a daily meditation from Franciscan priest Richard Rohr and one line struck her as especially true, “The poverty or richness of loving determines your life.” 

“I have led a very rich life, surrounded by family and friends who have taught me the meaning of love,” she said. “This honor gives me the opportunity to recognize and thank all those who have influenced and supported me in my professional and personal journey.” 
Charlie Hollis, Honorary Alumni
“Charlie never sought attention, preferring to go about his work humbly and with grace. Nonetheless, those who worked with him know that the phrase ‘above and beyond' is insufficient to adequately describe his approach to serving the school.” — Daniel Meixner ‘84, CJ president

It was more than a job from Day 1.

Charlie was first hired to clean the Marianist building in 1959 and, not long after, he started working at both Chaminade and Julienne high schools. He continued to work at Julienne until the school closed, moving to CJ in 1973 and continuing to work tirelessly until his recent retirement.

“For more than 50 years, Charlie took loving care of our buildings and our campus and the people who learned and worked here,” said Dan Meixner ’84, president. “The first to arrive each day, Charlie made sure that the heat was working, the lights were on and the building was ready to welcome teachers, staff, parents and students. No one knew the mechanical systems better than he did.”

Those years of dedication made Charlie an obvious choice for the Honorary Alumni recognition but it is not one the 84-year-old was expecting.

“When Mrs. Szabo called and told me, I couldn’t sleep for two days,” Charlie said. “It means the world to me. It is one of the greatest honors I could have ever hoped for.”

While Charlie did not attend the school himself, his daughter and five grandchildren are alumni.

“It was worth every penny,” he said. “One of the greatest moments was when I went to watch my grandson play football when CJ beat Alter,” he added with pride.

That CJ pride and dedication have been ever-present since he first stepped foot on campus more than a half century ago.

“His long service and commitment to the mission of Julienne, Chaminade and Chaminade Julienne provides an outstanding example of the best ideals for which we hope our graduates aspire,” Meixner said.

“I’m the luckiest person to ever work here,” Charlie said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Pete Haley – Honorary Alumni
“Pete has a passion for the school and its mission. He has not only supported Chaminade Julienne with treasure, but also with his time and his talent.” — Rick Quinttus ’72       

Pete Haley was all-in.

“Once Pete takes on a cause, he embraces it,” Rick Quinttus said. “Once he got involved with the CJ Board, he immersed himself in studying what makes a school great.”

Rick will never forget driving with Pete to a Notre Dame football game. He couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“The conversation wasn’t about football, it was about best education practices in secondary schools,” Rick said. “We talked about excellence in education for three hours.”

Pete’s involvement with CJ began when his son Will, ’06, decided to become an Eagle. Anne, ’09, and Mary, ’12, followed suit and Pete and his wife Barb quickly found their place in the CJ community – Barb as a member of the Blue Green Club and Pete as a member of the Board of Trustees and, later by serving as chair.

“Having the experience of being a CJ parent and recognizing the value CJ had for our kids was huge,” Pete said. “There are not many places where students get the kind of experience they get at CJ – not just in terms of education, but in terms of community. I liked having the opportunity to take what was there and help it grow and improve so generations of students can continue to experience all CJ has to offer.”

During his tenure as chairperson, Pete was involved in developing both the strategic plan and the capital campaign that would fund it. His contributions didn’t end when he retired from the board after two terms as he went on to chair the capital campaign that was launched in 2014.

“This honor is nothing I ever expected or even thought about,” he said. “While I greatly appreciate it, I’ve always felt like I got more out of my service to CJ than they did from me.”