Concordia University Chicago’s Distinguished Awards annually recognizes individuals who have brought honor to the University through outstanding contributions to their fields of endeavor, their communities and their churches, and who exemplify the University’s core values.

The 2020 honorees include Dr. Marva (Gershmehl) Dawn BA '70 (Spiritus Christi), Dr. Donald Christian BA '81 (Distinguished Alumni, Undergraduate) and Theresa Straub MA '07 (Distinguished Alumni, Graduate). These honorees will be celebrated at Maroon & Gold 2020, Concordia-Chicago’s signature fundraiser for student scholarships, on Saturday, Sept. 26.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1984, Concordia University Chicago has recognized graduates whose service to the church and community has brought honor to their alma mater. This award honors individuals who have enhanced the prestige of the University by virtue of their remarkable professional achievements as evidenced by a sustained widespread reputation and recognition for service to their vocation.

Dr. Donald Christian BA ’81 has served as president and chief executive officer of Concordia University, Texas since 2014 following his tenure as dean of the College of Business (2005-2014). Christian’s 35 years of ministry in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod includes his work at Concordia-Texas as well as service in the classroom and leadership roles at Lutheran high schools in Minneapolis, Baltimore and Houston. He is active in his community and serves on various boards in the greater Austin, TX area.

Theresa Straub MA ’07 retired in 2019 after 15 years as the literacy and English language learners resource teacher at Orchard Place Elementary School in Des Plaines, IL. A member of the No Excuses University movement, Straub was instrumental in establishing the CUC-Orchard Place partnership. A recipient of District #62 Lighthouse Service Award, Straub served as Student Council Supervisor mentoring young leaders’ commitment to service to others as she encouraged their leadership.

Spiritus Christi

Established in 1966, the Spiritus Christi is presented to an individual who has performed his or her responsibilities with unusual effectiveness and influence and with the highest quality of service to the Church at large. Their character and integrity have been exemplified through actions that have directly and profoundly improved the quality of life for others.

Dr. Marva (Gersmehl) Dawn BA ’70 is an internationally renowned educator, author and theologian with 35 years of global teaching experience. Dawn holds four master’s degrees and a PhD in Christian ethics and the Scriptures. She has written over 20 books with many translated into multiple languages. Under Christians Equipped for Ministry (CEM), Dawn taught throughout the United States and 18 countries preparing professionals and lay persons for active involvement in Christian life and ministry. A legacy alumna, Dawn’s father, Herold Gersmehl BS ’51, received the Spiritus Christi in 1973.

For more information, contact Paige Craig, senior director of alumni relations & annual giving, at 888-258-6773 or