When Lizzie met Becky...
Lizzie: What’s your favorite memory as a St. Kate’s student?
Becky: I loved it all. Time fades a little over 40 years, but my experiences were really positive — and I had a lot of fun! I think we really remember the people we meet here, and the friends that we make. As far as academics, I remember first semester, freshman year we had to read this book written in 1898 about women and economics. The idea was that if you didn’t control your economic life, you really didn’t control your life. And I thought, “That is important; I have to remember this!” My mom was very progressive but she was a housewife. She had worked in business but, other than her, I had only ever seen women work as nurses or teachers.
Lizzie: Were you involved on campus?
Becky: Yes, I did synchronized swimming my first year, then I was a resident advisor sophomore year in overflow rooms above the Chapel. Five of us shared a bathroom, and Sister Helen Lucille lived down the hall. In junior year, I was over in Caecilian Hall. I was also very involved in student government. In fact, we got the first men allowed into dorms! How about that?
Lizzie: Thank you!
Becky: You’re welcome! Now, they had to be out by 1 a.m. but we got them in. Do you still have house mothers here?
Becky: We had house mothers who sat at the desk and we had to sign out. I often laugh now because, well, they were probably my age today but they looked ancient, and generally were retired women or nuns. I don’t know how they would have protected a dormitory if someone was coming in, but they were fierce!
Lizzie: How did you choose St. Kate’s? Did you visit?
Becky: I had heard of it, but never imagined I could go. My friend’s aunt went to St. Kate’s and her parents said she could visit, but she couldn’t go alone. So she asked me to go with her on the train from Dickinson, North Dakota. We had an overnight sleeping compartment; it was really exotic at the time! And I walked in the gates and I thought: Wow. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I went home and declared, “I am going to St. Kate’s.” My mom said 'if you can figure it out, you can go.' And so I did. We filled out all the paperwork together. I got a great financial aid package, and I never looked back.
Lizzie: Why St. Kate’s now?
Becky: I thought about applying for the president’s position for a long time, and more so, I thought about what it would be like if I didn’t apply. On December 26, I pressed the button and sent my application in. As soon as I did, I knew I did the right thing. It just felt right. It felt like my whole career had prepared me for this. I had often said, “I have another mountain to climb, maybe even a couple.” So, why would I not climb this one? I’ve always believed in St. Kate’s mission, and it made so much sense. It was such a natural extension of what I did.
Lizzie: Is this a position you ever imagined yourself in before? Had you ever thought: 'I could be the president of St. Kate’s?'
Becky: I say it this way, 'it’s a dream job I never dreamt of.' Over the years, I've thought: Gosh, if I’d ever be in education, I’d want to be somewhere like St. Kate’s. But life goes different directions and I was in corporate life for 29 years and fully engaged at the YWCA. Then, all of a sudden, it just happens. You’ll learn that when something’s meant to be, it’s just meant to be and things go boom, boom, boom — and they fall into place. I don’t think you can make those things happen. I think you can prepare yourself and be ready, and the stars lined up and you do it.
Lizzie: What are your plans for this year?
Becky: I’d like to get to know the community. There is so much strength to build on here. I’m going to meet people in small groups, and then I’ll start going to student activities. My challenge is going to be not trying to go to everything! I see these great lectures, and I think, 'oh wouldn’t that be interesting?' Then I’m invited to something else and I go, 'that would be interesting;' but when I get back to my office, there’s 70 emails waiting for me. I need to balance all that — and also listen. I will be listening to all the ideas that people have of where the greatest need is. I like to do a few things well so I can keep focused, and celebrate those things more.
Next August, I’d like to lead a team in a triathlon. I did the YWCA Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon this summer and I wore orange, but next year I’m wearing purple! I’m working with some trainers and the sports team to structure this for students, staff and faculty. I think that would be really fun to do!
Lizzie: I heard, even before you mentioned it, that some people are interested in having a triathlon team.
Becky: Yes. We just have to figure out how to do it and how to get people who would never think of doing it to say yes. We could form relays! You must bike, run or swim?
Lizzie: I bike to the grocery store.
Becky: Well, good! There are great swimmers here and people who run, so we can put a relay team together! I didn’t bike or run — or, I mean, I biked to the grocery store too and I ran — but I never biked or actually ran. But now I do. It’s been great.
Lizzie: So, this issue of St. Catherine University Magazine is about food. Do you like to cook, and is there any dish you’re really good at?
Becky: I love to cook — more than bake. Oh, except, I make the best key lime pie including crust! We eat out when there’s an event but always cook dinner at home. My husband likes to grill. I didn’t like to cook until I was in my 30s, because I thought it was always so much work and such a mess. But eventually I found it to be a really fun thing to do — cooking is creative — and I like that part of it. Plus, I like to know what I’m eating. My parents were huge gardeners. I don't have a garden; some day, maybe, I will.
Lizzie: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Becky: I married a Katie! My husband, Mark, has his master’s of theology from St. Kate's.
Lizzie: Did you meet him here?
Becky: I met him at Augsburg, at a student government meeting. I was beginning my junior year at St. Kate’s.
Lizzie: So it’s still possible to meet someone at a women’s college?
Becky: Oh, yes!
Photos by Rebecca Zenefski, By Rebecca Studios.
Studio art major Lizzie Cleary ’17 brought her handmade mugs to an interview with ReBecca “Becky” Koenig Roloff ’76. Turns out, President Roloff prefers piping hot, dark roast coffee with a touch of cream.
Lizzie made the mugs in her “Advanced Ceramics” class in spring 2016. She was “exploring more difficult types of clay to work with, specifically an ochre stoneware and porcelain,” explains Lizzie. She used an amber glaze that she personally mixed on both.