This month’s honorees are Veronique DiVoire, Martin Kardos, Steve O’Loughlin, T. Christopher Peoples and Olivia Soule.
Veronique DiVoire grew up in France and traveled the world with her family, helping others as a way of life. After completing a bachelor’s degree in business administration in Lyon, and eager for a new experience, DiVoire came to the United States, where she began pursuit of an MBA at UMSL in August 1992.
“My resilience was immediately tested on multiple fronts, from the way the classes were taught and classmates who had far more professional experience than me, to navigating a new culture while being away from home for the first time,” she said. “What kept me going was the professors, who couldn’t have been more supportive, approachable, and helpful.”
After earning her MBA, DiVoire returned to France to start a career in human resources. She then relocated to London with her husband, an UMSL physiological optics and vision science graduate, and began working with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity. During the next 15 years, she served the organization in various HR roles supporting efforts to rebuild the lives of some of the UK’s most vulnerable people.
DiVoire went on to serve as head of human resources for the UK office of a global INGO, fulfilling her dream to work in the international development sector while serving as a voice for the voiceless, this time from around the world. It is a passion that would soon become personal for DiVoire.
“In August 2021, I began hearing first-hand accounts about the terrible events unfolding in Afghanistan when Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban,” DiVoire said. “Next thing I know, I’m helping an Afghan family, who were evacuated to the UK, when they arrived in London and today they are like family as I continue to walk with them on their journey to a better life.”
The experience motivated DiVoire to pursue her current role as head of human resources with Freedom from Torture, a human rights organization providing psychological therapy to help asylum seekers and refugees who have survived torture recover and rebuild their lives in the UK.
Throughout the course of her life journey, she has always held close UMSL’s commitment to transform lives.
“I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason, and when I came to UMSL it was meant to be,” DiVoire said. “The university has been at the very heart of my passion for transforming lives in whatever small ways possible.”
From the tennis court to the business office, Martin Kardos has built a life that echoes the famous words of tennis legend Arthur Ashe. When it comes to his collegiate journey, Martin started with a tennis racket in hand, using his courtside prowess to earn a scholarship to UMSL and the chance to play for Coach Rick Gyllenborg for two years. Kardos, a native of Slovakia who spent two years at Kilgore College before transferring to UMSL, helped the team earn its first-ever NCAA tournament bid in 2002 and a return trip to post season play the following year. He was also selected to the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference team both years.
“The team camaraderie drove our success and was something special,” Kardos said. “After 20 years, my former teammates and I still stay in touch.”
When he wasn’t holding serve on the tennis court, Kardos was busy pursuing international business studies in the College of Business Administration and interdisciplinary work in the Pierre Laclede Honors College. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 2003, Kardos worked in the College of Business Administration while pursuing an MBA, graduating summa cum laude in 2005.
“I owe so much to Dave Ganz, who truly represents the values of UMSL, for setting up my career path,” Kardos said. “His kindness and deep interest in helping students continues to inspire my own interactions with others.”
After earning his MBA, Kardos returned to UMSL at the university’s invitation for a mentorship program organized by the St. Louis Regional Business Council. Through this experience he connected with CSI Leasing, a global computer leasing company. Kardos began at CSI Leasing as an international business associate and has since risen to serve as managing director for central and eastern Europe, where he currently oversees all aspects of the region’s operations and performance.
From center court and the classroom to a position of corporate leadership, Kardos has made the most of his opportunities in life.
Most everyone who lives in St. Louis has likely had a hospitality experience made possible by Steve O’Loughlin. From restaurants such as 360 STL, The Pitch or Basso to attractions such as the St. Louis Aquarium or the St. Louis Wheel, O’Loughlin is the industry expert behind them all through his leadership roles with Lodging Hospitality Management. He began in 1997 as regional director of operations and rose to president and chief operating officer in 2008.
His hospitality career traces back to high school, working at Stouffer’s Hotel in 1984. Throughout high school and during his studies at UMSL, O’Loughlin experienced all facets of the hospitality business, including maintenance, front desk work, reservations, banquets, kitchen, accounting and night audit. His work and education juggling act were ultimately worth the effort thanks to the depth of his UMSL experience.
“What I found so impressive about UMSL was the quality of the teachers and the personal attention I received,” O’Loughlin said. “The campus was also very walkable and easy to navigate, an added bonus for a guy who had little time to spare between the classroom and the hotel.”
After graduating from UMSL, he moved to Detroit to become sales manager at the Novi Hilton, returning to St. Louis in 1990 to join the Marriott Pavilion Hotel before joining Lodging Hospitality Management. O’Loughlin has been recognized for excellence throughout his hospitality career, receiving the Marriott Living the Vision Award twice and Marriott Sales Manager of the Quarter for the Midwest Region.
O’Loughlin, who lives in Webster Groves with his wife and two children, is heavily involved in the community, chairing the Explore St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. He is also on the boards of Boy Scouts of America, Magic House, Mercy Hospital, the St. Louis Area Hotel Association and Hilton Owner Advisory Council.
T. Christopher Peoples is a St. Louis place-maker who is putting his compassionate nature to work to help other people thrive. Peoples, who is the first-ever equity and economic impact director for Great Rivers Greenway, is currently implementing economic development strategies such as workforce training, affordable housing and community development for the agency’s Brickline Greenway, a planned $245 million new trail system connecting St. Louis, including the north part of the city where he grew up, through a network of paths and places emphasizing discovery, exploration and economic inclusion.
“I chose UMSL because it was the best fit for me as a non-traditional student,” Peoples said. “The warmth and support of the joint engineering program staff, including Dr. (Bernard) Feldman, was instrumental in keeping me on track.”
Before joining Green Rivers Greenway in 2021, Peoples spent the early years of his career working full-time at Pitzman’s Company Land Surveyors and Engineers while attending UMSL. Within two years of his 2008 graduation from the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program, Peoples purchased a majority stake in the firm and became president and CEO. Looking back on his meteoric rise in urban development and real estate management, Peoples is grateful to UMSL for nurturing his initial interest in engineering.
Olivia Soule is passionate about health and development issues at home and around the world. She is also fascinated in languages, most notably French. The St. Louis native is acutely interested in the public health challenges facing the people of Senegal, the former French colony where French remains the official language. She first traveled to the capital city of Dakar in 2017 as part of a 10-week study abroad program that she would extend to more than a year through a subsequent internship, taking a year off from her pre-med and French studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.
“By the fourth week of the program I was really enjoying myself,” Soule told UMSL Daily in a 2019 interview. “Ten weeks wasn’t enough because I just really felt comfortable in Dakar and wanted to learn more.”
The experience, which was her first introduction to public health, prompted Olivia to rethink her academic pursuits. After returning to the United States, she transferred from Lawrence to UMSL to pursue a degree in sociology.
“Through my internship, I became more interested in working in a field where I could make a difference on a macro level rather than focusing on individual patients,” Soule said.
While Soule liked the idea of saving money by living at home while attending UMSL, she wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of attending a larger public university. That initial worry, however, quickly disappeared as she settled in.
“I’ve gotten so much help here,” Soule told UMSL Daily in 2019. “I am close with the entire sociology department, as well as my French professors.”
She credited that deep connection for helping her win a $20,000 Boren Scholarship, allowing her to return to Senegal in 2019 to study the Wolof language and research public health issues in Dakar. After wrapping up her undergraduate degree in sociology at UMSL, and a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Soule served in project and management roles with several international organizations before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a management and program analyst in September 2023.