Reuniting from Afar
By Haleigh Ehmsen ’16
While many alumnae anticipated greeting their classmates with hugs this year, Reunion weekend connected them virtually for the second year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hundreds of alumnae from the classes of zeros, ones, fives and sixes connected with their fellow Belles on the first weekend of June from the comfort of their own homes. Online events started Thursday evening and continued through the weekend, culminating with a spirituality retreat on Sunday.
One of the weekend’s most popular events was Saturday morning’s nostalgic walk down The Avenue streamed live on Facebook. Alumnae relished the scenery as Executive Director for College Relations Kara O’Leary ’89 and Associate Director of Alumnae Relations Lexi Grady Haitsma ’17 led them down the storied street. In the comments, alumnae shared their memories of living on campus, and in total, the video received more than 3,000 views.
After the walk, a panel session featured alumnae who are living out Saint Mary’s mission in their communities. Jennifer Paluszak Hadden ’96 moderated the discussion with panelists Cheryl Lynne Bonacci '86, Paula Dawning ’71, Jingqiu Guan ’11, and Adriana Garces Petty ’01, as they shared their stories of making a difference, during and after their Saint Mary’s education.
Olivia Beck ’16 joined the session from her home in Illinois. She was inspired by hearing the panelists share their experiences at Saint Mary’s and how it shaped them into the women they are today. “No matter how big or small, [Saint Mary’s] made a difference in their lives and the lives around them. I thought that was an important reminder for us to hear,” Beck said.
Beck also joined the Class of 2016 social hour and the Vigil Mass streamed from Holy Spirit Chapel in Le Mans Hall. These online events made her feel connected to the school that will always have a special place in her heart, especially during a year of social isolation.
Alumnae joined other virtual Reunion events including Saint Mary’s Trivia Friday night. Teams answered questions about Saint Mary's history, current events and campus happenings. Megan Woods '16 and Katlin Woods ’16 and their grandmother Mary Dahm Kearney '56 were one of the teams that joined and won. Megan and Katlin live in Boston, while Mary lives in California. The virtual format allowed them to take part together as a team, a memory they will always share. They also connected with the greater Saint Mary’s community in a way they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Many alumnae look forward to their milestone Reunions, and 50 is a big one. Sarah Belanger Earley ’71 served as chair of this year’s 50th Reunion Committee. She attended many events over the weekend. “While in person is way better, it was so nice to see old friends and reconnect.”
She said even without gathering in person, the Class of 1971 still managed to win three awards at this year’s Reunion: class participation, the most Mother Pauline Society members, and total money raised in support of the weekend. Earley noted that Zoom has limits, but being able to engage the Class of 1971 and winning three awards showed the strength of their Saint Mary’s pride.
While the College plans to host Reunion in person next year, the virtual Reunion weekend fostered a powerful sense of connection between alumnae and with the school that so many women call home.
Future Reunion Schedule
- June 2-June 5, 2022 (for classes ending in 2 or 7)
- June 1-June 4, 2023 (for classes ending in 3 or 8)
- May 30-June 2, 2024 (for classes ending in 4 or 9)