Heritage Awards

The CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs Mercy Heritage Awards will be celebrated on Thursday, June 8, 2023, at the Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center, home of Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment (PACE). 

In its 39th year, the Mercy Heritage Awards gives the southwest Iowa community an opportunity to honor four individuals or couples for their transformational leadership in Arts & Humanities, Business, Education, and Health & Human Services.

We are pleased to announce the 2023 recipients for their lifetime of service:

  • Jeff Schoening, Arts & Humanities
  • Tony Tauke, Business
  • Peggy King and her late husband Duane, Education
  • Patti Higginbotham, Health & Human Services

Jeff Schoening, nominated for his extensive 30+ year teaching career and success as the band director at Treynor Community Schools, led the Marching, Jazz, and Concert bands to consistent and consecutive Division 1 ratings for 31 years. His personal mantra was to “never give up on a kid,” and his nomination said he “treated teaching as a calling rather than a job.”

Nominated for his considerable community service, Tony Tauke is a practicing attorney at Stuart Tinley Law Firm and engaged in numerous boards, committees, and clubs in Southwest Iowa including his leadership on the Community Foundation for Western Iowa Board of Directors, Pottawattamie County Development Corporation and Council Bluffs Industrial Foundation.

Peggy King and her late husband Duane were nominated for their pioneering work within the Deaf community. The Kings founded Deaf Missions in 1971, a nonprofit that communicates the Gospel of Jesus with the Deaf community through their heart language, culture, and identity. Since its founding, Deaf Missions has reached over 70 million Deaf people worldwide.

Nominated for her leadership and involvement at Wings of Hope Cancer Support Center, Patti Higginbotham is a nurse practitioner and oncology nurse specialist. Through her work in the oncology field, Higginbotham recognized that as cancer patients progress through the challenges of a diagnosis and treatment, they need emotional support. Her realization and commitment to oncology patients developed into Wings of Hope Cancer Support Center in 1994 and has served over 58,000 individuals since it started with Higginbotham serving as board president.

“The Mercy Heritage Awards is such a special evening for the entire team at CHI Health Mercy and the Southwest community, as we celebrate leaders who inspire the rest of us by their selfless acts of service,” said Ann Schumacher, president of CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs.

Barry Cleaveland will chair the event with Mike & Marie Knedler serving as co-chairs. 

Marie Knedler, who accepted the Health & Human Services award in 2022, summarized the evening’s significance in Southwest Iowa.

“The Mercy Heritage Awards is the one of most important things at Mercy Hospital and really, in many of our lives. It helps us remember where we came from, why we are here, and it makes southwest Iowa a better place for the future.”

The event will also recognize the Mercy Re-Runs, a group of 26 retired CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs employees, who first teamed up in December of 2021 to help vaccinate the hospital staff, and later, the southwest Iowa community, with a special community impact award. 

Retired nurses, Dixie Kavars and Mary Shaughnessy-Swisher, spearheaded the effort and recruited Re-Runs to the cause. The Re-Runs organized 13 vaccination clinics and vaccinated over 800 staff and community members in three months. 

“This group has been a godsend,” said Denise McNitt, vice president of patient care. 

“Their dedication and teamwork at a time when the hospital and community needed it most embodies the profession of nursing and the mission set forward by our founders, the Sisters of Mercy.”

With the Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center as a vibrant backdrop, the Mercy Heritage Awards include cocktails, heavy hors d'oeuvres, and hand-crafted desserts prior to a live awards ceremony for the recipients.

Please join us in celebrating our recipients – Jeff Schoening, Tony Tauke, Peggy King, and Patti Higginbotham – and the Mercy Re-Runs on Thursday, June 8, 2023. Tickets will go on sale April 28.

Event proceeds will benefit CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs and will be used to enhance patient care, enrich staff well-being, and purchase or upgrade equipment and other items to support the hospital and its patients. 

About CHI Health:

CHI Health is a regional health network with a unified mission: nurturing the healing ministry of the church while creating healthier communities. Headquartered in Omaha, the combined organization consists of 14 hospitals, two stand-alone behavioral health facilities, more than 150 employed physician practice locations and more than 10,000 employees in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa.

In fiscal 2022, CHI Health invested more than $265 million back into our communities. The majority of those dollars went to caring for the poor and underserved. The largest investment, 76.5 percent, ensured access to healthcare in communities served by CHI Health hospitals and clinics. That $203.1 million helped 190,727 uninsured or underinsured patients who could not afford to pay for healthcare services, and subsidized the unreimbursed cost of providing care for an additional 235,764 Medicaid patients.

CHI Health is part of CommonSpirit Health, a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. It was created in February 2019 through the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. CommonSpirit Health is committed to creating healthy communities, delivering exceptional patient care, and ensuring every person has access to quality health care.