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Mary Bushner Receives First Margaret Kender Trailblazer Award

by Paige Dormann Jul 14, 2023
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What defines someone as a pioneer? Paving the way for progress, not just for themselves, but for all who follow. That’s Margaret Kender's legacy. Her spirit has inspired generation after generation of female leaders at DeSales, which is why she’s now the namesake of a brand-new award. 

Established by Karen Doyle Walton, Ed.D., former provost and vice president for academic affairs, the Margaret Kender Student Life Trailblazer Award goes to a graduating female who has demonstrated the inspiring attributes that Kender possessed. The inaugural recipient of this award was Mary Bushner ’23, a nursing graduate.

“Margaret Kender was a strong female leader who impacted not only higher education but also student leadership at DeSales,” said Bushner. “I hope that in my career as a nurse, I can lead by example as Margaret did—to advocate for my patients and their families and become a true leader in the medical profession.” 

When Bushner wasn’t in class or treating patients during her clinical rotations, she helped with Character U and the First-Year Experience and served as president of the National Society of Leadership and Success. These opportunities aided her growth and motivated her to make a positive difference. 

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to have been selected as the first recipient of the Margaret Kender Trailblazer Award. The DeSales community is full of incredible leaders who work not only to better the University but the surrounding area.”

 Mary Bushner ’23, nursing graduate

The namesake of the award, Kender was one of the founders of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales. She became associate dean of students in 1971 and was later promoted to dean of students. Eventually, she was appointed vice president of student affairs, which she remained until she retired in 1997. That same year, Kender was awarded an honorary doctorate, and in 2000, she received the DeSales Medal, the University’s highest honor. 

During his time as second president, Father Daniel Gambet, OSFS, acknowledged Kender’s “uncommonly insightful understanding of young adults, impeccable judgment, and abiding and uncompromised commitment to authentic Christian and Catholic values.” 

Those attributes were just one reason why Walton decided to donate to the University with the stipulation that Linda Zerbe, vice president for student life, use the funds to honor and celebrate Kender’s lasting legacy. 

“The establishment of the annual Margaret Kender Student Life Trailblazer Award was Linda’s marvelous idea, for which I thank her immensely,” Walton said. “Linda’s choice of the word ‘trailblazer’ describes Marge Kender perfectly. Marge was a pioneer in the development of student affairs in higher education.”

“Marge’s motto was to be kind,” added Zerbe. “She was one of the University’s founders, and her generosity toward students truly influenced the Salesian-centric culture that we have today.”