As I write, about 5,300 St. Catherine students are plunging into the new academic year. Once the middle of August comes, the pace quickens and the electricity of new beginnings crackles in the air, tinged with undeniable hints of autumn.
Highlighted by our "All Bruce Springsteen" show in The O'Shaughnessy, the customary faculty-staff workshop launched the new academic year on August 30. Bruce and I spent our youth at the same time on the same New Jersey boardwalk. To answer the most frequently asked question: "No, I don't know him." But I wish I did, and I love his music, his energy and his "whatever it takes" attitude in achieving his creative goals. A good model for us and a great day, sweetened with saltwater taffy from the boardwalk establishment where I held my first job.
To answer the second most frequently asked question about our faculty-staff workshop: "Yes, it was a great show, complete with our own 'E Street band!'"
Later, we engaged in essential conversations about the Higher Learning Commission decennial accreditation visit in 2013 and the massive work underway to prepare for it. Faculty and staff members also gained insights into the critical link between academic program development and enrollment.
Speaking of new programs, very soon we will launch our new graduate program in physician assistant studies, focused on addressing a scary shortfall in primary-care physicians. Soon, we'll launch our doctorate in occupational therapy and an MBA designed to set us apart in a crowded market.
Beginnings and endings
By Labor Day weekend, the St. Paul campus put on its best face to greet hundreds of new first-time students. Bountiful gardens, a welcoming spirit and our signature orientation program for new students — all these signs and rituals of new beginnings introduced our newcomers to St. Kate's and its irrepressibly energetic community.
On September 7 we celebrated the Opening Mass of the Holy Spirit in a packed chapel, followed by an academic procession to The O'Shaughnessy for Opening Convocation and then the all-University picnic. From graceful dancers and enthusiastic singers to the faculty resplendent in academic regalia, to convocation speakers addressing "St. Catherine in a Global Society," all signals were "Go!" for a great year.
You'll enjoy the newly renovated spaces on campus. An amazing transformation of the fourth floor of Mendel Hall and the pool area in Fontbonne Hall made space for new and growing programs. On September 19, Archbishop John C. Neinstedt dedicated the new anatomy lab in Mendel and, as a trustee, helped me to thank the donors who made it possible.
Early autumn is a time of new beginnings and, this year, sad endings. Evaleen Everson Neufeld '46, a distinguished alumna, generous donor and dear friend, died on September 5. I was privileged to be included in the intimate circle of her close-knit family as we sat and prayed and talked with her while she journeyed closer to Heaven. A woman I admire and love, Evie was a model Katie.
May our newest students set out on a path to mirror this fine woman in wisdom, grace and accomplishment. Evie Neufeld has indeed set a high bar of excellence. Our goal is to make it an attainable one for future graduates.
Thank you for your support, your interest, and for being wonderful role models for our students. We count on you, and you never disappoint.