Mercy High School Honors Distinguished Alumnae at Foundation Day Celebration

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Dynamic. Compassionate. Generous. Driven. These are apt descriptions of three Mercy High School alumnaeLaura Wontrop Klauser ’04, Dr. Kia Myrick McDaniel ’95, and Mary Agnes Myers Votta 68, P’10honored at the school’s Foundation Day ceremony earlier this month. Commemorating the establishment of the Sisters of Mercy on December 12, 1831, Foundation Day is observed annually by Mercy schools and other ministries around the worldIn that spirit, Mercy celebrated three outstanding women from among its more than 8,000 alumnae for their contributions to their alma mater, their professions, and the world.

Cadillac Racing Program Manager Laura Wontrop Klauser 04 is this year’s winner of The McAuley Award. Named for the Irish-born foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, the McAuley Award recognizes a Mercy alumna who demonstrates a lifelong commitment to the values, spirit, and integrity she learned at Mercy. 

A 2004 graduate of MercyLaura completed a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She continued at the University of Michigan where she earned an M.S. in global automotive and manufacturing engineering. 

One of just a few women in her field, Laura is working hard to inspire the next generation of women leaders in STEM. An award-winning member of the Society of Women Engineers, Laura frequently shares her professional path and exciting work in automotive racing with high school girls.  Although she lives in Michigan, Laura‘s generosity of time and expertise extends to students in Mercy’s highly regarded science programs back in Baltimore! Laura notes that the values of hard work and integrity instilled in her childhood were affirmed to me at Mercy every step of the way.”

Prince George’s County Public School Director of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Kia Myrick McDaniel ’95 is this year’s winner of the Sr. M. Joannes Clifford Distinguished Alumna Award. Named in honor of an exceptionally gifted educator and the school’s first alumnae director, the award recognizes a Mercy graduate who has made a lasting impact on the quality of life of those around her. 

Following her 1995 graduation from Mercy, Kia completed her bachelor’s degree in hearing and speech sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park. She holds a master’s in curriculum and instruction and bilingual special educatiofrom George Washington UniversityIn 2019, Kia earned her doctorate in educational leadership with a focus on culturally responsive special education at Bowie State University. She has served as an adjunct professor at Trinity Washington University and as a guest lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park.

A lifelong educator, Kia’s Mercy values are reflected in her drive for excellence and her personal commitment to an outstanding educational experience for the 130,000 students in Maryland’s second largest public school system. Kia credits her parents, saying that they made education and a strong worth ethic a priority in our family.” She goes on to recognize her Mercy teachers, saying “I had no idea that those interactions would shape who I am today and who I will be in the future, but they really have…The foundation for my future was definitely laid at Mercy and I am grateful.”

Dedicated community volunteer Mary Agnes Myers Votta ‘68, P’10 is the Spirit of Mercy Service Award winner this year. The award honors a Mercy alumna who responds to the Gospel call to servicand inspires and motivates others to do the same. 

Mary Agnes is passionate about giving back to the community, especially around childhood literacy efforts. In fact, Mary Agnes has dedicated more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service as a reading tutor at Fifth District Elementary School! With her husband Bruce, she made generous gifts to create Ben Carson Scholars Reading Rooms at Fifth District and Prettyboy Elementary Schools, both in Upperco, Md. These reading rooms create a literacy-enriched, nurturing environment where children can develop their reading skills

In addition to her efforts around reading, Mary Agnes taught religious education at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Parkton and she lent her many talents to Mercy’s alumnae office and the Fathers’ Club, helping with their annual golf outing for many years.

Like Laura and Kia, Mary Agnes credits values learned at home and at Mercy for her heartfelt dedication to service. Mary Agnes lost her father at an early age and points to the example of her mother who was determined that Mary Agnes should benefit from a Catholic education. Mary Agnes is also quick to acknowledge the influence of her teachersreflecting that “The Sisters of Mercy always taught me to pay it forward which has always been in the forefront of my mind.” 

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