Mary Kappel Burch ’79 credits her time at St. Kate’s not only with an empowering education, but enduring relationships and a vision of service that animates her life to this day. In her words, “St. Catherine University is built on the vision of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet [CSJs] in their love of God and of the dear neighbor. The Sisters’ work for social justice continues to be an inspiration to this day. Many of the Sisters I counted among my mentors, and, later in life, as my friends. They are among the finest people I have ever known; selfless and dedicated to doing good for others.”
The St. Kate’s impact of brilliant women committed to lives of meaning has resounded throughout Burch’s career. She found success and significance in her work conducting and teaching scientific research, steadily navigating the complexities of being a woman in STEM like many Katies. Beyond aptitude for the sciences, Burch shares something even more profound with many students, past, and present. As she describes it, “The Sisters’ mission of social justice is embodied at St. Kate’s by its students — who are primarily women, diverse, often first-generation — to attend college or university, and in need of financial support. This also described me as I attended St. Kate’s.”
Burch sees herself in today’s St. Kate’s students, and feels a deep responsibility to ensure that current students receive the support they need to access their own life-changing Katie experiences. “I want to give back to the University that provided me with financial aid and work-study opportunities when I needed them. I want to give as often and as much as I possibly can. This was true shortly after I graduated and is true today. St. Kate’s became and remains the most important philanthropic donation I make as I continue to endorse its mission. My professors, many of them CSJs, helped me realize my potential personally and professionally. That mission needs to continue so others may benefit.”
Understanding the goals and challenges of many current Katies, Burch advocates for needed investments in Mendel, the campus science facility. “My training as a chemist started in Mendel Hall, which has been in need of renovation for some time. Scientists need to be trained in experimentation, and this requires modern research and lab space as science advances. We are supporting the next generation of scientists and medical professionals.”
Renovating Mendel is a main priority of LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence. Through campaign funding, the University will build flexible faculty research spaces and technologically advanced labs with updated equipment to provide our students with the best possible resources to support their learning. With construction on Mendel beginning in 2023, and the conclusion of the campaign next year, the need to finalize these accomplishments has never been greater.
“In your life, if you benefited at all personally or professionally from what St. Catherine University provided you — a degree, sound life advice, motivation to aspire to greater things, or a belief in justice as embodied by the Sister’s mission — I say, ‘pay it forward.’ We must continue to support inspirational institutions like St. Kate’s to ensure a compassionate, diverse workforce for the future.”