Aug. 28, 2001
Good morning! Welcome! I always wish that you could see from my vantage point and experience the adrenaline rush that comes with seeing pure power and potential sitting right in front of me, as we assemble for another academic year. And what a year it promises to be! I have news to celebrate; challenges to set before you; invitations to extend; plans to share.
Looking back at the always generous unfolding of talent, commitment and wisdom by so many during the past year, I pray in awe and thanksgiving for our very good fortune that you have cast your lot here.
Summer is sadly over but an autumn adventure awaits! So, as we begin again, let us take a moment to greet each other. I invite you, until you hear the music again, to stand up now, greet your friends, make eye contact with someone you do not know, welcome a newcomer.
Some weeks ago I had the only occasionally granted grace of a few days of retreat with a trusted adviser in Michigan. During those days I saw with exceptional clarity how very fortunate I am to serve as your leader. I gave long and grateful time to recalling where we began three years ago and where we find ourselves today; to the treasure and tradition that was entrusted to me, and the wonderful efforts we have made together to care for it, help it grow and develop, and safeguard it for those who will come after us.
Each year on this day we take time to think about the place from which we have come; where we are; and about our vision of the future, a vision that injects purpose and direction into our work. We do that when the faculty return each August because their return always infuses new energy into these waning days of summer. Something new is about to happen. This is the time when academics and parents join the annual parade to Target, Penny’s or Office Max to collect the requisite supply of new socks, underwear and school shoes; notebooks, crayons, pens, binders and — somber Palm Pilots notwithstanding — a vast array of brightly colored objects designed to keep us on track, on time and on task.
I was sorely disappointed the other evening when I suggested to my son that we go on our annual jaunt to secure the necessary array of new supplies. “I don’t need them,” he said, turning his head back to “instant messaging” about six female friends. “My shoes are still good,” he said, typing away in IM shorthand. “I like them, I’ve got paper and pens left over from last year. I’m a junior, mom — we don’t need crayons and CDH gives us a planner.”
I sat down, deflated, until he said, “Well, there is one thing I need for school.” I perked up for a second; until I heard him say, “a car.”
Disappointment aside (I will probably buy him new supplies anyway!), it is that time; all seems new, fresh, expectant. Kind of like Chinese or Jewish New Year — clearly sacred time, but understandable only to insiders.
To tie together and ground my remarks, I chose music from ABBA. I am not entirely sure why. You know I believe very much in the power of art to compel. It allows us to get at truth; be drawn in; tackle the difficult more easily and less confrontationally. It also helps us to celebrate, remember work well done and draw the community together. ABBA’s music has great energy, great rhythm, great melody — my teenage son loves it, college students love it, I love it, Sister Elizabeth — some years older than I — loves it, too. It is enduringly contemporary, fresh, positive, and women sing the lyrics.
Mostly, though, I chose it because I want to continue our exploration of my inaugural theme — “moving to music not yet written” as metaphor for our work just completed and just ahead. Last year, we thought a lot about grounding rhythms and polyrhythms — those enduring backdrops for the path we undertook with the articulation of our vision. This past year, we have moved forward; indeed, we have been creating melody to move over and around the polyrhythmic backbeat; music of great beauty and promise, intricate in detail, distinguished and memorable in form and content. We have been — always — moving and we are writing the music. I want to share a little of that with you. So let’s begin where we always must — with the vision.
The prophet Habbakuk tells us, “Write the vision down. Inscribe it on tablets so that people will remember and act.” We have done that. Our vision, “to be the world’s preeminent Catholic college educating women to lead and influence,” increasingly inspires our work, pushing us ever closer toward its attainment. It is a vision that compels; one that provides energy and direction. Employing last year’s metaphor, I think of the vision as part of the rhythmic backbeat that sets our feet on terra firma, and helps us to choose from among the vast array of work that we could do, that which we will do and must do.
While a few thought our vision too lofty or unattainable, it has indeed imbedded itself into our consciousness and done what Habbakuk was thinking about; that is, it has spawned action. A lot of it.
During that week in late March when Jean Stapleton uttered those wonderful words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Idealist vision is not an error of judgment, but a beginning,” I could not help but think, night after night, as I sat in the President’s Box in The O’Shaughnessy, entertaining various groups of guests: “No, our vision is absolutely not an error in judgment. It is a true beginning.” And begun, we have!
The college’s mission is tied closely to the vision, but it is not the same as the vision. Every college, in order to be accredited — but more importantly, in order to exist with integrity — must have a fundamental statement of mission. If the mission cannot embrace every single thing that we do, it must point toward that which we must do, that which no one else can do as we can, that which defines our essence.
So we have had a mission for nearly one hundred years. Sometimes the mission of a college alters radically for one reason or another; but not often, and usually to the institution’s detriment. And it is one of the defining strengths of a college when its threads of mission connect a long history of practice and innovation — changing shape and form to speak to a new time, still fully consistent with the values and ideas of the founders. So has been the case here, so remarkably consistent has our mission been with the idea and the dream of the founding CSJ women. In the end, a statement of mission should clarify the outer edges of an institution’s identity, speak to who we are, our unique niche, our defining characteristics. It is the philosophical underpinning against which we measure all that we do.
Part of the work necessary to prepare for our ten-year accreditation visit in 2003 includes review and rearticulation of the mission. Toward that end, a group of 24 faculty, staff, administrators, CSJs and trustees met for a full day of reflection and process directed toward articulation of a mission statement, one that states simply and powerfully the deepest reason for which the college exists at all. The process was powerful and the result, in the collective view of the team of 24, equally powerful. Consensus around language and essential elements, built through an iterative process employing groups of various sizes and perspectives over the entire day, resulted in a statement of mission, enthusiastically supported by everyone in the room.
When you see and hear it in a minute, some may believe it to be too narrow or restrictive, or exclusionary. The writers believe it to be strong and unambiguous. Before you cement your own opinion, I urge you to think deeply about whether this statement does articulate the core purpose of the college, and realize that a set of derivative college purposes — that allow us to explain more fully the scope and range of our programs and educational philosophy — immediately follow the statement of mission in the self-study and other important college documents.
The most obviously controversial element of our proposed statement is its unambiguous focus on the education of women. This focus does not describe all that we do — but it does describe the central focus of our work. It outlines the work we must do, what marks the College of St. Catherine as unique, and, even in programs that reach larger audiences, it suggests a way of thinking and being that pervades all, informs all. Some colleges have a broader mission, within which a small women’s college might exist. Their missions are different than ours. Our mission holds the education of women at the very center. Absent that focus, I simply do not believe we can make a compelling case to continue the vast investment of resources and energy necessary to sustain a vibrant institution like St. Catherine’s.
Today you will have an opportunity to think about our proposed statement of mission as the drafters have drafted it, to comment and to help shape the form in which we will present it to the Board of Trustees for affirmation at its October meeting.
So what is our proposed statement of mission? I have asked Tone Blechert and Thelma Obah to share it now with you in a reflective form utilizing word, image and music, to encourage your deep thinking on its message. Cindy Krey prepared the visuals for you.
[mission statement visual]
Thank you, Tone, Thelma and Cindy. Thank you as well to the 24 people whose thoughtful work produced our proposed statement of mission. As you leave today, you will receive a personal copy of the proposed mission statement language, some directions about the process for the break out-groups today and the names of the drafting team. Your input will be very valuable. So I urge you to attend one of the group sessions that will follow this address and to share your response, your thoughts and your q
uestions. We will provide an electronic means for you to comment, as well.
Today, instead of preceding or following my remarks with our customary ritual of beginning, I again want to imbed our prayer right within what I have to say. That is because, truly, our words, our work, our coming together are all holy, all sacred. Our reflection today will center on four themes that command our attention: curriculum, construction, the campaign and community. Preceding my comments on each theme, each reflection will be punctuated visually by the kaleidoscope — which has become part of the visual imagery that guides our work — and aurally by a true polyrhythmic piece of music. Polyrhythms are what we are about. Our common work is simply not as easy as beating in two or four. Things are much more complex, interesting, exciting. Polyrhythms allow the interplay of many voices, all individual, but working together within a structure of meaning and purpose. Polyrhythms escape the capacity of most to describe them in words. They seem hopelessly chaotic if you try too hard to count.
Interestingly, the best way to keep time is to develop a rhythm of your own and allow yourself to move or sing or play with the whole. The ideal is to fit one’s personal rhythm seamlessly into the experience of the whole. As for viewing the kaleidoscopes, imagine yourself as a single cell of color and observe yourself move, transform, relate to other colors and shapes within a constantly changing whole.
So … mindful of energy as a wonderful image of the spirit hovering everywhere around us, mindful of the complex rhythms of our work, our relationships, our new initiatives, our imaginings, and mindful of the melodies we are composing against those complex rhythms, let us become conscious of the rhythm of our own breath for a few moments. Then, as you reflect on the questions, guided by the visual and the sound, ponder our individual and collective power and our possibility, look toward what transcends our capability to imagine, and hope actively for that which we seek.
Our work is holy. Action and effort directed toward mission are sacred. So — from whatever place on the earth and place of the heart you come, after what seems a “blink of the eye summer,” welcome home. Our work begins anew.
Let us pray first, by reflecting on the deep questions imbedded in the first of our four themes — the curriculum.
Viewed in the aggregate as it must be, our curriculum is robust and responsive; thoughtful and imaginative; at the forefront of thought in education, in the human and social services, health care, segments of business and the liberal arts. We are not perfect but we are pretty great. Our curriculum, taken as a whole, with its experiences both in and outside of the classroom, is testimony to our outstanding faculty, to their singlehearted focus on student learning, and to the commitment of the student affairs staff to be the faculty’s partners in learning; as it is testimony to the leaders of the faculty and student affairs staff, whose joint vision has created an enviably strong relationship between the elements of our total classroom and co-curriculum.
I am proud of our curriculum and the programs within it. I am proud of our excellent teaching, I am proud of faculty engagement with students in research. I am proud of the cutting-edge initiatives undertaken by faculty and student affairs staff in shaping an expansive curriculum that addresses all our educational goals for students. I am proud of unswerving commitment to high tiers of excellence.
Along with The Reflective Woman and Global Search for Justice, our new interdisciplinary Centers of Excellence — Women and Health; Women and Spirituality; Women, Science and Technology; and Women, Economic Justice and Public Policy — are primary vehicles through which we engage students in rigorous education to transform them personally and prepare them for lives of leadership and commitment. I salute you in your effort and your achievements thus far.
Even as we embrace laudable and expansive curricular goals, we must come to grips with the fact that we cannot do all for all. We know that during the strategic planning process, we chose some areas of focus and then pretty much succumbed to predictable outcries of being left out or abandoned — aside from decisions to seek funding for chairs in nursing, biology and education. Our work here is not finished. The cabinet is undertaking a “midpoint” review of the strategic plan this year and I have charged Vice President of Academic Affairs, Mary Margaret Smith, with leading an effort to examine our curriculum to determine whether we have the optimum mix of programs and curricular options; whether our resources are deployed in the most effective way; and which programs embody the most potential, were we to infuse new resources in them; as well as where faculty interest and energy lies ready.
Looking ahead, the faculty, along with student affairs personnel, face increasing challenges as more and increasingly diverse students come to college with a paralyzing array of backgrounds, needs, learning styles and aptitudes. Deciding how to deploy available resources to support academic and student development will challenge us because of the magnitude of need and the constraints of limited resources.
The faculty must work closely with the admissions teams to examine curricula in light of market demands, to assist those who develop marketing strategies to understand our programs, and to adapt pedagogy, content and transfer credit policy appropriately in light of compelling external realities — while remaining steadfast in our commitment to academic integrity and excellence. For example, to maintain any kind of competitive advantage in the transfer market, we must streamline the time it takes to review and assess a transfer student’s transcript. Most colleges have guidelines that allow it to be done on the spot, with appropriate allowances for admissions staff to make decisions in unclear cases, decisions with which the faculty will abide. We have a great new transfer coordinator, and I expect that we will open dialogue on some of these issues this year.
Finally, I am aware that many of you are both interested in and concerned about the recent and highly publicized decision of the U.S. bishops about the mandatum which will be required of all Roman Catholics teaching Catholic theology at St. Catherine’s. I am concerned as well, but I am not unduly worried. Time does not permit a full discussion today but I can tell you that the Archbishop has just contacted me about meeting with our theologians.
Although I just felt about half the oxygen in the room being collectively sucked into your lungs, I regard this as a good sign. I have already been in dialogue with our theologians and Mary Margaret and I will meet with them again before we meet with the Archbishop. So that all faculty can know what is happening, I expect — with the concurrence of our theologians — to convene a meeting early in the academic year to discuss the facts about the mandatum, including the points of ambiguity and worry. I continue to believe that most bishops — including ours — are reasonable and thoughtful people; and I again reiterate my personal pledge to maintain our institutional integrity, to recognize that St. Catherine’s is a Catholic college, to vigorously protect our faculty’s right to teach and publish, and to require faculty to separate personal advocacy for any single position in a college classroom from their clear responsibility to engage students in study and analysis of the range of opinions on serious moral issues evident within a pluralistic society.
We have wonderfully thoughtful theologians. They are in communication with their colleagues around the country, as am I. I expect our process here to mirror the one occurring at almost every Catholic college in the country; one that is respectful, thoughtful and committed to dialogue.
I want to thank the deans and faculty, and your colleagues on the staff, for your many efforts to forge partnerships, seek funds, engage students in meaningful research and encourage student initiative, all the while pursuing your own wonderfully diverse scholarly interests. You are wonderful and I am proud to be your president. Finally, I want to applaud and thank Sharon Doherty and the Steering Committee for the Centers of Excellence for a great year of inaugural projects, for heeding my advice given last year to revel in the vision and give your attention to the present moment. You have done great work.
Goethe said, “Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.”
Thank you for believing that and acting upon it.
Let’s move forward by returning again to the same pattern of reflection on the second of our themes — construction — and focus now on the relationship between space and vision, on the ways in which space enables work, reinforces it, encourages it, and on the ways it may and should change and evolve over time.
More than once you have heard my favorite quote from the Mapmaker’s Dream: “Render your world in the form you hope it might one day attain.” A lot of people have been doing just that all year.
We are far along in our construction planning process and in just a minute I will take you on a whirlwind virtual tour of the new Student Center/Learning Commons complex. Before that, I want to acknowledge the exceptional leadership of Mary DesRoches, and the work of the Task Forces on the Student Center and Learning Commons, the newly constituted Construction Advisory Team,
and the Plant and Technology Committee of the Board and the Cabinet, who worked along with the architects, Shepley Bulfinch, Hammell Green and the builders Opus and McGough under the wise, incisive but friendly tutelage of our owner’s representative, Linda McCracken Hunt. We are poised at the brink. The Board has approved the broad concepts and timelines for construction, as well as the macro budget parameters. Financing plans are well underway.
Most importantly, the new facilities will add beauty and great value to a St. Catherine’s education, even as the very space undergirds what we know and believe so passionately about the education of women. There is a fundamental logic in the way I have ordered my remarks today. Within the light of the vision and mission, the curriculum is primary — but the space we envision and for which we have so diligently planned enables the curriculum, embodies its core beliefs within its very structure and layout, speaks to what we know in the education of women to be unique and defining — flexibility, encouraging collaboration; openness, full of light and possibility; a minimum of walls and barriers.
The crossroads of the new complex will allow the intellectual focus of the library to meet and connect with the Student Center’s social focus and the spiritual focus of the chapel. This crossroads — connection if you will — embodies the very soul of our new space. Here, learning itself becomes clearly of the mind and of the heart and of the soul. The stones will surely speak that message. We will have other times this fall when you can learn more detail about the new facilities and the planned renovations of other academic facilities at the college, but let’s take a look at the plans, remembering that these plans are fluid and undergoing revision and refinement even now.
[visuals of site plan]
We are looking at the complex from the quad looking south toward the existing St. Joseph Hall. On the left side of the screen is the fully-renovated St. Joseph Hall and to the right is a side view of the new addition, which will feature a magnificent curved glass vista facing west toward the Dew Drop.
Entering from the quad onto the main floor, we step into a splendid atrium full of glass and light, open to view on all four floors, fully open on three of them. To the left are welcoming information desks and kiosks with easily attainable information about the building and its services. To the right is the true soul of the entire complex. Toward the top of the screen are the spaces for the Centers of Excellence, where faculty from all disciplines, staff, students and community partners mix and remix in groups of interdisciplinary teams focused on issues, problems, research, and learning in the four centers for women and health, economic justice and public policy, science and technology, and spirituality.
Right across the open corridor, multicultural education, the social justice aspects of Campus Ministry, and the Office of Community Work and Learning will offer critical curricular and co-curricular enhancement to the work of the centers. Indeed, multicultural themes, service learning and social justice work will thread themselves easily through all the Centers of Excellence work.
Staff, administrators, faculty and students step easily into the westernmost section of this floor — to your far right on the screen — into an inviting coffee shop to just relax together in comfortable space, or talk through new ideas and projects. If it is a nice day, you might choose to move outside onto the new curved terrace looking out over the Dew Drop. A link provides easy access to the chapel from this main floor of the complex for those who seek quiet space for reflection; or access to the offices and services in Derham Hall. More than anywhere else, these spaces I have described occupy central places of honor; they invite and encourage the learning paradigm we prize so highly at St. Catherine’s, with its watchwords of collaboration, openness, integration and interdisciplinary thinking. This will be where the heart of St. Catherine’s beats most resonantly.
Moving back across the atrium on this same floor, we pass the information desks again and enter the spaces dedicated to the student development experience — services for multicultural and international students, offices for student life personnel, and an array of work and meeting space for dozens of student organizations and clubs. The Wheel, CAGB, WEC, REAP and graduate student groups all have a home here, each with access to common work and meeting space. Further down the hall in the former East Marian Lounge is the spacious new bookstore from which Julie Balamut and crew will conduct business, and an adjacent convenience store. Finally, student mailboxes are conveniently housed on this floor as well.
Back to the atrium and downstairs one floor by stairs or elevator, we enter the new media and periodicals section of the library (under the coffee shop and Centers of Excellence we just left, if you need a point of reference). The renovated reading and stack areas to the south (renovation of the current library) will house offices for the Library Science and high-tech classrooms, as well as a host of group and individual study areas to accommodate various forms and preferences in student learning.
Back to the atrium and across the way, into the area where the current student dining room is housed, will be an expanded and greatly improved modern dining area with an inviting array of food offerings and a new outside terrace dining area to the south. Adjacent to the dining room we find what student affairs folks call the “Night and Day Club,” featuring a raised stage to accommodate daytime programming and evening “coffee/night club” type social activities. A substantially renovated kitchen will provide service for all these very important functions that involve food. Back to the atrium and down, we find the new O’Neill Center in the curved part of the building two floors down from the coffee shop, but with natural light access due to significant external excavation. More classrooms, group study areas and meeting rooms open into the compact stacks of the library, as well as to suites of library offices and an expanded section housing archives, rare books and special art collections.
Again using the atrium as the reference point, let’s take the elevator up to the third floor, where the glass atrium opens onto a wonderful multipurpose ballroom with vaulted ceilings and a splendid view westward. This spacious area will seat nearly 600 people, and will feature the capacity for flexible use, including subdivisions of some parts into smaller meeting areas — an elegant wedding reception, a weekend continuing education conference, a student dance, alumnae reunion and a college-wide meeting might all find a home here.
Down the hall are two more high-tech classrooms and four significant meeting spaces, each open to flexible arrangements. Further down toward Fontbonne is the new faculty/staff lounge, adjacent to the special dining room that will now overlook the quad and feature the possible expansion to include the faculty lounge, as an example, for an evening event that features a reception then dinner for guests of the college. An elongated, meandering general lounge space, some 20 feet wide and spanning the length of the current St. Joseph Hall on three different floors will feature intimate and flexible seating areas to encourage students — commuter and resident, graduate and undergraduate — to sit, work, talk and enjoy.
Up yet another floor, residence life and career development suites features staff offices, meeting spaces and again, access to a wide-open lounge with great view of the quad. On this floor as well, space for the Antonian Scholars program, an area dedicated to student parents and their children with lounges and play areas, a TV relaxation and game area, lactation room and meeting and office space for Access and Success complete the floor.
Exiting the building from the main level onto the quad and turning to walk under the connection to the chapel — in much the same way as we do between Derham Hall and the chapel — it is hard not to stop and think, as the pioneers must once have as they gazed westward, “we are about to embark into very new space, full of promise and possibility.” It is really quite splendid, don’t you think?
Work has already begun, as you can tell by the torn-up lawn, and it will begin in earnest soon after we close St. Joseph Hall as we know it on September 5. I invite and encourage your attendance at that important event as the work to bring about what I have described begins in earnest very soon.
Expect frequent communication about what is happening as we move forward. Not to thrust you too roughly back into our present moment, but taking a look at our deferred maintenance needs can be pretty dismaying, as you well know. The bad news is they are significant — the good news is they are not as bad as we had originally thought. As I have said before, my goal is that when my time is finished here, I will turn these facilities over to my successor with the buildings in substantially better condition than they have been at any time in the past three decades — free of most or all accumulated deferred structural maintenance.
Working from the plan developed a few years ago, we have this year made further inroads, to the great credit of Mary DesRoches and Bob Nygren and his staff. The financing plan for the new facilities also includes some $2.4 million to address additional needed improvements in Whitby and Mendel Halls. As you know, during this pre-construction phase, we have made substantial investments in Fontbonne, Butler and Derham Hall to house displaced departments and creat
e permanent homes for others.
All of this costs money — a lot of it. We turn our reflection now to the campaign, where we can rejoice that we have already raised over half of its projected $80 million goal. Before I say a few words about the campaign, I invite you to reflect again on your individual role, your partnership with others, your willingness to enter in as we return to our ever-changing kaleidoscope visuals and its accompanying polyrhythmic sound.
We are on the brink of publicly launching the largest fund-raising campaign in the college’s history — by far the largest. We have more than $43 million in hand — aside from annual giving. So what’s next and what’s your role?
Campbell & Company consultant Suzanne Mink has provided expert assistance to an energetic, creative and very motivated development staff, ably led by St. Catherine’s chief cheerleader, VP Pat Hvidston. Suzy Mink, Pat, the development team, the trustees, alumnae leaders and many others are excited about the college and about our prospects. They are at the gate and ready to go. For the past year we have tilled the ground, cultivating new and old friends of the college and encouraging their participation.
On November 18, we will publicly announce the campaign, with well over half of the goal already attained. That public announcement will include many of you. It is designed to be a kind of elegant pep rally, so that staff and volunteers can hit the ground running for the work ahead.
In anticipation of that announcement, we are designing materials to make our case and capture the imagination, interest and investment of our friends, both old and new. Part of this work, undertaken by the communications staff and consultants, are the kind of splashy print and video materials we need to share here and across the country with potential supporters.
An important element of this work during the last year has been acting upon the strong recommendation of our professional advisers that we standardize what has really been a hodgepodge of graphic identity. We have many graphic identities, perhaps reflective to some degree of our own confusion about our identity. Developing a logo, a mark which will come to be the way the college is known externally — to develop design themes and templates and color palettes that help to shape this identity — is hard, hard work. I can tell you that we have labored intensely over it, and we have a result, a beautiful one, to share with you today. It is the work of many minds and ideas, shaped by alumna and graphic designer Jane Tilka in collaboration with our own staff.
You will soon see the mark appear in more and more places — wherever possible it will replace the existing panoply of marks — on business cards, stationery, signs, clothing. The mark includes elements of the wheel, the chapel rose window, the “C” of Catherine — all imagined as defining visual symbols of the college. The mark embodies movement; it suggests interaction and collaboration; it is both feminine and strong. It is blue, a color chosen by the designers for its simultaneous expression of strength, calm and vitality. On stationery and business cards, the mark will appear on ivory paper. In other print materials, a full color palette centering on the blue and accented by green, orange and a muted gray neutral suggest both stability and vibrancy. You have already seen the color palette expressed in the recent Bold Vision, Bold Future foldout — what I call the “blue-plaid piece” — that highlighted our accomplishments during the first three years of my presidency. So now, here is the mark, the new graphic identity of the College of St. Catherine:
[visual of college logo]
I hope you like it as much as I do. We owe many people a huge debt of thanks for the work that went into bringing this simple but powerful mark to you.
So, now looking to November 18 and beyond. Our attention is focused on preparing for a campaign rollout befitting the college and designed to spark great interest and investment. Along with the campaign leadership circle, the development staff, the trustees and the Cabinet, an internal staff-faculty campaign committee is already meeting to plan our own internal subset of the larger campaign — to strategize on ways to meet the goal of every single staff and faculty member participating in some way appropriate to him or her. Your colleagues serving on this committee are:
[visual of names]
Expect to hear from them!
I fully expect that our campaign of $80 million will result in success. But we have a lot of hard work to do between now and December 2004, when we expect to complete it. As this work intensifies, it will mean that I am away and out more. But it will not mean that I am absent from the circle of concern and interest in your work, your ideas, your needs, your lives. I will never be more than a phone call or e-mail message away. I never want to say I do not have time. People external to the college — alumnae, donors, prospective students, business leaders, want to know that you are fulfilled and engaged in your place of employment. If you are not proud and happy, we cannot expect the same from anyone else. We will be successful. But it will not happen without you.
Toward that end, today I am asking you to participate. I will have a chance to ask many of you personally to participate — in many ways. It may be volunteering to help with an event; to accompany me or one of the development officers or VPs on a call; to share your own story for a publication; to make music at a chapel event; and yes, to contribute financially. As Pat Hvidston is fond of saying, “This is about money!” It is not an unreasonable goal that all or almost all of us will find some way to contribute time, energy and yes, financial resources, to help make this a success. You’ll hear a lot more about the campaign as we move forward from me, from Pat Hvidston, from your colleagues on the campaign committee. Join in. The success we have externally pivots to a significant extent on all of us.
We need to “slam dunk” this campaign — and while I might get to throw the final ball through the hoop, success depends on the intricate, interesting footwork of a whole lot of folks. I will leave you with a compelling visual thought about this, a kind of metaphor for our collective work to slam-dunk the campaign, with apologies for the obvious gender exclusivity.
[video footage of pro basketball players in action]
See — slam-dunk — just like that.
Can we turn our attention one final time to reflection on our final theme — community? Shaped around a less rhythmic, more tranquil piece of music, the kaleidoscope now takes the shape of flowers; blooming, blending, creating beauty by their very presence. So will be our challenge with each other as we enter this prolonged period of physical transformation, disruption and construction. After my comments on the community, our reflective prayer today will resolve itself in a beautiful dance of offering and hope that the collective of unique individuals we are can create a place of beauty, calm, welcome and community. Indeed, each of us must cross the street to move from our own space into the space of others; from private concern and needs, to the common good. The result will be well worth the effort.
The final theme is the strengthening of the college community itself. No theme is more central to our success; none is harder to capture in words. We are entering a time that will be marked by incompleteness, by deprivation and by prolonged waiting. Indeed most of our students will never see the fruits of this time of transformation while they are still students. Incoming freshmen will enter the completed complex as seniors. Between now and then there will be a mess; paths will be blocked, trees felled, some of us housed temporarily; all, squeezed and cramped for space. Patience will be tried; our spirits will grow tired of waiting.
So, it will be very important that each help to build the community during this period. Our primary focus must be the students. In each area of the college, discussions should begin about specific ways each department might ease this time of disruption and transition. A sense of humor and play will be high on the list of “other skills required.” We must look out for each other, welcome each other into what may to this point have been proprietary space. Not one of us is exempt. Gathering space will be at a premium; indeed, some events that take place on campus will be moved elsewhere. Even small group meting space will be scarce. Those of use who have larger offices and what we assume to be proprietary conference space must come to another way of thinking. I intend to set the example for that stance, as do members of my Cabinet. I urge you to do the same.
Communication will be critical, especially with common gathering spaces — and for a time, the dining room — off limits. In addition to their work on external communication, they and my staff have been working on ways to improve communication during this period, and make it fun as well. Stacy Jacobson is heading up a task force whose sole purpose is to work on a plan for communication during this time. The Web, maintained by Jennifer Gordon and Heidi Lewerenz, will be an important vehicle, as will a revised and yes, a paper edition of the Update. You have to listen to your broadcast messages.
About six months ago, I heard a wonderful piece on National Public Radio about a man named Bruce Renfro. Bruce worked for the transit authority in New York City, lost his job, then was rehired as an elevator operator. Noticing that his elevator was often full of crabby people who never spoke to each other while they stared at blank walls, he decided to make his elevator, at least, a place where community was fostered and built. Posters and messa
ges appeared. An occasional plant or flower, music, good conversation.
So it was that Bruce inspired us to paint the elevators and, beginning today, all 13 elevators on both campuses will serve as communication vehicles. In addition to the colors of the new palette appearing in various combinations around campus — loved by some and causing a few to shudder — posters and vehicles of communication will appear and change frequently. You will begin to see the fruit of that work today. I thank the painters and Pete Sola, who responded to our request promptly and endured an endless array of questions to which they did not have answers. I thank Stacy Jacobson, Cindy Beilke, Ashley Dudley and the communications staff for making this happen. We hope the elevators will be fun and functional. Let us know your ideas and thoughts!
Last year, both the faculty and staff worked hard on developing new governance structures and it is our hope that the staff participation circles and the faculty governance plan will suggest new avenues for communication. We may find we need to come together more, not less; we should celebrate milestones along the way. The College Council and Cabinet will carry this agenda as a permanent assignment during this period.
During times of transition, it helps to think about common things in new ways. To pursue good vision doggedly, to enable community to develop through work that ostensibly has other purposes. Here is a good example of that kind of vision and outcomes, one which will be immediately familiar to any of you who are old enough, as it is now 30 years old. It is still indelibly etched in the minds of everyone who experienced it. The story behind its creation carries a message. The product was Coke. The mission was clear — sell a lot of it, everywhere. The vision, though, of one creative person, was to link drinking Coke with the experience of human community — to link the product they were trying to sell with a broader, nobler, deeper goal of building one world community.
The idea fell on deaf ears; then failed once, twice, at huge expense, as they moved the film site from England to Italy and shot and reshot hundreds of times to get it right. The one who held the original vision persevered, begged for resources, clamored for another chance when it bombed on the European continent and on the radio in the U.S. Today, the TV version seems grainy and stilted, but at the time, it revolutionized the way people thought about Coke, and about themselves. It was the first attempt to carry a deeper message that the world really is one community, and having a Coke together can help make it more so. Today, this segment stands in the advertising annals as one of the top two or three commercials of all time — 30 years later.
There are some lessons to be derived here about our work — pursuing a vision that may seem abstract and unrelated to our daily work. The results, though, can be transformation as well as profitability, as was the case with Coke. Let’s reminisce a little and introduce the younger folks to what we remember so well.
[shows first commercial in Coke’s “It’s the Real Thing” ad campaign]
It is the real thing and I want to say a special word of gratitude to my senior team — to the vice presidents, special assistant for admissions, and the executive assistant to the president. They are the real thing! They have worked very hard to prepare for this moment; but lest you think we take credit for whatever good planning has been accomplished, I want you to know how keenly aware we are of what so many of you contribute toward the good ends we seek. Each of us brings an array of talents and shortcomings. For not one of us, though, is lack of commitment to our vision among our weaknesses. I am sure that I have neglected to acknowledge, recognize, and support them and many of you on far too many occasions, and I ask your forgiveness for that. I know they do, as well. We encourage you to speak up when necessary; swim freely in the waters of “benefit of the doubt”; participate. This is a very strong administrative team — focused, collaborative, supportive of each other, eye on results. I am proud to call them colleagues and salute each for work well done. We all offer the same accolades and gratitude to you.
In addition to humor, fun, communication, good governance and good leadership, during this time we need to take even more time for quiet and reflection. Our campus ministers — along with Father Larry Snyder, an increasingly present member of the college community — are working hard to create an array of spiritual opportunities including daily liturgy; to offer community members space and time for peaceful reflection and prayer. I urge you to participate.
Last year I challenged you to get behind our athletic program. That’s another good way to distract yourself from aggravation and the drudgery of work. Your response this year has been great. Brady Williams, Paul Niemuth’s outstanding work with the teams, and dedicated coaches have all injected life and energy into our athletic programs. Last year I told you that I had sat alone once with Sheila Brown during a hockey game. No longer — now trustees, faculty, staff, parents and students cheer together. Let’s double the effort this year.
Adopt an athletic team at St. Kate’s. Attend a game as a group — support your teams. You will have a great time. They’ll play better. It will really make a difference. It will diminish construction anxiety. Sheila Brown will be on your case again about it.
To those who are new to our community — our work is compelling; your colleagues, willing reservoirs of knowledge; our expectations for you, very high. Our work is worth your best effort. Welcome to St. Kate’s, a leader among women’s colleges and the largest Catholic college for women in the United States. This is a place like no other — certainly not the only women’s college but one where an increasingly diverse group of women find the power, the tools and the discipline to transform themselves, to discover their own voices and shape their own vision.
Our students are the purpose and the focus of your work. Whatever your work, never forget that single point of focus.
I welcome you to the College of St. Catherine — this place that these CSJ women built. To the Sisters of St. Joseph, who formed the first community here and still show us “how it is done,” I congratulate each of you as you celebrate the 150th anniversary of your founding in St. Paul. As we move through this celebration time with you, I hope you can sense our deepening pride and awe as we learn more about your extraordinary and enduring presence among us. Your highly publicized gift is still wildly generous, but not inconsistent with the passion you hold for St. Catherine’s, the same passion that fuels your efforts toward the ministry of right relationships everywhere you are. We count on your to be our teachers and mentors during this time.
So, let us bring our hopes and ourselves together in a final prayer that our dreams may be realized.
[Student’s dance to “I Have a Dream”]
All the work I have outlined today — the curriculum, construction, the campaign and building the community — is not the work of one season, of planting and reaping in just one year. In fact, the year ahead will be one of movement forward but not one of highly visible results. We are in for the long haul, even as I am confident we will have important milestones to celebrate during the year.
We can meet this challenge. We have the vision, we have the plans, it is time to buckle down and get the work done. In other years I have urged us to prize wisdom and collaboration. This year I add important elements of humor and kindness. We are going to disagree periodically or wish that change could happen faster. Mud will get on your shoes. Crankiness may pervade like a fog sometimes. I urge you to do your part to build and encourage; to put students first; to think of your colleagues as colleagues no matter where they appear in the formal hierarchy.
We are about creating the future we want for this college. Our centennial celebration is in sight. We can imagine beautiful new facilities. We will complete the largest campaign ever undertaken by a Catholic women’s college and one of the largest undertaken by any women’s college. Each of us must choose how to participate in this work. On those inevitable days when mud and manure is everywhere, touch back to the wonderful memory of this committed community assembled here to rekindle your resolve.
I am looking forward to a good year. Strive for the right balance between the grand vision and the pedestrian, the plodding march through the abyss of details necessary to get from here to there. Hardly anything will be perfect. There will be some pitfalls and perhaps some pleasant surprises along the way. Our feet may well be in the mud — but our hearts and minds are fixed on the goal. These are such exciting times at St. Kate’s.
I know I have been so proud of St. Catherine’s as I’ve had the privilege of describing our college and its wonderful mission to the wider community. All of us have reason to be proud. Here are some reasons:
[visuals highlighting CSC, staff, faculty and student accomplishments]
I have no doubt that we are strengthening the College of St. Catherine for the future, ensuring that daughters upon daughters upon daughters can attend a vital and vibrant St. Kate’s. Thank you for the privilege of working with you; for your energy and intelligence; for a strong and energetic backbeat; for polyrhythmic expressions of it, all the while moving, moving, moving. We have the vision, we have a mission, we move with strength and purpose and we are writing the music in so many ways. Thank you, thank you for the music. For giving it to me, for giving it to each other, for giving it to our students, for giving it to the world. With gratitude for your wonderful work, your generous sharing of talent, for this wonderful place you have created, I pray that God showers each of you with sign after sign of blessing.