Golden Circle Luncheon

Thank you, Jennifer.  Welcome everyone, and congratulations to the Reunion Honor Classes this year.  This is sincerely one of my favorite events of the academic year, to be with the Golden Circle members, to hear your stories of yesterday and today, and to celebrate your friendship to one another and to your alma mater.

In seeing all of you interact yesterday evening and again this afternoon, it DOES seem that it was only yesterday that you were all here at Webster as students of Sister Ann Patrick Ware and Sister Emmanual,  Dr. Alice Cochran and Consuelo Wise Gallagher.

Of course I never met some of the Sisters and faculty you remember, but the ones whom I have met made a great impression on me.  I visited with Jacqueline Grennan Wexler on several occasions, and I traveled to the Loretto Motherhouse in April of last year to visit with the Sisters there and mark the celebration of the 200th anniversary of their founding. They gave me a tour of their beautiful new archives, and of their working farm.   I had lunch with them and was thrilled to have so many Sisters tell me of their Webster connections.

I met Sister Cecily Jones who taught English and was the dean of women for some time.  I said hello to Sr. Ann Patrick.  And then there is current faculty members Sister Annie Stevens and Sr. Kathy Sullivan, and professor emeriti Sr. Barbara Ann Barbato and Sr. Gabriel Mary.  What wonderful women whose strength and spirit we feel every day at Webster. 

The Sisters were proud to claim Webster as one of their achievements and were quick to ask me about our current programs. When I told one of the Sisters about our new campus opening in Accra, Ghana in 2014, she was quick to tell me about the work the Lorettos had undertaken in Ghana years ago, and later mailed me a package with documents relating to their work there. 

So much of the Loretto spirit and tradition still exists here at Webster.  As we begin to plan for our own anniversary – the Centennial in 2015 – we are amazed to see the “roots” of what we do today extend back to the very beginning.  For example, the Sisters were accepting international students as early as 1919, while today Webster is preparing students from more than 100 nations, at campuses on three (soon to be four) continents. Classes are still small to allow for meaningful interaction between the faculty and students, and our new Global Citizenship Program – which outlines our undergraduate degree requirements – emphasizes critical thinking, strong communication and ethical reasoning, skills the Sisters of Loretto taught at Webster since 1915.

And just as the spirit of the Sisters lives on at Webster, so does YOUR spirit.  My office, on the 3rd floor of Loretto Hall, was once a dorm room . . . and it makes me smile to think of you studying, talking and playing bridge late into the night.  If only the walls could talk!  (Would they say there was more bridge playing than studying?) Here is just one example of the way your spirit lives on . . .

I want to acknowledge the spirit of the class of 1963 today and your work these past two years to create an endowed scholarship honoring the pioneering spirit of the Sisters of Loretto.  I understand that the scholarship is now approaching $79,000, on its way to $100,000, and will benefit students at Webster for years to come.

In fact, the student who received the class of 1963 scholarship last year, Kayla Thompson, is with us today. Kayla majored in anthropology and found her passion in working to solve social and cultural issues. She is now enrolled in the Teach for America program, teaching 5th graders at Ashland Elementary, an inner-city school here in St. Louis, and studying by night and on the weekends for her master’s degree.  Thank you to the members of the class of 1963 who helped Kayla along her journey.

Members of the Golden Circle:  That you all remain dedicated and faithful to one another and to Webster after so many years is truly phenomenal.  Your loyalty to one another and to Webster are noteworthy, and I thank you for that.