St. Mary’s Dominican High School 62nd Homecoming Celebrates Dominican Alumnae

St. Mary’s Dominican High School alumnae returned to their alma mater for the 62nd Homecoming Mass and Luncheon on April 13th to celebrate class anniversaries and recognize two honorees for instilling Christian moral values while encouraging the practice of ethical behavior as demonstrated through their dedication to family, public service, and career. Honorees were Dr. Jennifer Mahnke Garnand ’01 who was named Alumna of the Year and Karla Leary Luke, ’77 M.Ed., St. Catherine of Siena Preaching Award recipient. The Reverend Jeremy Lambert, LC, celebrated Mass with music by Dominican Student Choir members and conducted by Brenda Castillo, Dominican’s Fine Arts Chairperson and Director of Band and Choir.

Alumna of the Year

Dr. Jennifer Mahnke Garnand ’01

At St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s 62nd Homecoming, President Dr. Cynthia A. Thomas and Alumnae Board President Nelita Ramey ’79 presented Dr. Jennifer Mahnke Garnand ’01 the Alumna of the Year Award.

Garnand was recognized by her peers as a woman who instills Christian moral values while urging the practice of ethical behaviors as demonstrated through her dedication to family, public service, or career. Mother, Nurse, Paramedic, Firefighter, Educator, Chaplain, Mentor, Advocate are some of her roles. Initially working in education and ministry, she was drawn to nursing as a secondary calling. She has since found meaning and purpose within healthcare, cultivating a passion for being “with and for” others, giving back to her community, and inspiring those around her to achieve their goals.

As the Chief Flight Nurse for Ochsner Health, she had an impactful role overseeing the organization’s medical aviation program, coordinating the interdisciplinary teams of local 911 emergency response and critical care transports across the country. She oversaw FEMA’s national emergency rescue operations and medical disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico and St. Croix in 2017. When the World Health Organization designated 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse” it was amidst the global pandemic.

Garnand was named Louisiana Nurse of the Year and one of Louisiana Life Magazine’s Top Nine Louisianians of the Year. Other credits: Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Missouri Baptist Medical Center, University Medical Center Director of Oncology, Great 100 Nurses of Louisiana, Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Medical Training Officer for Third District Volunteer Fire Department, Board of Directors for Help A Sister Out nonprofit and Charity School of Nursing, where a nursing award was recently named in her honor. She holds an MBA from LSU Shreveport and a PhD from the University of Southern Mississippi, where she published her research and doctoral dissertation entitled Predictors of Engagement in Nursing Professional Practice: Transforming Organizational Culture in the Post-COVID Healthcare Environment.

St. Catherine of Siena Preaching Award

Karla Leary Luke, ’77 M.Ed.

Honoree Karla Leary Luke, ’77 M.Ed., is presented the St. Catherine of Siena Preaching Award by President Dr. Cynthia A. Thomas and Alumnae Board President Nelita Ramey ’79.

Luke, a graduate of St. Mary’s Dominican College where she earned a degree in biology, holds a  Master of Education from Marymount University, with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Administration. Classmates describe her as one who exemplifies and loves all the traits of a Dominican graduate. The first Tuesday of every month, she joins Dominican alumnae and their family members for recitation of the rosary. Always finding joy in serving, Luke started her career at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Elementary School in New Orleans where she taught religion and science from 1992 to 2005. In the aftermath of  Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she, her husband Leo Luke Jr., and their sons Leo III and Christopher, moved to Mississippi. There, Luke first worked temporarily as a school secretary. At St. Therese Catholic School she taught 6th through 8th grade science and religion and served as lower school principal followed by appointments in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Office of Catholic Education: Coordinator of Operations and Support Services; Assistant Superintendent of Education.

In 2021, she was appointed Executive Director of Catholic Schools that includes four high schools, nine elementary schools, and four early learning centers. Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson appointed her to the crucial leadership position when schools were  emerging from the COVID-19 Pandemic. He noted that Luke’s extensive experience in the Jackson Diocese and previously in her home state of Louisiana, “had prepared her to shoulder this responsibility with grace, confidence, and competence. She is a woman of faith and prayer who embraces the teachings of the Catholic Church in light of the Dominican tradition and heritage. The peace of Christ is her strength. She is critical thinker who is steeped both in Gospel values and the hard sciences, faith and reason, a background that enabled her to lead with confidence and humility during the pandemic.”


Following the awards ceremony, Barbara Cole and Kathy Pastorek shared news about the Class of 1972 gift to the school of a bronze sculpture by Italian artist Albano Poli. At the Homecoming luncheon, the Class of 1974 celebrated its 50th anniversary and received rosaries designed by Rebecca “Becky” Bellows Crawford ’86 and made by Peggy Delarosa ’69. The Class of 1999 marked its 25th year anniversary. Also recognized were the Classes of 1939, 1944, 1949, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2019.

Members of St. Mary’s Dominican High School Class of 1974 celebrated their 50th anniversary at the school’s 62nd Homecoming.