Beth (Figge) and Brian Lemek, 1986 graduates of St. Ambrose University and the first wife and husband to serve together on the University’s Board of Trustees, will be honored with the McMullen Award for dedication to St. Ambrose during a special 4 p.m. Mass on Thursday, Jan. 13, at Christ the King Chapel.
The Most Rev. Thomas Zinkula, Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, and chair of the St. Ambrose University Board of Trustees, will preside over Mass. Amy Novak will confer the awards for the first time in her tenure as president of St. Ambrose.
Named in honor of university founder Bishop John McMullen, the McMullen Awards are presented annually to individuals who embody St. Ambrose University’s mission of enriching the lives of others, according to a Monday release from the private Davenport school.
The public is invited to attend the Mass and award ceremony. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, all attendees will be required to wear masks.
Before and after joining the Board of Trustees, Beth and Brian Lemek followed a family legacy of philanthropy and service to St. Ambrose first established by Beth’s father, the late John Figge ’79 (Hon.). John Figge served as a trustee from 1969 through 1990 and helped SAU with critical leadership in capital campaigns that helped the university achieve significant growth, the release said.
In 2016, the Lemeks joined with fellow board member Barb Johnson and her husband Mike to lead the Building Our Future campaign. That campaign funded the largest capital project in university history, the Wellness and Recreation Center, which opened in 2018. The campaign raised more than $20 million for the WRC and other critical infrastructure and funding projects.
More recently, the Lemeks joined with other board members to create the Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, Endowed Scholarship in tribute to the SAU President Emerita, who retired in August following a 14-year tenure at St. Ambrose.
Beth and Brian attended Davenport’s Assumption High School together, but while Brian enrolled at St. Ambrose on a football scholarship, Beth initially attended school out of state. She eventually returned to Davenport, married Brian, and enrolled at St. Ambrose. They were married in Christ the King Chapel on campus.
Brian earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Beth earned a Bachelor of Arts in English degree in 1986.
The Lemeks have lived in the Washington D.C. area since 1998, raising four children while owning and operating nearly 60 Panera Bread restaurants in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.
Brian also sits on the board of the Sandy Spring Bank. Beth’s volunteerism supports numerous charitable organizations, including the Catholic Charities of DC/Maryland; the Lemeks’ home parish, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church; the President’s Council, and the glowmedia project.
The Lemeks will join 37 couples or individuals previously honored with McMullen Award following its introduction in 2006. The last winners were in 2020, Richard “Dick” Bittner and Tom Higgins ’67.