Viterbo University Announces 2015 Recipients of Saint John XXIII Award for Distinguished Service



Misty Lown, owner of Misty’s Dance Unlimited; Ernie and Sally Micek, supporters of numerous community initiatives; and Deacon Richard Sage, recently retired executive director of Catholic Charities of La Crosse and co-founder of Place of Grace Catholic Worker House are the recipients of the Viterbo University 2015 Saint John XXIII Award for Distinguished Service.

The award banquet and ceremony will be held on campus Tuesday, June 2.

Lown is an entrepreneur who embraces what it means to be community spirited, using her gifts and talents to give back to others. For seven years, she coordinated the popular “Dancing with the La Crosse Stars” event, which raised over $400,000 for the American Red Cross under her leadership. Lown also founded A Chance to Dance Foundation and has provided over $200,000 in combined cash and scholarships to students in need. Through a program called “DanceAbilities,” Lown’s studio offers a one-on-one dance therapy program for children with disabilities. Due to her personal experiences as a youth dealing with bullying, she teamed up with Gundersen Health System to narrate a number of videos dealing with that issue.

The Miceks, originally from Arcadia, returned to this area after 41 years, having spent a lifetime giving of their talents and resources as dedicated volunteers and supporters of numerous causes. They now live in Dresbach, Minn.

Ernie is retired from a long career with the multinational Cargill Corporation which culminated as president and CEO. During his 41-year tenure there, the company grew to be one of the world’s largest privately owned businesses and a leading international food supplier. He has held a number of national leadership posts including  when he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the president’s export council. Micek was also appointed as one of the three U.S. business executives to represent the U.S. on the Asia Pacific Economic Council. Ernie also chaired the Emergency Committee on American Trade from 1996–2000. Last fall, Ernie was honored with a $3 million endowment by Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation in his name to support a professorship in the School of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering in Madison.  In a tribute at his retirement, Cargill and his fellow workers made a significant commitment to Habitat for Humanity.

Sally, a graduate of the St. Francis School of Nursing, is committed to many causes associated with her chosen profession of health care as well as choral music and mentorship programs, particularly those associated with young women. She has been involved in adult day care programs, volunteered in inner-city parochial schools, and coached single mothers studying in health related careers. Together with her husband, their interests include the Winona’s Maritime Museum, and support of educational opportunities via scholarships and initiatives associated with research and technology.

Despite his retirement from Catholic Charities, Sage remains a visible presence in the community as deacon at Mary, Mother of the Church in La Crosse, as a volunteer at Place of Grace, and a supporter of many initiatives he helped start such as the La Crosse Warming Shelter. Known for his collaborative leadership style, Sage has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in servant leadership and he has combined these skills to champion the cause of the poor and disenfranchised. He served as CFO of Family and Children’s Center for 13 years as well as the diocese’s financial officer. In 1983, he was a member of the first deacon class to be ordained in the Diocese of La Crosse and he also served as a founding board member of WAFER food pantry.

The Saint John XXIII Award is the highest non-academic award bestowed by Viterbo University. Recipients are chosen on the basis of contributions in one or several of the following categories: education, business, philanthropy, peace and justice, and religious life.