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Mr. Bernard Niehaus
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Conferral speech for the Distinguished Alumnus Award given at the 2012 Saint Meinrad Alumni Reunion

 

Presented July 24, 2012

 

Delivered by Distinguished Alumnus recipient Msgr. Jack Bendik O'67 for Bernie Niehaus.

Bernie Niehaus

Involved. Committed. Engaged. These are three words that describe Bernie Niehaus’ service to Saint Meinrad since attending high school here from 1951 to 1954. Bernie has left an indelible mark on Saint Meinrad, and it’s safe to say that Saint Meinrad has left an indelible mark on Bernie, too.


This past February, Bernie was recognized for his service on Saint Meinrad’s Board of Overseers. He shared his knowledge and wisdom for six terms – including three years as chair of the Board of Overseers – totaling 18 years of service to his alma mater. One nominator for this award noted, "Bernie has been tireless in the giving of his time to the Abbey.”


Bernie and his wife Patty, who celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year, reside in Vincennes, Indiana, where they are members of St. John the Baptist Parish.

 

They have five children: Anne, Butch, Catherine, David and Eric; and 19 grandchildren who are the source of many joyful moments and memories for the Niehauses.


Vincennes is also the site of the Niehaus family business known as Niehaus Companies, Inc. It is comprised of 10 companies in the building materials industry, located in Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois and Alabama. Bernie serves as CEO and chairman of the board. His three sons are also involved in the family business, and Bernie says he has been very proud to see the company grow under their leadership.


In 2004, Bernie worked with Saint Meinrad’s Abbey Press to produce his book Splinters. Throughout the book, Bernie shares his wisdom and life experiences about family matters, business operations, the Catholic Church and his community. In the Church section, Bernie wrote, "I owe Saint Meinrad a lot, for it was the best thing that happened to me.”


Bernie also recalls some of his favorite teachers and their subjects in his book, "Father Damasus for history, Father Richard for biology, Father Kevin for Physics and Father Marion for Latin.” He also recalled Fathers Aemilian and Gerard, the disciplinarians, who carried little black books to keep track of the students’ misbehavior.


Bernie often has the opportunity to speak with students and others connected to the Hill, and he often shares the advice that it’s important to become involved with two or three areas in the community. In addition to sharing his time and talent with Saint Meinrad, Bernie has worked closely with organizations in his hometown, including Vincennes University, and he has shared his insight and expertise with the Diocese of Evansville.


Bernie has been a strong promoter of Vincennes University. He served on the University’s board for 23 years, which included serving as chairman. He is also a past chairman of the Vincennes University Foundation Board. In 2007, Bernie received an honorary doctorate of business from Vincennes University.

Also in his hometown of Vincennes, Bernie serves as president of the Red Skelton Museum and Educational Foundation. He was president, regional director and executive committee member for Indiana Lumberman’s and Building Supply Association.


Bernie’s community service also has included stints as chairman of the board of the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Evansville and chairman of the Christian Education Foundation fundraising committee for Vincennes Rivet High School. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and serves on the Priest Retirement Committee for the Diocese of Evansville.


Another nominator summed up Bernie’s role in the life of his family, Church and community: "Bernie is a faith-filled, family-centered, Christian gentleman who leads by example. He is a passionate promoter of his Church, community business and alma mater.”


Bernie, we know that Saint Meinrad was one of the best things that happened to you, but we want you to know that you’re one of the best things to happen to Saint Meinrad. Congratulations on being honored as the 21st recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

 

 

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