By Katie Conboy, Ph.D.
President of Saint Mary’s College
Each year, it is a wonderful gift that over the course of just a few weeks in late spring we have opportunities to look forward and to look back. In this issue of Courier, we reflect on Commencement and Reunion 2023. Through several stories, we also focus on what is forged at Saint Mary’s: knowledge and skills, preparation for careers, deep friendships, and life-long relationships to
I’ve been thinking a lot about knowledge, skills, and career preparation as we send another graduating class out into the world. This has been a year of planning at Saint Mary’s, and much of that planning is about how we continue to ensure that our newly minted alumnae are ready to meet both the needs of the world and the expectations of employers and graduate schools. I was heartened to discover, recently, a College publication by Sister Monica Wagner, CSC, called Benchmarks: Saint Mary’s College, How it Grew (1990). While the emphasis of this book is on the physical growth of Saint Mary’s—from the original campus of the Academy in Bertrand, Michigan, through its evolution to become the College—there is also some attention to how the curriculum grew and changed over time.
Indeed, Benchmarks reveals that from the earliest days of the College, the Sisters were continually transforming the curriculum, and that fields such as “Polite Literature,” “Astronomy, with the use of Globes,” and “Herbariums’’ changed over time and were supplemented with emerging professional fields: pharmacy, journalism, pedagogy, and education. Sister Monica surmises that, at the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, the Sisters were responding to a variety of pressures that sound very familiar in our own time: to offer what other Catholic women’s colleges were offering, to choose fields that would differentiate Saint Mary’s from the competition, and to “broaden the range of accommodation to perhaps a growing public concern over ‘usefuls.’” Some of the fields she mentions have disappeared from the Saint Mary’s curriculum, but I was delighted to recognize that our current balance of liberal arts and professional fields was reflected in the earliest years of the College.
This issue of Courier includes a wonderful example of how a Saint Mary’s education prepares graduates for careers they never imagined: the story of Kristin Crowley ’93 and her journey from graduating with a degree in biology and medical school aspirations to becoming the first woman to serve as chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department. From what I know of our recent graduates and our alumnae across decades, graduates have always felt well prepared as they leave Saint Mary’s, and we will strengthen that preparation even more in the years ahead.
I saw first-hand at Reunion that there is also so much strength in the friendships that are cemented at Saint Mary’s. In these pages, you can read about one group of friends who have supported each other since they met in the late 1980s. If there is any story I hear consistently from Saint Mary’s alumnae, it is about friends and friend groups. We want to collect those stories, so please use the instructions on p. 15 to send us yours!
For its entire long history, the College has promoted both enduring women’s friendships and an education that is broadening, deepening, and useful. In fact, perhaps the word used so consistently about the Saint Mary’s experience—sisterhood—encompasses both the personal relationships and the professional development of our graduates. Graduates count on their friends for the support they need through the seasons of their lives and can also rely on a tremendous network of alumnae to help them as they launch and navigate their careers. If that’s not sisterhood, I don’t know what is!
With summer upon us, we continue to look backward but also forward to August when we will welcome both our returning students and our incoming Class of 2027 to campus. The beat goes on!