Distinguished Alumnae Award

The Distinguished Alumnae Awards are bestowed upon alumnae who have distinguished themselves by giving witness to the mission of The Academy of the Holy Cross and exhibiting the ideals of an alumna of the Academy in their daily lives.

Recipients of this award:

  1. Demonstrate the characteristics of a graduate of the Academy, by being women of courage, compassion, and scholarship.
  2. Demonstrate unusual professional or personal accomplishments that embrace the social, spiritual, and intellectual challenges of the world.
  3. Distinguish themselves as caring, Christian women.

The 2017 Distinguished Alumnae Recipients 

Karen Schmelzer Jacobsen ’81

Karen received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in 1985 and began her career as a social worker at Covenant House serving runaway and homeless youth in New York City, Houston and New Orleans. In 1992 Karen and her husband became live-in caregivers for 23 boys ages 6-21 at a residential school for children with intellectual disabilities in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. In 1995 after receiving her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh, Karen and her husband began working for The Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh as direct support professionals. Emmaus is a faith-based non-profit that provides permanent residential homes and community-based services for adults with intellectual disabilities and autism. At Emmaus, people with and without disabilities break bread with one another, recognizing the beauty, the dignity and the gifts that each person has to share.

Through the years Karen served as Emmaus’ director of residential services, director of development and deputy director before becoming executive director in 2008. She is a member and past president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and co-chair of the Conference of Allegheny Providers Intellectual Disability Committee.  Karen and her husband Kerry live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with their three children, Jack, Therese and Mark.


Dominica S. Groom ’00

Dominica is the senior director for Global Sustainability and Supplier Diversity at Marriott International, the world’s largest global lodging company. In her role she has been instrumental in leading the company to elevated supplier diversity success and global recognition, including generating increased opportunities for diverse-owned businesses across Marriott’s global portfolio of 30 brands. To further advocate for diverse business owners, she actively volunteers across various non-governmental organizations, including serving in various board and leadership capacities. Dominica also leads recycling and waste reduction efforts to support Marriott’s global sustainability platform.

During her nearly ten-year Marriott tenure, Dominica has worked in a variety of other capacities mainly within sales and marketing. Her various roles have included overseeing the change management and communication for major company initiatives in developing and executing marketing strategies for global business partnerships. Prior to joining Marriott, Dominica worked within the non-profit sector in a program management capacity. 

In April Dominica was recognized as one of the “Top 100 Women” in the state of Maryland by The Daily Record for her impact through leadership, community service and mentoring. In 2016 she was recognized as one of the top “Leading Women,” under the age of 40, in the state of Maryland for her tremendous professional accomplishments, community involvement and commitment to inspiring change. Dominica was also named a “Top Influential Leader in Diversity” by the National Association for Minority Companies for her unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion.

She is a proud graduate of The Academy of the Holy Cross and the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!).

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