Sister M. Elise Kriss, president of the University of Saint Francis, said she is not easily surprised.
But when Bill Niezer, the university's chairman of the board of trustees, announced that Kriss had been awarded the "Sag," or the Council of the Sagamore of the Wabash, her hand went to her chest and a smile came to her lips as the crowd of about 250 burst into a round of applause.
Behind Kriss, Niezer, a broker with USI Insurance Services, unveiled the framed citation, sitting on an easel. The prestigious award signed by Governor Mike Pence, was presented with the "enthusiastic support of State Senator Liz Brown," Niezer said.
With the mascot, a large blue and white Cougar standing nearby, Kriss then led her podium team, including Mayor Tom Henry, wearing Cougar blue plastic hard hats and swinging rubber mallets, to knock down a wall of cardboard bricks. The act symbolized a new beginning for the university as it prepares to renovate its new campus in downtown Fort Wayne.
"So many people who work with Sister have an understanding as to how she has worked to improve, expand and advance the University of Saint Francis," Niezer said after the ceremony held at the former Chamber of Commerce building downtown. "She touched so many people that we thought this would be a way to show our gratitude and, in a very public way, let people know just how great a job she has done."