We are Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, a Lasallian Catholic living and learning community. We are faculty, administrators, students, alumni, parents, children, volunteers, educators, businessmen and women, friends, co-workers, benefactors, De La Salle Christian Brothers, laymen and laywomen.
Although the backdrops of our lives all differ, as you'll see in our stories, there is one major similarity:
Together – and by association – we are Lasallian.
Career goals: To become a youth minister of a parish. Until then, volunteer for a year or two in Brooklyn, N.Y., serving as a campus minister at Bishop Laughlin High School.
Sarah Jane Engle breezed in for a photo, after several attempts to reschedule. It was the day before graduation, and between choir rehearsal and packing (which she admitted she hadn't yet started), she squeezed in five minutes for a picture. Scheduling her lengthy list of involvements – both in and out of school – can't have been easy.
But behind her camera-ready smile is someone who isn't afraid to get dirty and break a sweat – all in the name of helping others. Engle was part of a group of SMU volunteers who assisted hurricane victims in Biloxi, Miss., clean up debris and demolish their houses before rebuilding. And now, she's dedicating the next couple of years of her life to the Lasallian Volunteer program – where she hopes her work will inspire others in a large and diverse student body in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Years at SMU: 16
Whether she's preparing finger sandwiches for high tea or preparing for class, Roxanne Eubank, Ed.D., brings a sense of class, a sense of humor and a lot of preparation to every experience.
Eubank isn't a professor to stoically lecture behind a podium. Animated and at ease in front of a classroom, she is well known for connecting with her students, being highly prepared for her classes and always willing to share a laugh. Eubank highly respects her students but also has high expectations of her students.
FSC '90, M'91, Ed.D.
Years at SMU/CTIE: 4+ years
Flipping through recent pictures, taken in Nairobi, brings a mixture of emotions. In them, a crowd of children, eager to be photographed, gathers together, curious and laughing. Many are not wearing shoes. Their classrooms aren't filled with colorful charts and bulletin boards. Their desks aren't filled with sharpened pencils and new containers of glue, shiny folders and art supplies.
Many graduates of Christ the Teacher Institute for Education at Saint Mary's Nairobi campus – armed with an education many themselves struggle to afford – will teach these children. As Saint John Baptist de La Salle knew, education is the key to saving generations.
Brother Paulos Welday Mesmer, FSC, a native of Eritrea, Africa, has served as associate dean and director of CTIE since 2003.
Employment: Director of Marketing & New Product Development, FLS Connect, Saint Paul, Minn.
Molly Murphy has probably never met someone who didn't become her friend. Her outgoing personality and constant smile is contagious. It isn't surprising that Murphy associates Lasallian with community, as she is constantly building community through her work, her friends, her volunteer work with other SMU alumni.
Close friends and classmates of Murphy's died in an accident her senior year. It was a tragic event that saddened and shocked the university, the city and beyond. Classmates look back and say Murphy's strength helped to hold everyone together. Murphy credits Saint Mary's University. It was this difficult moment that helped her define exactly what it means to be part of a community.
Career goals: To work in higher education and be part of a Catholic Worker community, providing hospitality as well as educational and service opportunities.
Jake Olzen's name often precedes him. Whenever articles and e-mails come out concerning “sustainable living,” “on-campus flea markets,” “renewable energy,” and “peace and justice,” Olzen's name is usually connected. He doesn't hide his commitment to the environment, as well as to his fellow man.
Olzen combined these two passions during a summer project, constructing a straw bale house in Lake City, Minn., with some of the other Dan Corcoran Catholic Worker Home volunteers and workers from Winona. Straw bales are used as an ecofriendly insulation. The group hopes to continue the Catholic Worker mission of providing hospitality for those in need at this new location.
Employment: Principal Software Engineer, Infor, Chicago, Ill.
Certain words bring deep chuckles – even giggles – from classmates of the '70s and early '80s. Certain words that aren't all that funny to the rest of us are like secret codenames for hilarious memories during their time at Saint Mary's. It's been 30 years. They joke that they're losing their hair and hearing and expanding their waistlines, but – down deep – they haven't changed, and neither have their friendships.
Some portion of this class gets together every summer for a GOOF (Get-together Of Old Friends) weekend. Often they bring their spouses and children for a full-fledged, boisterous and activity-filled reunion.
Based upon their great memories and their great friendships, some of these classmates now award a Saint Jude Scholarship to a Saint Mary's student – assuring that future students create their own side-splitting memories at this university.
Years at SMU: 12
Valerie Edwards Robeson's roles are many: mother, wife, teacher, advisor, leader, colleague and advocate. And in all things, Robeson brings a generous portion of caring, understanding and love. This, for her, is what being Lasallian is truly all about.
Karen Sorvaag, Ed.D. '07
Years at SMU: 5
Twice a year Scott and Karen Sorvaag heat up the grill and invite all junior and senior education majors to a barbecue at their home. In the fall, students practice for the competitive kickball tournament, held every spring. Winners take home what the Sorvaags describe with a smile as the “coveted traveling kickball trophy.”
The Sorvaags say they look forward to the events as much as the students. “While this is about good, clean fun, competition and food, it is mostly about coming together and enjoying the company of one another,” Scott said.
Years after graduation, students check back with the Sorvaags to reminisce and update them on their lives. Being Lasallian means the bond between faculty and students doesn't end at commencement ceremonies.
Available in PDF form below is an excerpt of a presentation given at University Workshop in August 2006 by Mary Catherine Fox '75, M'89, Ph.D., professor of interdisciplinary studies and former chair of the Mission and Ministry Council of the Midwest District of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
Years at SMU: 19
Dr. Fox's speech - PDF