The Bishop William L. Higi Leadership Award is the school’s highest recognition presented annually at Guerin Catholic’s Annual Award Ceremony. This year’s awards were presented at the Guerin Catholic Gala on Friday, February 10, 2023.
2023 Bishop William L. Higi Leadership Award Recipients
Shannon Murray Strong ’07
Shannon Murray transferred to Guerin Catholic as a sophomore in 2004 and was less than impressed with the new school in the middle of the soybean fields in Hamilton County. In her own words, Shannon said, “I spent the majority of my sophomore and junior years holding a grudge that I was transferred away from Cathedral to a school that didn’t even have lockers in their hallways or bleachers in their gym.”
But soon enough, Shannon made strong connections with both her peers and teachers and found a path that has allowed her to continually share her gifts with the Guerin Catholic Community.
In addition to supporting Guerin Catholic through her attendance at fundraisers and events and promoting the school via social media platforms and word-of-mouth marketing, Shannon has made a profound impact on the Golden Eagle Community through her five years serving as an Assistant Coach for the Girls Basketball Program.
“My goal with coaching is to help these girls reach their potential as basketball players, and become the best versions of themselves off the court, too. I like to encourage girls to be inclusive, to be kind to everyone, and to make them understand just how lucky they are to be at a school like Guerin Catholic, and how important it is to give back to their communities when they can,” said Strong.
A graduate of Marian University, Shannon, her husband Travis and their three daughters, Samantha, Libby and Ella are members of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Noblesville. Shannon is grateful that Bishop Emeritus Higi “said yes to the founding families to bring a Catholic school to our part of the diocese. My life would be drastically different without his vision and help bringing Guerin to life.”
Deacon Paul Lunsford
Serving as Guerin Catholic’s third president from 2010-2018, the school faced what many considered insurmountable financial challenges toward the beginning of Paul Lunsford’s tenure. After a donor stepped up and made a sizeable contribution that allowed the school to keep the doors open, Paul rolled up his sleeves, leaned on his expertise as a business owner and worked tirelessly to straighten out the finances of the school-getting its debt under control, building a solid financial structure, and leading Guerin Catholic to financial stability.
Though much of Paul’s work on the business side of the school went unnoticed by the GC community, it is impossible to overlook the massive amount of fundraising he did to complete the physical changes that took place under his leadership. With the enrollment growth far surpassing the early predictions, Deacon Paul was able to secure the necessary funding to complete the second academic wing enabling the removal of the dreaded classroom trailers. In addition, the football field and plaza were constructed, the parking lot expanded, the tennis facility completed, the soccer and lacrosse turf field built, the courtyard constructed, the sound system in the gym installed and many other internal and external projects were completed under his tenure.
Lunsford also spearheaded numerous successful fundraising campaigns and introduced the Providence Fund and the Providence Fund Dinner. This very award, The Bishop William L. Higi Leadership Award, was also the brainchild of Deacon Paul Lunsford. Paul’s faith-filled dedication to Guerin Catholic and his ability to bring people together to further her mission was unquestionably one his greatest strengths and for that we are most grateful.
Paul is a lifelong member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel where he currently serves as Deacon. He and his wife Denise have three adult sons, Paul Jr, Daniel and Trevor ’08, and seven grandchildren.
In 2004, Guerin Catholic’s inaugural year, the first Athletic Director, Eric Anderson, posed this question to Mike and Debbie Stanisz as they strolled across the parking lot: “Do you know anyone who knows how to run a concession stand?”
Little did she know, 19 years later, Debbie continues to be the workhorse in the Golden Eagle Athletic Department. In her role as Associate Director of Athletics, Debbie manages, among other things, the concessions, admissions, rosters, and volunteers. She has literally seen and conversed with, at one point or another, every single athlete that has donned the purple and gold.
Possessing a true servant’s heart, Debbie has gone above and beyond in contributing to whatever was the greatest need at the time for Guerin Catholic. Whether it’s restocking the concession stand, working in the spirit shop, or walking a parent through the necessary registration paperwork each year, there is no task too big or small for Debbie. She has been seen at Guerin Catholic at random hours of the day and night, during the week and on the weekends, in the snow, rain, sun and wind, completing whatever job is asked of her. It’s ironic that she’s not here tonight but rather enjoying a well-deserved vacation on a beach somewhere down south.
Guerin Catholic and her families have been so blessed to have the services of Debbie Stanisz for the past 19 years. And we hope she’ll stay another 19 because her job description is going to be hard to define!
As one nominator put it, Debbie is “a breath of fresh air-her warm smile, servant’s heart and the humility with which she completes her tasks fully embody the Guerin Catholic Vision Statement to lead with humility, serve with love and trust in providence.”
Debbie and her husband Mike are members of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish and have three adult children-Ashlee, Michael ’08 and Emily ’10, and two grandsons.
Previous Award Recipients
Terence P. Weiss Community Award
Michael Panasuk Faculty/Staff Award
Christine Williams Faculty/Staff Award
Adriana (Pratt) Mansour ’08 Alumni Award
Bill and Caroline Godfrey Community Award
Mark Duray Community Award
Leona Chianello Faculty/Staff Award
Joe Garcia ’07 Alumni Award
Fr. Dale Ehrman Community Award
Mike and Grace Pratt Community Award
Marcia Murphy Faculty/Staff Award
Sam Gardner ’08 Alumni Award
Barbara (Barb) and John Gallina
Deborah and William (Willie) Wood
Monsignor John Duncan
Mr. Chris Braun
Mr. Gary Malone
Mr. Scott Schutz
Bishop Emeritus William L. Higi
(Founding Bishop of Guerin Catholic High School)