Anthony “Tony” Brenneke
The Helias Foundation would like to shine our Alumni Spotlight on one of the newest members of the Helias Foundation Board of Directors, Anthony “Tony” Brenneke. Tony graduated from Helias in 1998, as did his wife Elisa (Rackers). The Brennekes currently reside in St. Martins, and have two children, Nick (14) and Katie (11), both of whom attended St. Joseph Cathedral School. St. Joseph Cathedral serves as the Brennekes home parish.
Tony works at State Technical College of Missouri as an instructor in the Physical Therapist Assistant program. He is responsible for teaching medical terminology, advanced anatomy, kinesiology, therapeutic exercise, orthopedics, and research in physical therapy courses. He is currently working to start a pro-bono student physical therapist assistant clinic on campus called “Eagle Therapy.”
After graduating from Helias, he attended the University of Missouri where he earned his Bachelors in Health Science, a Masters in Physical Therapy, and certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist.
Tony is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and serves as the Central District Chair for APTA Missouri. He’s also a member of the Knights of Columbus – Fr. Helias Council #1054. Whenever possible, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and golf. “Basically, I enjoy being active however I can,” noted Brenneke. “Our family loves to travel and we are trying to get to all 50 states before the kids graduate from high school. We recently went snow skiing for the first time and I’m hooked for life.”
Q & A
What are some of your fondest memories of your time at Helias?
TB: Being on the mat in the Hearnes Center after we won the wrestling State Championship. I can say without a doubt it was one of most challenging accomplishments of my life up to that point, and still is one of the most rewarding things I have done. Our football team was no slouch either with undefeated regular seasons my junior and senior years. We had quite a few games with second half-continuous clocks! Off the field, some of my favorite memories are being able to eat like a king at lunch for no more than $3, Fr. Doyle’s racquetball lessons that always stung a bit, design and drafting class, homecoming parades, and Coach Blanton’s art class where I met my wife!
What impact did Helias and/or your teachers/coaches/etc. make on you?
TB: I was a kid who was relatively quiet and shy and honestly didn’t have much self-confidence. My time at Helias challenged me and my successes helped me develop into the person I am today. My coaches and teachers Mike Jeffries, Chris Hentges, Ray Hentges, Dan Campbell, Joe Schaefer, Brad Hake, Ron Eickmeyer, Fr. Doyle, and Jackie Crider all had a part in this.
How do you feel Helias personally prepared you academically and/or socially for your future (school, career, etc.)?
TB: The science and math courses especially prepared me for the rigor of college at MU and in the Physical Therapy Program. The elevated grading scale that I was accustomed to at Helias was the same in MU’s PT program.
Proudest Helias moment for you personally?
TB: This ties back to my fondest memory of being a part of the wrestling team. Every time I go into the Rackers Fieldhouse, I look up at that banner with fond memories and pride.
What does “Helias Community” mean to you?
TB: All Helias graduates are a part of a larger family started by Fr. Helias many years ago. This “family” is the fruit of his labor and is our Helias community. Not only does it include all of the Helias graduates, but also includes all of the parishioners at all of the local parishes started by Fr. Helias in our diocese. This community of believers is doing their best to live their lives as God has called them to as faithful Catholics.
Why do you think “giving back,” either financially or otherwise, is so important when it comes to being a part of the Helias community?
TB: I tell my students at State Tech “anything worth having, doesn’t come free.” Helias would not be here as we all know it today without the generations before “giving back” with their time, talent, or treasure. The education received at Helias in academics, faith, fellowship, and life are priceless and you should give back how you are able to keep it viable for future generations of the Helias Community.
What was your motivation for joining the Foundation board?
TB: As a college instructor I often see the profound difference in preparation and study habits between Helias graduates and other high school graduates. It is truly remarkable. Students who I get the opportunity to teach at State Tech who are Helias graduates are more prepared academically and better able to adapt and adjust to study at the level necessary to be successful. When I realized this, I knew I had to find a way I could volunteer to help.
Tell me a Crusader – family, friend, former teacher/classmate, someone in the Helias community, etc.; can be anyone – who inspires you and why.
TB: The late Dan Vanderfeltz. Dan was married to my wife’s aunt, Joan (Rackers) Vanderfeltz, and I had the opportunity to know Dan for close to 25 years. The Helias community was a big part of his life and he never hesitated when called upon to help. My desire to be more active stems from trying to remember him and emulate his actions.
What makes you proud to say you’re a Crusader?
TB: I’m proud of the growth and accomplishments Helias has made in recent years. I’m not speaking only in terms of facilities (this is tremendous enough), but also in courses (AP and Dual Credit options) and sport/activity choices available for the students. Our alumni support towards the future of Helias is incredible.
Words to live by?
TB: “Leave the world in a better place than when you found it.” I am constantly trying to better myself so that I can help better my family and others in my community. This something I strive to do both professionally with my patients and students as well as personally. The process of continuous improvement is tenement to making our community and the world a better place. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change or something done all at once. It is a steady process, and if done over a lifetime, the impact will be unmistakable.
Do you know a graduate of Helias who deserves to be featured in an upcoming Alumni Spotlight? It doesn’t matter whether they still live here in this community, or if they’re doing big things somewhere far away. If we can reach them, we’d love to feature them. Please feel free to send us a name, contact information, and a brief description of why you feel they deserve to be recognized to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (573) 635-3808. We want everyone to know what our Crusaders are doing, regardless of when they graduated or where they live. If they’re an example to you, they can be an example to many, and we’d love to tell their story!
To nominate someone for the Alumni Spotlight, email email@example.com.