It is hard to imagine a more memorable day than October 11, 2016.
While some of you were able to join us for either the “Mass of Joy” or the installation ceremony, many of you were not. So we wanted to share a glimpse of the festivities with all of you who support our mission. I hope you enjoy the photos, videos and special edition of St. Catherine University Magazine .
I invite you to join me in acknowledging the Inauguration Committee and the Presidential Search Committee for their efforts. Also posted here are the video — featuring St. Catherine students, faculty and staff — that welcomed me to St. Catherine in August and the list of books I read that summer in preparation for joining this wonderful community.
This day was a tribute to the vision and hard work the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet invested in St. Catherine. The vision and mission of our University has never been more important or relevant in the world as it is today. The world demands, needs and expects our leadership.
President ReBecca Koenig Roloff ’76, MBA
"This poem resonates profoundly in a University committed to the liberal arts, to serving the 'dear neighbor' in ways that manifest our Catholic traditions and teachings, to creating a spaciousness for women to do all they are capable of doing."
— excerpted intro by Alan Silva, assistant vice president and dean, School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences
A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me—a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me honor and a task. The day's blow
rang out, metallic—or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
Margaret, thank you for your generous introduction and for the leadership and friendship you share with me. I look forward to the future with you.
Sister Jean and The Sisters of St. Joseph, Archbishop Hebda, Board of Trustees, other honored guests, colleagues, friends and my family—
If you are here today either you know St. Kate’s, or you know me, or you represent the great work of higher education or all three or perhaps none of these—perhaps you were wandering by the campus, saw nice people were coming in the gates…and you had the good sense to follow.
Regardless of your connection, we are so glad you are here…I am so glad you are here.
The incredible Inauguration committee who planned this installation went out of their way to ask for my input. Most of the time, I said, 'it is up to you—do whatever is best for St. Kate’s.'
However, there were a few items that I knew exactly what I wanted.
One of them was if I would like a quote on the invitation. I did. The quote I knew I wanted is on the invitation and inside this program. It says,“Dedicated to do all of which woman is capable and which will most benefit the dear neighbor.” This is from the original constitution of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet formed in France in 1650.
I chose this because it is what I call the heirloom seed of this beloved community we call St. Catherine University. When their charitable and educational work began, one of the immediate problems these women wanted to solve was the young women they saw engaged in prostitution. They understood that no little girl is born who dreams of that life, but rather the drive to stay alive or feed yourself and your children can take any of us down unimaginable paths.
So the idea: let’s teach them to make lace so they can earn a livelihood, regain their dignity, and find a foothold in society. Lace. Simple yet profound.
Fast forward from 1650 to 1851, when Bishop Joseph Cretin invited the Sisters of St. Joseph to journey up the Mississippi to teach immigrant and American Indian children in St. Paul. In a nearby log cabin, the Sisters immediately established St. Joseph’s Academy for girls, the first female academy in the region. This combined school and church also served as a hospital. Perhaps this is one of our earliest examples of a multi-use building....
Fast forward again to 1905, when a group of sisters led by Sr. Seraphim Ireland, and invited by her brother, Archbishop John Ireland, had a dream, a vision, a calling—that was to establish a college for women.
This college was NOT to be a finishing school. They were very clear that this was, in my words, a launching school. This was to educate Catholic women to take their rightful place in society through an outstanding education in all of which they were capable while being a dear neighbor.
Let’s call that being a great citizen too—the core of what it means to base an education on the belief and practice of liberal arts so that we can be curious, and understand and accept viewpoints different from our own.
The turn of the last century was a very interesting time in the Catholic Church—the women’s right to vote movement was bubbling, which terrified the traditional, conservative wing of the Catholic Church and was cheered by the more liberal, progressive side. HOWEVER, the competitive juices of these conservative dads also bubbled because they didn’t want their daughters left behind the educational opportunities their Protestant friends were giving their daughters. It seems the Sisters maneuvered this beautifully.
The mission of this educational institution has not changed.
More than 111 years later we still are driven by the social justice mission of the Catholic Church with a baccalaureate college for women at its heart and graduate and associate programs for women and men. At all degree levels we integrate liberal arts and professional education.
We challenge our young women to transformational leadership.
Women. Catholic. Liberal Arts.
How do these three roots that came from the heirloom seed lead to the next question I had to answer for the Inauguration Committee—what is the title of your speech?
That also took me only a nanosecond—Taking Women Seriously.
This summer I had the chance to read Liberating Sanctuary, a series of essays edited by three of our faculty and published in a book in celebration of our Centennial in 2005. What a gift that book was to me. While I knew the general story of how St. Kate’s was founded, that book told me the WHY! And the WHY was so women could take their place in this new territory called the WEST.
The sister’s invitation to young women was this: Come. Come here. We take you seriously. We believe in your future. We know the world needs you. And we promise you the quality of education that will make a difference—that will give you the independence and confidence to take your place in the world whatever you choose that to be.
That drive for excellence resulted in this University being the first Catholic institution in the United States to receive a Phi Beta Kappa chapter—the first. We were not the oldest, nor the biggest, nor the wealthiest. We were just the best....
Is anyone surprised?
Women have always had to be twice as good. True then; true now.
So now I have explained why the quote was chosen: “Dedicated to do all of which woman is capable and which will most benefit the dear neighbor.”
And how I determined the title of these remarks: “Taking Women Seriously.”
But there was a third decision—which necklace do you want to wear?
Well, now you have my attention.
I didn’t even know this job came with a necklace, but those of you who know me—wow—big jewelry, and even better, a choice. It is not really called a necklace; it is called The Presidential Medal.
It turns out that both Presidential Medals had a big medallion on them, but one had something more, and that is the one I chose. I am wearing it not only today, but will wear it every time I wear these robes to represent St. Catherine University. In addition to the seal of the University, it has the name of all the previous ten Presidents elected to this role:
All women. All linked together.
Mother Antonia McHugh
Sister Eucharista Galvin
Sister Antonius Kennelly
Sister Antoine O’Brien
Sister Mary William Brady
Sister Mary Edward Healy
Sister Alberta Huber
Sister Catherine McNamee
Dr. Anita Pampusch
Sister Andrea Lee
I chose this medal because I will always need the wisdom, strength, compassion and boldness it represents in the women presidents who have gone before me. A woman president, just think of that St. Catherine’s figured it out long ago.
All of which woman is capable now translates to a University with almost 5000 students in four schools: School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences; School of Business and Professional Studies; The Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, and The School of Social Work.
And three colleges: the College for Women, the Graduate College, and the College for Adult and Applied Learning.
With two campuses: St. Paul and Minneapolis.
This ONE University stands out among its peers for many reasons but especially the diversity of its students.
This year, our first time freshman class in the College for Women are 40% young women of color. More than 28% of all of our undergraduates are students of color, and 34% are first generation college students—just like I was. Both my parents only had a chance to graduate 8th grade so achieving a college degree was THE goal—all roads headed there to the eternal gratitude of their children and grandchildren.
As this day serves as a wonderful tribute to all that the sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet could ever have imagined when five of them trudged in snow for a mile up Grand Avenue, it is also my chance to say THANK YOU.
Thank you to all of the precious students who have chosen us,
To the committed faculty who unselfishly teach and mentor them,
To the dedicated staff and administration who support everyone,
To the Board of Trustees who guide us, and
To the Sisters of St. Joseph who trust us.
Thank you to all of our donors who make running this University possible since each of our students needs and receives financial aid.
Thank you to all of the college and universities represented today who work together, across the country, to bring the opportunity of education to our society since our democracy was built on the premise of an educated citizens.
Thank you to our public servants who work so hard to help our laws be created and implemented to benefit all.
Thank you to all of my friends and colleagues who have loved and supported me over the years, especially those of you who traveled long distances to be here today.
Thank you to my family, especially my nieces and nephews who carry on so beautifully the goal my parents had for all of us to be educated.
Thank you to my mother- and father-in-law, Norman and Jeanne Roloff—also a Katie—for their unconditional support and love for 38 years.
To my son Luke, and his wife Beth, and to Sam, and his girlfriend Rachael, I am proud of each of you and love you so much. It is not often that a mother has the opportunity to stand in front of her world and tell everyone how proud she is of her sons, and the men they have become. Kind, compassionate, smart, confident, open-minded, and respectful, and since I am their mother, incredibly fun and handsome, too.
And to my husband, Mark, also a Katie—MA in Theology 1988—who is the generous, kind, confident, patient and loving glue that holds us all together.
And to my parents, Fred and Betty Koenig, and my sister, MaDonna Koenig Leenay—Class of 81—who are with us right now even though we can’t see them. I feel their presence every day and know they are by my side. They loved St. Kate’s too!
There was one last decision the Inauguration Committee asked me for, and that was if I had any special music. Other than the Litany of Saints, which you heard at Mass and I love so much, I wanted “It’s a Wonderful World.” You heard our women’s chorus sing it with so much passion and joy today.
Why that song?
For me, it has always been a guide. While it may sound delusional to say or think the world is wonderful after you read the paper or listen to the news, for me the song has always been a wonderful prayer. It reminds me to find joy and love in the details in the moment.
It says God and love are everywhere—just look:
Look at what is represented in a sincere handshake.
Look at what is represented in a rainbow.
Look at what is represented in a small child.
Look at what is represented in a smile, a welcome.
Look at the power of a hug.
It reminds me to bloom wherever I am planted, and to keep that wonder alive as I go through my day and my life.
So let us all leave here today…
Recommitted to all that we each are capable of achieving
Remembering we all stand on someone’s shoulder
Taking ourselves and those around us seriously, especially the young women in our lives, our society and our world who so desperately need to be seen, helped and educated. How fitting that today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl Child and we are all here to celebrate and to help make happen.
And most importantly, to always be a dear neighbor.
The world has never needed compassion, common sense, education and kindness more.
On behalf of the entire St. Catherine community, thank you again for being here on this special day in our history and in my life.
I love you all.
What did President Roloff read this summer? Here's the list, along with Becky's comments on each title.
Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
It is the story about a Boston police officer and how he and his family deal with Parkinson’s. Lisa also wrote Still Alice — on Alzheimer’s, and Left Neglected on brain injury.
Upstairs in the White House by JB West
…who was the longest serving chief usher. I love books like this which give another glimpse into the lives of our leaders, especially through the eyes of the women who lived there.
Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Then a book that was so hard for me to read but I am glad I read it. It is the investigative report over four years at the University of Montana that uses 4–5 case studies, and explores the role of the police, attorneys and the University in prosecuting rape cases.
Euphoria by Lily King
A story loosely based on the life of Margret Mead, told through three anthropologists in the 1930 — very close to historical fiction.
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
This is a book of quotes that was a going away gift for me — Strayed is a Minnesota author who wrote Wild — a book I loved.
Bilgewater by Jane Gardam
It is the story of the daughter of the headmaster at a boy’s school in England — and her pilgrimage to adulthood. I loved it.
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlan
I love reading anything Anna writes. I grew up in a small town too so I loved this.
Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
This is a sweeping historical novel that fills in some wonderful spaces as to all the various ways that we build and keep personal relationships when class and race is involved. It tells the story of the AA dressmaker who also was a mother who lost her only son in the war — and he was not recognized for his service because of his color. She then uses her influence to try to help. Separately, I also have always felt that Abraham Lincoln was a good husband and father. His patience comes through in so many ways.
Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan
My first book by Faith Sullivan, but not my last. I LOVED this book. It is set in Harvester, MN. It is wonderful in so many ways — the friendships, the strength of Nell, the main character, WWI. But the title comes from the importance of reading to help you through your life. You will love it.
The Secret Servant, The Messenger, The Confessor,
The English Spy (The Gabriel Allon Series) by
I love reading his stories, and I know I would recognize Gabriel Allon — the Israeli spy and assassin who is the main character. You do not need to read these in order, but if you haven’t read, and you love spy stories set with modern issues, you will love these and I would read them in order. I have to ration these. I can go on a binge like I did with PD James. These are like trying to eat just one dark, chocolate mint cookie. I can’t do it. I have to eat the whole package as quickly as I can get my hands on them.
Echoes by Maeve Binchy
Ok, true brain candy but a wonderful escape. This one has a surprise ending I was not quite ready for but was glad in the end it happened.
The All Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
A wonderful piece of historical fiction set in Wisconsin that will teach you about the women pilots who flew — unrecognized — for our country in WWII. It is wrapped in a funny story set in Wisconsin, and the South. I was a little skeptical when I started because the humor almost felt slapstick — it was just a bit too cute…but I changed my mind by page 50 and I was hooked. I learned a lot, I laughed a lot. Wonderful story teller.
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Colbert
This one was recommended in Conversation with Books, and I have recommended it to many people. Very well written and easy to read. She makes the case that while extinctions have always occurred — think, dinosaurs aren’t around anymore — we, the people, are changing the environment so fast that species don’t have time to adapt so we — not a huge meteor hitting us — are causing the sixth major extinction on earth as we sit here.
For One More Day by Mitch Albom
You know his work — Tuesdays with Morrie and The 5 People You Meet in Heaven — this is one is what if you could have one more day to go back and fix what you did wrong in your life. Lots to think about….
The Catherine Core Reader
I am not done with this, but I am reading it. The side note here is that many of you know my sister, a 1981 graduate, died in 1992. Her husband and I built on the money our family received in her memory. St. Kate’s came to us and said, we have an idea of how to use some of that money — we have this idea called The Reflective Woman, and we would like to use a portion of this money to build and deliver the first faculty education. Since Madonna was an English teacher, we thought she would love that.
Liberating Sanctuary edited by Jane Lamm Carroll, Joanne Cavallaro, Sharon Doherty
This is one of the most important books I have ever read. It is on my desk right now. I always “felt” the St. Catherine story and the role the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet played, but I had never read about it in depth. It is a stunning set of essays — relevant in every way to our lives today and deserves and needs to continually be told in modern and interesting ways.
Dr. Mark Blegen
Associate Professor, Department Chair of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences
Dr. Kevin Croston
Dr. Sarah Ferguson
Associate Professor and BSW and MSW Program Director
Margaret Arola Ford '82
Chief Information Officer
Joan Mitchell '62, CSJ
Sponsorship Council and Trustee
Dr. Marcie Myers
Professor of Biology and Co-Chair of Biology Dept.
Kathleen O’Brien '67
Search Advisory Committee Chair and Trustee
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Linda Theis Thrasher '88
Alumna and Trustee
Dr. Anne Weyandt '83
Dean of the College of Applied and Continuing Learning
Jean Wincek '62, CSJ
Province Team Leadership and Trustee
Student, St. Catherine University
Karen Rauenhorst, MPH, Chair
Trustee and Chair of the Board 2012-2016
Joan Mitchell, CSJ, ’62, Chair
Mission Chair – Endowed Chair for Women’s Education and Associate Professor of Music
Mission Chair – Endowed Chair for Catholic Identity and Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy
Beth Riedel Carney ’82
Interim Director of External Relations and Director of Development
Kristin Cummings ’91
Director of Marketing Communications
Mission Chair – Endowed Chair for Liberal Arts and Associate Professor of Art and Art History
Executive Vice President and Provost
Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Corporation
Shannon McKeever ’17
President, Student Senate
Kathleen O’Brien ’67
Trustee and Secretary of the Board of Trustees
Event Coordinator and Chair of the Inaugural Logistics Committee
Assistant Vice President and Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences and the College for Women
Director of Campus Ministry
Sabrina Anderson MAOL’02
Guest List Management
College for Adult and Applied Learning
Inaugural Procession and Inaugural Support
Marketing and Communications
Michelle Hueg ’07, MLIS‘13
Meeting and Event Services
Office of the President
Parking and Security
Karen Kiener ’08, MLIS’13
Guest List Management
Christine McKenna ‘15
Marketing and Communications
Public and Media Relations
Student Center and Activities
Lahens St. Fleur ’05
Meeting and Event Services
Marketing and Communication
Invitation and Program Design
Marketing and Communication
Lori True ’10
Anne Weyandt ‘83
College for Adult and Applied Learning