Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church


Two Saint Meinrad alumni honored as ‘Distinguished’

August 06, 2012

At the annual Saint Meinrad Alumni Reunion, Bernie Niehaus of Vincennes, IN, and Fr. Donald Wolf of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City were honored as winners of the Distinguished Alumnus Award on July 24.

The reunion was held on the Saint Meinrad campus, St. Meinrad, IN, July 23-25.

Bernie Niehaus

pic_nwes_Bernie_Niehaus.jpgBernie Niehaus attended Saint Meinrad High School from 1951 to 1954. His time left such an impact on him that he continues to contribute his wisdom and knowledge as a member of the Seminary and School of Theology’s Board of Overseers. His sixth term ended in April, totaling 18 years of service on the Board of Overseers, including three years as chair. One nomination noted, “Bernie has been tireless in the giving of his time to the Abbey.”

Niehaus and his wife Patty reside in Vincennes. They have five children, Anne, Butch, Catherine, David and Eric; and 19 grandchildren. They are members of St. John the Baptist Parish inVincennes.

Niehaus also maintains his family business, Niehaus Companies Inc., in Vincennes. It is comprised of 10 companies in the building materials industry located in Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois and Alabama. He serves as CEO and chairman of the board. Niehaus’ three sons are also involved in the family business.

Upon learning of the award, Niehaus shared this advice, “Get involved (in the community). Pick two or three areas you want to serve, and give them your all. You will receive threefold what you put into your service.” Niehaus gives his time and talents to Saint Meinrad, Vincennes University and the Diocese of Evansville.

In 2004, Niehaus worked with Abbey Press to produce his book Splinters. Throughout the book, he shares his wisdom and life experiences about family matters, business operations, the Catholic Church and his community. In one chapter, Niehaus reflects on his time at Saint Meinrad: “I owe Saint Meinrad a lot, for it was the best thing that happened to me.”

Niehaus is also a strong promoter of Vincennes University. He has served on the university’s board for 23 years, including as board chairman. He is also a past chairman of the Vincennes University Foundation. In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate of business from Vincennes University.

Niehaus is president of the Red Skelton Museum and Educational Foundation. He has held the positions of president, regional director and executive committee member for the Indiana Lumberman’s and Building Supply Association.

Additionally, he served as chairman of the Board of Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Evansville and chairman of the Christian Education Foundation fundraising committee for Vincennes Rivet High School. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and serves on the Priest Retirement Committee for the Diocese of Evansville.

One of those nominating him for the Distinguished Alumnus Award summed it up: “Bernie is a faith-filled, family-centered, Christian gentleman who leads by example. He is a passionate promoter of his church, community, business and alma mater.”

Fr. Donald Wolf

pic_news_Fr_Donald_Wolf.jpgFr. Wolf attended school at Saint Meinrad, starting as a college junior in 1975 and earning his Master of Divinity in 1981, when he was ordained a priest.

Currently, Fr. Wolf is the pastor of St. Benedict’s Parish in Shawnee, OK. Prior to that assignment, he served as associate pastor in Guymon and pastor at St. Francis Xavier in Enid, Sacred Heart in Mangum, Prince of Peace in Altus, Holy Angels and Sacred Heart in Oklahoma City, and Assumption Parish in Duncan.

In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, Fr. Wolf served for eight years on the executive board for the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, and from 1997 to 2000 he served as president in Chicago. His service enriched “the experience of priesthood in the United States by forming bonds of collaboration and fraternity among priests of different cultures and countries,” according to one nominator.

Fr. Wolf’s passion for Hispanic ministry and his influence in Oklahoma were highlighted in one recommender’s statement, “Numerous Spanish-speaking Catholics have found a welcome in Oklahoma and opportunities for grace because of Don’s dedication to priestly ministry.” Another person noted Fr. Wolf “has been a primary force for Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese (of Oklahoma City) and beyond.”

In his Archdiocese, Fr. Wolf has served on the Priests Council, the Clergy Continuing Education Committee and as spiritual director for numerous Cursillo retreats, both in English and Spanish.

Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock knew Fr. Wolf when they were students at Saint Meinrad, both studying for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. In his recommendation, Bishop Taylor mentions Fr. Wolf’s cousin, Fr. Stan Rother, whose cause for beatification is in Rome.

Fr. Rother visited the United States from Guatemala in 1981 for Fr. Wolf’s ordination. Two months later, Fr. Rother was martyred. Bishop Taylor suggests that this inspired Fr. Wolf to “serve the Lord as courageously, sacrificially and with the same preferential option for the poor for which Fr. Rother gave his life.”

Fr. Wolf’s latest involvement has been as chairman of St. Gregory University’s Board of Directors, which is owned by the Benedictines of St. Gregory’s Abbey in Shawnee. St. Gregory’s abbot, Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, OSB, writes that Fr. Wolf brings “a valuable and effective voice and vision” to this role, and that his love for the university’s Benedictine tradition “has its roots in his experience as a seminarian at Saint Meinrad.”

Niehaus and Fr. Wolf became the 20th and 21st recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, which was begun in 1990.