St. Ambrose to honor Lemeks with McMullen Award

St. Ambrose University will honor Beth (Figge) and Brian Lemek, the first wife and husband to serve together on the University’s Board of Trustees, with the McMullen Award for their dedication to the Davenport university. 

Beth Lemek

The couple, both 1986 St. Ambrose graduates, will be recognized after a special 4 p.m. Mass on Thursday, April 7, at Christ the King Chapel on campus. The event was rescheduled from its originally announced Jan. 13 date.

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. The Lemeks will join 37 couples or individuals previously honored with the McMullen Award since its inception in 2006.

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.

The Mass and award ceremony is open to the public. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, all attendees will be required to wear masks.

Ms. and Mr. Lemek followed a family legacy of philanthropy and service to St. Ambrose first established by her father, the late John Figge, Class of 1979 (honorary degree). Mr. Figge served as a trustee from 1969 through 1990 and assisted the university with critical leadership in capital campaigns that drove the university’s growth.

In 2016, the Lemeks joined with fellow board member Barb Johnson and her husband, Mike, to lead the Building Our Future campaign. That campaign, which raised more than $20 million, funded the largest capital project in St. Ambrose history – the Wellness and Recreation Center. It opened in 2018. More recently, the Lemeks were involved in the creation of 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.

While Mr. Lemek enrolled at St. Ambrose on a football scholarship, his future wife initially attended college out of state. She eventually returned to Davenport, the couple married and Ms. Lemek enrolled at St. Ambrose. Mr. Lemek earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and Ms. Lemek earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1986.

The couple has 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.

Mr. Lemek also sits on the board of the Sandy Spring Bank. Ms. Lemek’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.

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