Alumnae Kickoff Address

by Judy Zimmer '84

Judy Zimmer '84It feels great to be back here on campus, don't you think? I truly believe there is something sacred about this place we call Saint Ben's. Just coming onto campus inspires me to be a better person, to be a lifelong learner and to celebrate all the women that have gone before me.

I grew up in the shadow of the Sacred Heart Chapel. I'm a St. Joe kid, so my road to Saint Ben's was a pretty short and straight one. Once I got here though, I had a bit of a tough time finding my way.

Many college students find it challenging to pick a major that fits all of their criteria, right? I know I'm not alone here. Raise your hand if you were one of those students. Well, in this respect, I like to think that I was an exceptional college student. Because I was "undecided" for four years.

 I came to college with my eyes wide open to opportunity and I didn't want to miss anything. Maybe that's part of what made it difficult to settle on a major. Whatever it was, to be quite honest, it scared me. It felt like I was failing at something. It felt like I was falling behind and that everyone else was racing forward confidently. This was a huge decision and I was afraid of not making the "right" choice.

But what I learned, and what the amazing career counselors here at Saint Ben's were able to teach me, was to make an informed decision and be at peace with it. A Liberal Studies major turned out perfectly for me.

And today, that thing that concerned me most as a student - being undeclared in a major - has become my strongest asset. I'm a career coach.

I've worked with over 800 clients, all of whom have found themselves in situations where they need to reinvent themselves. They've been laid off, forced out or don't love what they're doing. These are people at a crossroads - sort of like the way I felt when I was at Saint Ben's. That experience and that connection help make me very good at what I do. God does work in surprising ways around here.

I love being a Bennie. My Bennie friends are women I look up to, admire and use for inspiration. I never dreamed of owning my own company, and yet I watched so many other Bennies do just that and I was inspired to take the leap myself. Did I have all the answers? Of course not. And I still don't. But I have a lot of faith in myself, in my clients and in divine intervention!

Staying connected with Saint Ben's keeps me in touch with that faith. It reminds me of my spirituality and my desire to give back. And even when I'm not here, Saint Ben's continues to influence my life on a daily basis. It allows me to bring Benedictine values into my workplace. And it's given me the rich, layered education to be able to mentor strong women.

So what about you? How does Saint Ben's continue to influence your life? What was it about the time you spent here that impacts you most today? Just as I had my period of indecision in choosing a major that led to one of my best decisions ever in choosing my career path, every Bennie has a story. While you're here this weekend, think about your story. Share your story. And reflect on what this place and that connection mean to you.

Welcome home.