Still Making History

Even though the 50th Jubilee Reunion weekend for the classes of 1970 and 1971 didn’t happen as planned, virtual reunion gatherings have brought the classmates closer than ever. They have evolved into monthly online visits for the Class of 1970, where they talk about everything from recent movies to travel ideas to the value of redemptive suffering.

Members of the Class of 1970 (left to right): Sara Bateman Koehler, Susan Vanek, and Addie Stefanac Cashore.
Members of the Class of 1970 (left to right): Sara Bateman Koehler, Susan Vanek, and Addie Stefanac Cashore. 

Members of both classes became Inauguration VIPs, and were invited to attend every event of the weekend. Sara Bateman Koehler ’70 “jumped at the opportunity to attend,” she said. Koehler has been a guest at two Saint Mary’s inaugurations, and said she could easily become an inauguration groupie because she loves attending them. “Celebrating the past and the future, you get to be a part of history; it’s such a unique experience,” she said. Noting that Saint Mary’s will always be the place that shaped her as a person, Susan Hoke Timmons ’71 was just as eager to come to South Bend for the events.

Both alumnae commented on the parallels between their years as students and now. Social and political changes were as profound and disorienting 50 years ago as they are today. This was an ongoing topic during their virtual visits with classmates and President Katie Conboy.

Koehler participated in a civil rights march at the University of Notre Dame, led by Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, while a Saint Mary’s student. During her 35-year teaching career that followed, she regularly brought awareness to her classrooms about the wounds of systemic racism and the dangers of white privilege. Koehler said the insurrection on the Capitol and the murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans angered her. “We have a lot more work to do.”

The political tension of the past two years mirrors the climate 50 years ago. After experiencing both, Timmons thinks staying hopeful is essential for solutions. “There was a lot of misinformation then too, with Vietnam and civil rights,” she said. “But, as is integral to Saint Mary’s strong liberal arts foundation, when we learn to listen for understanding, we can find new solutions. If we could do it then, we can do it today.”

Attending Inauguration was a continuation of her deep connection to Saint Mary’s. “It’s been wonderful to welcome a new president who has vision, is articulate, acknowledges the history while increasing STEM offerings and addressing broader diversity,” Timmons said. “She is willing to accept the complex challenges of her role—starting with COVID—and she’s doing it well.”

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