From its earliest days, Siena Heights has been known for the quality and caring of our faculty: demanding and dedicated, wise and wonderful.
In 50 years as a women’s college, from 1919 through the 1960s, Siena teachers were almost all Adrian Dominican Sisters. Alumnae of those decades spoke (and still speak) with awe and affection of professors like Sisters Helene O’Connor and Jeannine Klemm in Studio Angelico; Sister Mary George in the business office; Sister Leonilla in the Little Theater; Sister Miriam Michael in the chemistry lab; Sister Ann Joachim in history class and on the basketball court.
As Siena Heights transitioned into coedu-cation at the end of the ‘60s, men appeared in the faculty as well as the student body. Fr. David Van Horn, who taught art for almost 30 years, was the first male teacher to become a long-time legend of the faculty. In 1979, a young John Wittersheim arrived in Studio Angelico and began teaching metalwork.
Jennifer Hamlin Church
Associate VP for Advancement &
Director of Alumni Relations
Why We Do What We Do. And Why It Matters.
At Fall Convocation, Religious Studies Professor Ian Bell spoke to a standing-room only crowd in St. Dominic Chapel. Convocation is the official kick-off of each new academic year and the speech by each year’s Eileen Rice Teaching Award winner is always a highlight.
In an address titled “Why We Do the Things We Do,” Professor Bell talked about why he is so deeply committed to Siena Heights—and what makes this place so special.
It all comes down to mission and identity.
Siena Heights is a Catholic university where “faith and reason walk hand in hand,” he said: Unlike many colleges, where education is considered strictly intellectual, Siena Heights actively encourages students “to ask questions about faith and religion,” without judging or forcing the answers. “The encounter with one’s faith—be it Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or other—is not only tolerated but encouraged.”
We want you to become more competent, purposeful and ethical, Dr. Bell told the students; and to do so in an environment that respects the dignity of all. Why? Because “we desire good things for you”—a good life and the kind of success that is defined not by wealth or possessions but by whether the human community is “better off because of the choices you make and the actions you take.”
He ended with a plea: “Take your identity and mission seriously. Embrace questions of meaning. Explore the arts. Examine the workings of the world. Become a better thinker. If you do this, you will be able to define yourself not in terms of what you do, but in terms of who you are.” And, he added, “You will know why you do the things you do.”
Jennifer Hamlin Church Associate VP for Advancement & Director of Alumni Relations
What a spring of new beginnings and milestone anniversaries:
• On a brisk April afternoon, SHU fans cheered the Saints to a 10-4 season-opening victory over Adrian College on Siena’s sparkling new baseball field near the Fieldhouse.
• Three days later, Siena Heights—whose past track teams captured so many honors but always competed “away”—hosted our first-ever home track meet in O’Laughlin Stadium.
• Behind the stadium bleachers, the Mary and Sash Spencer Athletic Complex takes shape with each passing day.
• Next to Dominican Hall, construction is underway on the McLaughlin University Center, due to open in 2013.
As I write, we prepare for a landmark Commencement, bringing all sites and degree programs together for the first time. We’ll welcome many graduates for their first visit to campus—and encourage all grads to come back soon. We’ll also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Kente ceremony, started by a handful of African-American students and today involving 60+ graduates.
Across the University, soon-to-be alumni are celebrating degrees completed and opportunities ahead. Just a few examples:
• Theater students Meghan Van Arsdalen and Paul Karle are two of 18 actors nationwide heading to NYC for graduate study at the New School.
• The 18 future nurses graduating in Siena’s first-ever pre-licensure nursing class volunteered at six area hospitals this spring, earning accolades for top-notch critical thinking and reasoning.
• Metro Detroit graduate LaVon McLeod is already in St. Louis starting his “dream job” with General Motors. “Might this promotion have anything to do with Siena Heights?” I asked him. “It has everything to do with Siena Heights!”
As these new grads go out into the world, alumni bring memories back to campus.
“I had a pet fox in my dorm room,” Mary Embach Mapes ’64 told me when I found her gazing at the old class photos in Sacred Heart Hall. “A baby fox, a kit—I called him Dammit. When he made noise at night, I pushed him under my bed and lay there saying ‘Shush, Dammit.’ If a Sister came to investigate, she quickly forgot the noise and focused on me!”
I was delighted with Mary’s stories of the fox she kept in Archangelus, the horse she kept at the fairgrounds, and the late nights she spent making art on the fifth floor of Sacred Heart Hall. “See you at your 50th reunion in a couple years,” I told her as she headed out.
I heard another good story from Terry Bucciarelli ’82 and his wife Diana, who made a special effort to visit Terry’s old dorm room while on campus for the spring production: In his student days, Terry once opened his door to an alum, a previous resident of the same room, who “gave me $20 just because I let him see his old room. That made a big impression on me,” Terry said. “Now I do the same thing whenever I get to campus.
“See you at your 30th reunion this fall,” I said, as we left the Performing Arts Center.
Whether you are approaching a landmark reunion, or you’d like to see the new beginnings at Siena, or you’ve simply got your own stories to tell, come back soon. The welcome mat is always out at Siena Heights.
Jennifer A. Hamlin Church
Associate VP for Advancement & Director of Alumni Relations