St. Thomas Aquinas College Honored

Sister Carol Lehmkuhl with the Founders Award


On October 4, St. Thomas Aquinas College presented their Founders Award to Sister Carol Lehmkuhl, founder and director of the East Side Heart & Home Family Center in East St. Louis, Illinois. The Founders Award is bestowed each year in recognition of an individual’s tireless dedication and commitment to the ideals and values of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, and for exemplifying the College’s motto, “Enlighten the Mind through Truth.” Leaders from the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, and from the Family Center joined Sister Carol at the College’s 2019 Annual Tribute Dinner for the award ceremony.

For 26 years, the East Side Heart & Home Family Center has been actively engaged with and committed to the people and the city of East St. Louis. The Center’s programs rely on volunteers and staff members who work alongside East St. Louis residents to build and sustain a healthy community and to bring about positive changes for themselves, their families, and their city. Sister Carol, the Center’s leaders, and the Sparkill Dominican Sisters in St. Louis have been integral to the success of this ministry.

(l-r, Helen Davis Hairston, Sister Carol, Edra Cherry, and Sharon Wilbourn)

During her award acceptance remarks, Sister Carol acknowledged three Family Center leaders in attendance: Helen Davis-Hairston, Edra Cherry and Sharon Wilbourn. “Each of these women has her roots in the city of East St. Louis, Illinois— a city nationally known for its poverty, crime and lack of resources,” she said. Noting a reference to East St. Louis as a “hellhole” out of which “nothing good ever comes,” made once on the popular TV show “Saturday Night Life,” Sister Carol added, “These women have destroyed that myth by becoming leaders and mentors in their families, their workplaces, and in our larger community.... [B]y their hard work and sacrifices, [they] have become successful and productive adults and parents in their own right.”

A member of St. Thomas Aquinas College’s Class of 1970, Sister Carol credited the education she received there and the support of her family and her Sparkill Dominican community with her gift to recognize the worth and dignity of all people, regardless of race, sexual orientation, or creed— “I was taught that by helping others realize their gifts and strengths, I could be an example of justice and hope for the next generation.”

Prior to founding and assuming the direction of the East Side Heart & Home Family Center, Sister Carol served as an educator in Rockland County, New York, and in Monroe City and the inner city of St. Louis, Missouri. Her roles included primary, secondary, and Parish School of Religion (PSR) teacher, counselor, speech coach, and principal. Aware as she is of the power of education to change the world, she exhorted the Founders Award ceremony attendees never to underestimate that power, “Your continued support of this esteemed St. Thomas Aquinas College and others like it, will, most definitely, effect positive change in the lives of our future leaders and visionaries— most times, in ways you will probably never know.”

Sister Carol joined the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill in 1964. Her work since has earned her various awards, including Ursuline Academy’s Distinguished Alumnae; Illinois Humane Society Benjamin Gingiss Service Award for Vulnerable Children; Woman of the Well Leadership Award; St. Louis’ What’s Right with the Region Award; and the East St. Louis, Illinois’ Unsung Hero Award.


Make A Donation:
If you would like to contribute to the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill
by making a donation, please click here.