A Letter from the President
Dear friends and colleagues,
As my tenure as St. Catherine’s president draws close to its end, the panoply of events and celebrations that crowd and crown the academic calendar seem to take on fresh meaning. Commencement, for example. This year, we must have drawn the card for “best weather weekend possible,” and the joy of students, families, and the entire St. Catherine community bubbled up and over.
Our guest speakers at our three Commencement ceremonies — long reigning and revered principal of St. Paul Central High School, Mary Mackbee; professor and assistant dean at the University of the Incarnate Word’s new medical school, Dr. Ramona Parker; and activist attorney and Harvard Law graduate Haben Girma — inspired students with deeply personal words drawn from the unique experience of each.
Along with ample evidence of her own academic prowess, baccalaureate speaker Haben Girma brought the Class of 2016 to its feet as she spoke to graduates of the College for Women. Blind and deaf since infancy, Haben extended her presence outside to the quad after Commencement where, assisted by technology, she engaged in informal conversation with many graduates and guests. Spectacular weather, spectacular events, joy visible everywhere on campus. Ah yes — the “why” of what we do here at St. Catherine — amplified in inspiring sound and vivid color.
Prior to Commencement, other events included the spring luncheon for scholarship donors and students, a gracious event hosted by Alumnae Relations on May 9, St. Kate’s first-ever trip to the NCAA DIII softball championship, and impressive “show and tells” of stunning student scholarship. Lots accomplished and — as this issue of St. Catherine makes clear — the work of the University continues apace during the summer months, as St. Catherine eagerly awaits the arrival of its eleventh president, Rebecca Koenig Roloff ’76.
In 2009, we officially became a comprehensive university. At that time, the Board of Trustees and the St. Catherine community articulated its vision for the University’s first decade — that is, our 2020 Vision “to be recognized as a leading Catholic university distinguished by its innovative spirit and premier baccalaureate college for women.” During these years of unprecedented change and turmoil within U.S. higher education, we have made steady progress against the lofty destination metrics we set for St. Catherine:
1) to be propelled, inspired and guided by our mission;
2) to offer an array of academic programs at all degree levels to both address market need and take advantage of very obvious institutional strengths;
3) to sustain a vibrant learning environment and residential life as well as digital learning options;
4) to be recognized by peers as embodying the key elements embedded in the University’s vision — a leading Catholic university, distinguished by a spirit of innovation and its college for women; and
5) to sustain and enhance the University’s financial strength.
There is more than ample evidence of solid and admirable progress on each of these destination metrics, yet always new horizons ahead and much more to accomplish. We are fortunate that a seasoned executive who loves St. Catherine will take the reins this summer and inherit a talented, hard-working and passionate faculty, staff and Board when she does so. As an alumna, President Roloff will be at home as one of you, while amazed at your exponential growth in numbers, engagement and generosity since she served on the Board in the 1980s and 90s.
I have occasion to visit other Catholic university campuses in many roles — as trustee, consultant, speaker and advisor. There is always something to learn on those visits but, in every case, I come away proud of St. Catherine — our academic reputation, our success as innovators, our financial and enrollment stability, and the high regard in which St. Catherine is held by my colleagues.
That reputation has been built over many decades by many, and I know President-elect Roloff will carry it to new heights as she picks up the torch.
As summer comes, I hope you have meaningful and relaxing time with the people you most love. I’m planning a bit of the same. Working with and among you has been the greatest privilege of my life. I leave with much love and gratitude in my heart.
Should you find yourself in Milwaukee, I’d love a visit. God’s warmest blessing to you this summer and always.