Address by 2012 Distinguished Alumna Award Recipient

Kathleen (Kitty) Plunkett Freidheim ’67

Freidheim offered these words at the Reunion Banquet on Saturday, June 2, 2012 after receiving the Humanitas Award.

Thank you for the kind introduction, Carol.

Since I recently learned of this extraordinary honor I have, of course, been reflecting on the many ways in which my four years at Saint Mary’s has influenced my life. It was only yesterday that my parents delivered me to Room 421 in Holy Cross Hall. It seemed as though they would never leave so that I could get on with my college career! Little did I dream where life would take me and how proud they would be of this honor today. And, of course, I could never have accomplished what I have without the unending love and support of my dear husband, Lee and my children Ed and Alison who are here tonight.

I arrived at Saint Mary’s as a naïve young teenager captivated by all that the social life offered and somewhat less focused on the academic, cultural and spiritual opportunities which the college presented. Somehow in the ensuring four years, all of those positive influences exerted themselves and have continued to shape my broader and somewhat more sophisticated view of my world today. 

Saint Mary’s helped all of us to establish priorities based on a sound moral foundation, to think critically, to embrace causes related to social justice, and to contribute to our larger communities. Our class has absorbed these influences and applied them in our family lives and in our work environments. We preceded the era of training young women to succeed in the business world – in fact we had no career counseling at all -  and chose a variety of paths post-graduation from the important role of stay at home mothers to careers in education, medicine, finance, government and law among others and flourished in each of them.

I have been particularly blessed not only in having been educated at Saint Mary’s but in having the opportunity to work with the College through my participation on the President’s Advisory Council as well as the Chicago Advisory Council. Today, I am so impressed with the young women who are graduates of Saint Mary’s and I have to tell you that nothing at the College has changed. Yes, of course, the curfews, the sit down dinners with faculty, the dress code, the lack of telephones have all morphed dramatically but the basics which are so important and which make Saint Mary’s the unique place that it is are still very much in place.

Saint Mary’s is an exceptional environment of which we should all be proud. While it has kept pace with the changing world, it continues to provide its students with outstanding academics, challenges their intellect, and most importantly gives them a strong moral basis. Its graduates are confident, articulate, of strong moral character and prepared to face the world when they graduate. It is an environment where deep and treasured friendships are make and nurtured. My dearest friendships are those I made at Saint Mary’s, women who are loyal and dear upon whom I can call on for advice and counsel and importantly for lots of fun and laughs. Every one of them is an accomplished individual and an inspiration in their own right. 

For all of this, I am deeply grateful. Thank you, Saint Mary’s.