A Sister who supports those leaving prison, a woman who fundraises for young actresses’ education, a psychologist who aids the bisexual community, a family dedicated to families in Tijuana and a professor who advocates for fair compensation are all activists who made up this year’s Hidden Heroes — people who work tirelessly to address diverse social problems, yet often receive little to no recognition for their positive impacts.
To address this lack of recognition, the CSJ Center for Reconciliation and Justice (CSJ Center) organizes the annual Hidden Heroes event in conjunction with the College of Communication and Fine Arts (CFA) and the Department of Theatre Arts (DTA). This year’s Hidden Heroes presentation took place on Nov. 2, when the CSJ Center, CFA and DTA awarded seven different inspiring and powerful individuals with the title of Hidden Hero.
Hidden Heroes is an annual function aimed at recognizing LMU students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners who “unassumingly exemplify justice and reconciliation in their lives and their work,” according to the CSJ center. It gives those connected with LMU who are in silent pursuit of a better world a special day of recognition.
The unique part of the Hidden Heroes event is the manner in which nominees receive their awards. Prior to the event, recipients undergo an interview process, which is transcribed and converted into a short theatrical performance by writers. The scripts are then handed off to actors, and the work and lives of the heroes are brought to life on stage.
During the event, multiple actors dramatized the lives and works of each of the recipients. The performances allowed the audience to learn about the heroes and the changes they have accomplished—both at LMU and in the community at large—in an interesting and dynamic way.
MaryAnne Huepper, the associate director for the CSJ Center, said that the goal of the awards is to find and uncover “people who are working under the radar, that are not necessarily getting all the praise for what they’re doing.” The event allows important but underappreciated work to be showcased through theatrical recognition.
This year, seven different LMU affiliates received the award. Sister Teresa Groth, the executive director for The Francisco Homes, was awarded for the housing support she provides for those exiting prison.
Stacy Barnes, the senior director of development for LMU’s School of Film and Television, was recognized for her fundraising work that has helped finance entertainment education for several young women at LMU.
Mimi Hoang, a psychologist for Student Psychological Services, was named a Hidden Hero after years of clinical work and for co-founding multiple organizations that support the bisexual community, including the Los Angeles Bi Task Force and amBi.
Three members of the North Family—Chris (‘85), Julianne (‘88) and Katie (‘17),—who began LMU’s De Colores program, were chosen as recipients for their creation of Build a Miracle, a nonprofit organization that serves children, adults and families who live in Tijuana by providing housing, education and more.
Anna Harrison, an associate professor of theology at LMU, was recognized as a Hidden Hero for her push for fair compensation and her support for “the most vulnerable in our community,” according to the CSJ Center. Harrison believes that the Hidden Hero awards “provide an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful creativity in our midst,” and finds it “heartening” to be able to see how others are living out LMU’s mission.
“It felt good to know that more students might come to learn about the working conditions of too many their faculty—precarious, underpaid, disregarded—and ask what this means for our shared commitment,” she said.
According to Judith Royer, the director of the CSJ Center, Hidden Heroes is one of the best events she helps to coordinate for her job. “One of the greatest joys I have as the director for the Center of Reconciliation and Justice is [that] around April, I make calls to five people to say, ‘You have been nominated and the selection committee has selected you as one of our... Hidden Heroes,’” she said. “It is a great, great joy for me to make those calls. It’s the easiest, most fun thing I do all year.”