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