Alumnae Kickoff Address
by Denise DeVaan '75
Thank you, Kim!
Good Morning, Fellow Alums!
Did you know that the College of St. Benedict, under the direction of President MaryAnn Baenninger, has a Young Alums President's Circle? In an event a few weeks ago, several older Alums were invited to join them at a hip Minneapolis restaurant called the Butcher and the Boar. Those in attendance spanned six decades-from age 20 through ages 70.
I joined a table of recent graduates.
"So, what's next?" I asked. One was heading to Equator and another to Chicago's South Side. "Have you thought about a way to communicate and support each other?" The reply, "We communicate all the time through Face Book."
Of course they do.
Later, I joined another circle of Alums.
One had just finished her first year of law school at Notre Dame. She wants to influence higher education policy. Another is a business management consultant, 10 years since her graduation. As I stood in that Alum circle of support, I saw the next generation of leaders--bright, clear -thinking, funny, competent women.
We have so many bright, clear thinking, competent Alums all over the world.
What is it about this place? When we meet each other, even across generations, there is kind of an affinity, a recognition. We understand each other.
- Is it because the College is placed in the middle of a corn field-rural Minnesota--and we all have to somehow get along?
- Is that we get the best of both?-a women's education experience, lots of opportunity to test leadership skills-the men's education experience next door-integrated in learning, separated in living-- a unique model , for sure-- of a higher education collaborative.
- Is it because professors pushed us hard to learn more and more. They created hospitable places for disciplined reflection and action. Service learning experiences changed our lives.
- Is it because the entire St. Ben's community welcomed us as we were-without judgment---no matter what belief system or spiritual practice was when we came, no matter how it evolved when we left-- no matter what background we came from, we were accepted. The St. Ben's experience attended to the head and the heart, the body and the spirit. We were transformed. This transformation continues.
- The answer to my question is all of the above.
Maybe it's time that we Alums-the more than 1400 of us here this weekend-and the 16,000 others who are not here, physically-Maybe it's time we, the collective we-say thank you.
- Thank you, Benedictine Sisters, who took an enormous risk in 1913 to take women's higher education needs seriously.
Today, we are in a time of transition. Future classes will need to stand, in part, on our shoulders. Why is this?
You see the Benedictine Sisters do not lack vision or dedication or discipline or resolve or commitment to continue building this College in the 21st Century.
They simply lack numbers.
We Alums are invited to be sisters to new generations of young women, who will learn and transform here. The model will look different, of course.
The bells of the College ring today. They ring today in celebration of 100 years. They will ring tomorrow, and day after, and the day after that.
Why? The College is in the hands of strong leaders.
As the torch passes, the bells will continue to ring throughout the year.
They ring as seasons change from crisp fall days and colored leaves to winter days with clumps of snow resting on the naked branches of trees.
The bells ring during spring days when winter thaws and the sun is warm. They ring during hot summer days, when the St. Ben's community prepares for fall and the arrival of young, energetic students.
Seasons turn into years, and years turn into decades. Before we know it, entire lifetimes pass. As Alums we are part of this rhythm. Take pride.
So, today it's time.
It's time to pause, and with glad hearts, say thank you.
Thank you College of Saint Benedict.
You-the collective you from 100 years--you were there at really important times in our lives. Some of these times were easy and some of these times were really tough.
No matter how we showed up, you were welcoming.
You helped us to become the best women we could be-Why? For the work ahead. ....to do what needs to be done.... to do whatever needs to be done.
May you live to another 100.