ND Family on the Front Lines During A Global Pandemic

Be The Light: Volume 1


Mc 8

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5

To all the members of the Notre Dame Family battling the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and around the world, thank you for all you're doing. Help us recognize those serving on the front lines and others offering their time and resources who are Being a Light in their communities.

Below are several brief interviews with "Domers doing good" during these difficult days. For another series of stories about Notre Dame alumni, parents, and friends working to combat this crisis, read Be The Light: Volume 2.

Sarah (Pinter) Daye '13

Jeffrey Stewart '04 MBA

Chris Jenson, M.D. '99

Bill Wenzel '89

Rev. Bob Lombardo, C.F.R., '79

Daniel Wrapp '15

Liz Schwefler '91

Donald Zimmer, M.D. '04

Additional Domers Doing Good


Sarah (Pinter) Daye ’13 works for a distributor of industrial supplies supporting companies and organizations fighting the pandemic. 


Sarah Pinter Daye

What is your connection to Notre Dame? 

I graduated in 2013 with a double-major in Finance and English. My husband, Matt, graduated the same year with a degree in Computer Science. We were married at the Basilica in 2015. Notre Dame is where our hearts rest.

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19? 

I work for McMaster-Carr Supply Co, a distributor of industrial supplies. Our customers are the manufacturers, research institutions, and hospitals that are fighting the pandemic, as well as utilities, transportation companies, food producers, national defense-related operations, and government agencies that are essential to the continued function of our country. By continuing to ship orders, we help essential businesses keep operating. Many are also using our materials to experiment with new ways to heal the sick and protect healthcare workers. 

My personal role is to support the people on my team who need to come to work every day to fulfill these customers' orders — to find new ways to operate to keep them safe and healthy, and to answer their questions and try to allay some of their fears during the most uncertain time of their careers. My brother also works for McMaster-Carr. He fulfills orders, and he and his counterparts handle the critical task of getting supplies to the hospitals.

How did Notre Dame influence your career path?  

It's largely by chance that I work in the supply chain, but my leadership style is a product of my Notre Dame experience. I learned the importance of compassionate, servant leadership through Notre Dame. Servant leadership has never been more important than it is today, when people need support and reassurance more than anything else.

What message would you like to share with your Notre Dame family? 

"Above all shadows rides the sun, / And stars forever dwell. / I will not say the day is done, / Nor bid the stars farewell." -- J.R.R. Tolkien


Chris Jenson, M.D. ’99, a former emergency medicine physician, is helping to collect protective equipment and medical supplies in Kansas City.



Chris Jenson

What is your connection to Notre Dame? 

I’m a proud graduate from the class of 1999. I earned a bachelor of science (magna cum laude) in Science Preprofessional Studies, which launched me into medical school. I loved my four years at Notre Dame and thoroughly enjoyed my time as a trumpet player for the Band of the Fighting Irish. My wife and I try to remain active in local alumni clubs and get back for a football game at least once a year. I enjoy connecting with grads in the ND alumni network and keeping up with my ND friends.

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19?

About a week ago, our Kansas City suburb of Overland Park held a large city-wide medical supply drive. We reached out to dental, ophthalmology, and orthodontic offices; school districts; churches and parishes across the community of various faith backgrounds; and local businesses.

We created a decent bandwidth of advertising and collected necessary supplies to help protect our KC health care workers until the manufacturers can restock their personal protective equipment inventory. More importantly, two recent businesses that converted their manufacturing to medical masks and face shields ran across our event. We were able to connect these local manufacturers with the supply chain executives at both medical centers. 

I understand why there is a shortage of protective equipment in our area, as well as the need to supply the current “hot zones” first, but until manufacturers catch up, I believe our communities need to rally together and do the right thing. Health care workers can’t stay at home. They are on the front lines protecting us and if they were to fall ill, it impacts them, their families, and frankly our community. Who will be available to take care of the surrounding population if health care workers are ill? So, we had a pretty decent assumption that a lot of businesses and families had these supplies in our community, and we just did the best we could to convince those individuals to give back a portion of what they had. Because many people advertised and came together for this event, I am happy to say it worked fairly well. 

How did Notre Dame influence your career path?

I spent 13 years in emergency medicine and urgent care. I now teach anatomy and physiology and provide public health consulting. Notre Dame shaped much of my career by instilling in me the belief that we all have a responsibility to care for others and give back when we can. I believe it’s our way to try and show God our gratitude.

What message would you like to share with your Notre Dame family?

I have immense respect and admiration for our Notre Dame family. We rise to the occasion and repeatedly do the right thing. Please use your talent and ability to improve your community’s situation right now, whether that is convincing people to stay at home and social distance, or organizing logistics for food distribution, or reaching out to businesses that you suspect may have inventory that can protect health care workers. I believe COVID-19 has created a call to action. I feel confident if each of us in the ND family did something to answer that call, we would make a tremendous impact.


Rev. Bob Lombardo, C.F.R. ’79 is a priest at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, devoted to serving the poor and sharing the faith, on the west side of Chicago.


Fr Bob Lombardo

What is your connection to Notre Dame? 

I graduated in 1979 with a BBA in accounting, lived in Cavanaugh, and was involved with Ombudsman. 

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19? 

We are providing food to over 400 families per week (a shopping cart full of meats, fresh fruit, and veggies, as well as non-perishables and baked goods). Many of our elderly and at-risk population need delivery and we have teamed up with the police to provide this. Getting food and supplies to our neighbors (we are in the poorest neighborhood of Chicago) is critical at this time.

How did Notre Dame influence your career path?  

I grew in my faith.

What message would you like to share with your Notre Dame family? 

Thank you for the many ways you all contribute to making our world a better place. I continue to be inspired by the many and varied ways our alumni are having a positive impact. Please keep up the good work and pray more for God's blessings, especially for the most vulnerable in our midst.


Liz Schwefler ’91 is working to serve and protect American citizens in France through her work for the U.S. Embassy.


Liz Schwefler

What is your connection to Notre Dame? 

I’m Class of 1991, a former Lyons Hall resident and government major. My son, Nolan, is a sophomore at the University.

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19?

We are focused on helping the many U.S. citizens who are currently in France and are either trying to get back home or wish to stay but need some support while they are here. It's an anxious and confusing time for families who may be separated right now, so we are doing what we can to reunite them and serve as a trusted source of accurate, up to date information about travel restrictions and conditions in the country.

How did Notre Dame influence your career path?

I was Naval ROTC, so I was commissioned in the Navy after graduation. During my overseas deployments, I met some Foreign Service Officers and I decided that was the life for me. I would like to think the outstanding liberal arts education I received at ND prepared me well for the exam! 

What message would you like to share with your Notre Dame family?

I'm so grateful for my friendships from ND that are still strong today.  Like many of my colleagues, I am also far away from my family right now and worried about them. It's great to come home and laugh with my old friends from Lyons on WhatsApp after a particularly challenging day. Other than that, I would just urge people to always register online with the U.S. Embassy whenever they or a family member is traveling internationally. It's easy and it will help you stay informed, stay connected and stay safe!


Jeffrey Stewart ’04 MBA is educating physicians about how to use hospital-grade BiPAP machines as ventilators.


Jeff Stewart
Courtesy of Franklin Knox

What is your connection to Notre Dame?

Mendoza 2002-2004, MBA. I also was on the intercollegiate College Bowl (trivia) team, where Notre Dame was 9th at Nationals.

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19? 

I woke up March 15, which was a Sunday, wondering if CPAP/BiPAP machines could be ventilators. I started asking around that day at our company (Syneos Health) and reading medical papers. It turns out home CPAPs might be dangerous (the mask spews virus), but there are hospital-grade BiPAPs that are basically ventilators without all the bells and whistles. To keep these BiPAPs from being dangerous, they would need a standard endotracheal tube used with full-featured ventilators. The first critical-care pulmonologist I talked to at our company not only thought it could be done but said he had done it. This physician, Dr. Keith Robinson, said hospital-grade BiPAPs are common in hospitals and could be used. 

I began socializing the potential solution to other people in our company. Our leadership was receptive to a "full speed ahead" attack of the problem. The company paired Dr. Robinson and me with a retired brigadier general, Keith Gallagher. Together we researched the problem and found there was enough there to write it up and educate physicians. The rest of the company stepped up. Within a week, Dr. Robinson and I had written a white paper and recorded a podcast that would explain to physicians how to deliver invasive BiPAP to patients. 

The following week, our expanded team prepared a physician instructional video and physician algorithm brochure. We stood up the www.COVID-BiPAPinfo.com website, and started reaching out to physicians, hospitals, federal government, state government, and media. The education is available for free now. We continue our outreach on all fronts so healthcare providers can learn while there is still time about the additional ventilators capacity they already have in their hospitals.

How did Notre Dame influence your career path? 

I tell everyone who asks that Notre Dame's MBA was two things I, as a converted scientist, didn't expect: It was really hard and really interesting. It also had the nicest people I've met in my life. What I learned at Notre Dame were the details of being a business leader. Notre Dame trained me, and I am blessed professionally by the quality and depth of that training.

What message would you like to share with your Notre Dame family? 

Through small and simple things are great things brought to pass. It doesn't matter the scale of the problem before us. If we each do our part, "impossible" tasks can be accomplished, God willing.


Bill Wenzel ’89, is the founder of NorthCape, a manufacturer of patio furniture and cushions based in New Jersey and Illinois, which is now producing gowns and masks.


Bill Wenzel

What is your connection to Notre Dame? 

I am a 1989 graduate who lived in St. Ed’s. I am an honors graduate with a BBA in finance. My daughter, Caroline, is a member of the Notre Dame Law School class of 2022.

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19? 

On Friday, March 20, I was on a call with the leadership team of Cape Regional Hospital here in Cape May County, NJ, where I am a trustee. The hospital president asked us to share how desperate they were for masks and gowns. Before the meeting was over, I contacted Tom Murray, my business partner in NorthCape and described the problem. By that afternoon, we had a prototype. Our strategy has been to provide masks and gowns for free to Cape Regional and to other healthcare agencies at cost. These masks are intended for use by support staff and other hospital staff so that they can retain N95 masks for critical care.

Currently I am working with Steve Dempsey ’89, a cardiologist in Saratoga Springs, NY, to create a next wave of masks that are also reusable but will meet N95 fit standards. We hope to have these available soon.

How did Notre Dame influence your career path?  

My entire life has been served by my connection to Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a global community of like-minded people. In this time of crisis, we all need to think carefully about the ways we can make a difference large or small. I sell patio furniture normally. Now I make hospital equipment.


Daniel Wrapp ’15 is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin researching how the COVID-19 virus infects human cells. 


Daniel Wrapp
Wrapp (center), along with PhD advisor, Dr. Jason McLellan (left) and Dr. Nianshuang Wang, co-first author of the recent Science paper.

What is your connection to Notre Dame? 

I earned my bachelor of science in Biological Sciences from Notre Dame in 2015. I lived in St. Edward’s Hall for all four years and served as a resident assistant for Father Ralph Haag during my senior year. I’m the youngest of three children and my brother Michael ’10, ’14 J.D./M.B.A. and sister Melissa ’12 are also both Notre Dame alums.

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19?

Back in February, in collaboration with my lab here at the University of Texas at Austin and the National Institutes of Health, I helped to lead a group that used cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to determine the atomic-resolution structure of the “Spike" protein that the COVID-19 virus uses to attach to, and infect human cells. This work was published in the journal Science, and the protein that we determined the structure of has been used by the biotech company Moderna to generate a vaccine that is currently in Phase I clinical trials. Due to the pandemic, this work has garnered quite a bit of interest from the scientific community and we have shipped the reagents to produce this protein to over 100 labs (by our most recent estimate) around the world so that they can use this protein to generate diagnostic tests and perform critical research.

How did Notre Dame influence your career path?

When I arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman, I had a vague sense that I wanted to become a scientific researcher, but my desire to perform the kind of work that I’m engaged in now really came about as a result of learning in laboratory classes at ND and working as an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Dr. Shaun Lee.

What message would you like to share with your Notre Dame family?

I think that it’s really easy to feel despondent at a time like this, when many of us are forced to isolate ourselves and experience frightening disruptions to our normal lives. One thing that I’ve found useful to keep in mind is that even though we might be physically separated from our friends and loved ones, we are still a part of a tight-knit community and we are taking these seemingly drastic actions in an effort to help the most vulnerable members of our society.


Donald Zimmer, M.D. ’04 is an ER physician and the director of medical education at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana.


Donald Zimmer

What is your connection to Notre Dame? 

I graduated from the University in 2004 and was an Arts & Letters pre-professional and Program of Liberal Studies major and O’Neill Family Hall resident. I competed in one year of Bengal Bouts. PLS consumed the majority of my waking hours, and the International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP) in Honduras changed my life.

How is your work impacting the fight against COVID-19?

I am seeing patients with COVID-19 during my shifts on a daily basis and am resuscitating and caring for them to the best of our ability. We are seeing a broad spectrum of illness from mild to imminently life-threatening, and we are working tirelessly to protect our community and our staff. I am currently writing our airway management guidelines and doing a multidisciplinary simulation as we prepare for a wave of ill patients. I am also heading up our hospital’s education platform so that our providers are equipped with the most up to date information on best practices and new research on a daily basis.  

How did Notre Dame influence your career path?

Nothing I am currently doing would have been possible without my formation at Notre Dame. I studied the great books while I was doing pre-med coursework and had the privilege of getting to read Newton's writings while I took calculus, and Galileo's works while I took physics. The ability to articulate a clear point in seminar has evolved into the ability to give clear guidance to our providers and our team. I was taught to be able to look into the granular particularities of a subject and also look for larger patterns in the whole. A pandemic asks that we look at the spread of disease and patterns of infection, and macro formulations of preparedness, but in treating each individual patient you have to consider their particular illness, health history, social network, and background. Never has the ability to consider both the particular and the general been more important than in these uncertain times.

What message would you like to share with your Notre Dame family?

My message to ND would be this: Let us listen to the words so often spoken by Christ, "Be not afraid." This crisis will call for the best we have to offer, and believe me, sacrifices will be made, but we will get through this together, as one body, as we have been called to do — without fear.


Additional Domers Doing Good


Keri (Oxley) Brenner M.D., MPA ’04

Keri is a palliative care physician helping to care for those who are approaching the end of life with coronavirus. She is an amazing physician and I know that she is helping to bring comfort through doing all she can to uphold the utmost dignity of her patients and their families. 

Mark Flessner ’80 M.Div.

Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago. Mark is leading the team in government to keep Chicago safe.

Thomas Fraser, M.D. ’90 

Tom is a physician at the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Infectious Diseases, helping design the hospital’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

James H. Miller, M.D. ’09 

Provides Homeless Healthcare and Street Medicine

Natalie Rodden, M.D. ’08

Natalie is a palliative care physician serving and helping to bring dignified comfort and care to patients and their families in this pandemic. She works with dedication, grace and joy to honor and uphold the dignity of each person, provide comfort to the families, and to help support the staff.  

Shawn Scharf, ND parent

Shawn works as a manager at a senior independent living community and is fighting to keep the 134 elderly residents living there safe from the coronavirus and bring them happiness during these difficult times. 

Jessica (Bruno) Vetter ’09 

I am a pediatric emergency nurse at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital in New Haven, CT.  I recently became an assistant nurse manager in the pediatric emergency department, and I have the honor of working with an amazing team of nurses and healthcare providers every single day.