Couple, former SAU chaplain win McMullen awards

Anne Marie Amacher
St. Ambrose University President Amy Novak, left, poses for a photo with McMullen Award winners Father Chuck Adam and Chris and Kristen Mandle at Christ the King Chapel in Davenport April 13.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Chris Mandle says his personal, professional and spiritual work “ties back to my connection to St. Ambrose University.” On April 13 the university awarded McMullen awards to Mandle, his wife Kristen and Father Chuck Adam.

The McMullen Award recognizes Ambrosians and community members who embody the St. Ambrose University (SAU) mission to “enable students to develop intellectually, spiritually, ethically, socially, artistically and physically to enrich their own lives and the lives of others,” President Amy Novak said during the awards ceremony in Christ the King Chapel. Novak conferred the awards after Father Ross Epping, the university’s chaplain, blessed them.

Novak said the Mandles have been integral to the success of the SAU Wine Festival for more than 20 years, first as student volunteers and later as event chairs. The annual event raises money for student scholarships. “We have been involved (with the wine festival) more than half our lives,” Chris Mandle said with a laugh.


The couple met as undergraduates during Mass at the grotto on campus. They later got engaged at the grotto. Then-chaplain Father Adam served as a guiding presence. “He has been in the background of our life at St. Ambrose,” Kristen Mandle said.

The Mandles and their five children are active members of Sacred Heart Parish in Rock Island, Illinois. Chris Mandle has served on various Catholic and non-Catholic boards in the Quad-City area. Kristen Mandle is a pediatric occupational therapist at Genesis Health Systems.

Chris Mandle said he was “really shocked” when he found out about the award. “I feel like (Kristen and I) have come full circle. We were both students here, volunteered here and now (have) this award.”

Father Adam said his award “came as a complete surprise, and I am very humbled to receive it. It is especially an honor in light of all those who have received the award previously. They are all people I admire so much for their commitment to St. Ambrose University, an institution that means so much to me. A double honor to receive it in the same year as Chris and Kristen Mandle, former students of mine who are so generous in their time to St. Ambrose and the Church.”

Father Adam was a seminarian at St. Ambrose. After his ordination to the priesthood and several assignments in parishes in the Diocese of Davenport, he was appointed rector and vocations director for the St. Ambrose University Seminary from 1996-2004, and chaplain of students and director of campus ministry at St. Ambrose from 2000-2017. He currently serves as pastor at St. Thomas More Parish-Coralville.

Novak said Father Adam’s experience as an SAU student helped him to connect with “thousands of students, regardless of their faith tradition. Because of his personal nature, compassion and consistent enthusiasm, scores of alumni returned to campus to be married and later have their children baptized in Christ the King Chapel. His name to many is synonymous with being an Ambrosian.”

Father Adam said St. Ambrose “has been a great home. It is one of my loves. I enjoyed working with the students. St. Ambrose is still a great community.”

“St. Ambrose is a catalyst in our lives,” Kristen Mandle said.

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