Leadership in Excellence was a key value in the establishment and evolution of the Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame. It is demonstrated in those who put energy toward and show commitment to improving results and who take initiatives often involving calculated risks while considering the common good. This value of “Leadership in Excellence” deeply resonated with the Annexstad family as they looked to begin their impact in South Bend, Indiana, and beyond.
In the early years of the Foundation, Al and Cathy Annexstad began conversations about awarding Scholarships at Notre Dame inﬂuenced by Cathy’s mother, Marie Eustice. Marie deeply loved being an educator and understood the inﬂuence she had on the youth of her community. Marie believed in the value of Catholic education and always dreamed that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would one day pursue their degrees at a Catholic institution.
Drawing on the values and life lessons cultivated by Al and Cathy’s small-town Minnesota upbringing, the Annexstads connected in 2002 with Rev. Bill Lies, C.S.C., the Executive Director of the Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns. Father Lies’ vision resonated with Al and Cathy’s desire to create change in the world by supporting deserving young people. Father Lies collaborated with University partners to select the ﬁrst recipient of the Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarship, Shawn Sanford, a bright, young woman who endured uncommon hardship, which included multiple foster home placements. Al and Cathy were genuinely moved by Shawn’s triumph over tremendous adversity. Shawn’s diligence, combined with an active and constructive mentor and support from the Annexstads, helped her evolve into a rising star and a Notre Dame alumna in 2008.
Shawn received the ﬁrst of 165 Annexstad Scholarships awarded through Fall 2023. Alongside Shawn, 104 Alumni live around the globe, shaping careers in public policy, architecture, tech, consulting and education. Today, 46 Annexstad Scholars are pursuing their undergraduate studies at the University with 6 newly named Annexstad Scholars awarded this fall.
As Scholars are named to the Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarship, the Foundation works to ensure that they feel a sense of community, both in South Bend and around the country. In partnership with the University, the Foundation hosts on-campus events where students can connect with other Scholarship recipients, University leadership and Foundation staff. Scholars have had the opportunity to connect virtually with Alumni, mentors and other Scholarship recipients nationwide via Foundation programming and events.
“It is the Foundation’s goal to offer a sense of an extended family on Notre Dame’s campus. One unique thing the Foundation does is send a care package to each Scholar during ﬁnal exam season. Students mention throughout the year how meaningful it is to receive something packed with care and compassion during this stressful period of the school year,” shares AFF Regional Program Manager, Zack Haas.
Micki Kidder, Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment, has long served as a partner to The Annexstad Family Foundation. In her role, Kidder oversees the Offices of Pre-College Programs, Undergraduate Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Accounts and Student Shared Services. She says,
“The Annexstad Family Foundation unlocks educational and life-changing opportunities for the leaders of tomorrow. Through an investment in undergraduate Scholarships, the Annexstad family is helping ensure that all deserving students can attend Notre Dame, ultimately empowering students to pursue and share truth and faith. In partnership with The Annexstad Foundation, the University of Notre Dame is excited to celebrate the dignity of all human beings and ensure that a Notre Dame education is affordable to the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The impact of the Scholarship and the excellence in leading is demonstrated throughout the current Scholar cohort, with many Scholars taking on leadership roles on campus. Logan Balfantz is a prime example of a Scholar leading with excellence. Logan describes the pursuit of higher education as a “golden ticket to the good life.” As he begins his ﬁnal year this fall, Logan prepares to pursue a PhD upon completing his bachelor’s degree in Business Analytics to become a technology research scientist. Logan has committed much of his time at Notre Dame to conducting and assisting in research at the Mendoza School of Business. Logan’s research opportunities made a substantial impact on his undergraduate experience and his perspective beyond South Bend. He shares, “I developed richer relationships with the faculty, and it opened my eyes to a new world of career possibilities.” In addition to researching alongside leading faculty, Logan has also helped to shine light on possibilities beyond graduation to his peers. As a student leader within the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development’s First-Generation Careers (FGC), Logan works to support career development for other ﬁrst-generation students. “I saw it as an opportunity to pay forward the time and energy that people have invested in my educational and career development.”
“Looking to the future, it is our goal to continue to support Scholars at the University of Notre Dame who embody the values of a remarkable student like Logan – someone who is deeply committed to using their education to empower others and make a difference,” shares Patti Annexstad. “The opportunity to build community reinvigorates our mission of supporting determined and deserving students. The relationship we cultivated with the University over 20 years ago and our shared mission to support Scholars holistically throughout their four years have led to the success of the Scholarship program nationally.”