Reunion 2016 Highlights
June 21st, 2016 | SMWC
By: Betsy Elliott
Reunion Weekend at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is a time for alums to reconnect, not only with each other, but also with their alma mater. It is a coming together filled with laughter, tears of joy, nostalgia, stories, friendships and new connections.
This year’s Reunion theme, “Many Paths, One Woods,” acknowledges the many paths that our alums can take and the One Woods that brings them all together. One thing is for sure, with each of those many paths, there is also a unique story. For Helen Killeen, that story was her Woods Ring.
The Woods Ring was designed in 1922, and Killeen was wearing one of the original 1922 rings.
“My grandmother, Helen Parkhurst Favre, gave it to me at Ring ceremony,” said Killeen, a 1981 graduate of the College, from Covington, La. “I think it is wonderful. It pays homage to my great-grandmother who came here and my grandmother who came here.”
Helen Parkhurst's 1922 yearbook photos and the Woods Ring passed down to Helen Killeen '81.
Another alum journeyed all the way from Seville, Spain, to return to The Woods. She was surprised with the trip by her husband who arranged everything for her.
“All this year, I wanted to come for this class meeting,” said Xiomara Arevalo Martinez, as she explained how she told her husband how badly she wanted to go for her 30th Reunion.
“I was very excited when he told me,” she continued. “I got very nervous about it. I thought ’30 years ago…’ But it is so lovely to be here.”
She first came to SMWC to complete the English Language Institute (ELI) program, which teaches English as a Second Language to students. Once she completed that program, she knew she loved the College so much that she had to come back to complete her degree.
“So many emotions,” she said, of returning to The Woods for the first time since completing that degree in 1986.
Reunion 2016 celebrated the class years ending in 1 and 6. Alums from the Class of 1951 to the Class of 2011, and some in between and since, all reunited on campus for a weekend of activities.
“It is very important for me to come back here each year – spending time with fellow classmates, getting to know other generations and networking … restoring yourself in some sense. You feel very renewed and inspired,” said Elizabeth Fern Ensweiler, 2006 graduate, who traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y. to return for Reunion. “This is always home.”
The weekend included a Welcome Dinner, Campus Update with SMWC President Dottie King, Ph.D., Walk in the Woods campus tour, Reunion Banquet and Sunday Brunch. In the midst of those activities, alums could also explore the Roethele Art Studio, SMWC Bookstore and the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Shrine.
At the Saturday evening Reunion Banquet, the Frances Murphy Rumely Award and the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Award were given to deserving alums.
Camille Filar Kopielski, 1959 alum, of Arlington Heights, Ill., received the Frances Murphy Rumely Award for demonstrating outstanding dedication to civic, religious or educational organizations and leadership through her volunteer work for such organizations.
“What an honor to be recognized,” said Kopielski. “I am happy to do what I can for the Polish community in Chicago. The foundation here (SMWC) taught me serve and do what I can do.”
Carol Nolan, SP, 1954 alum, of Coachella, Cali., received the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Award for possessing similar purpose, devotion, community vitality and leadership as exhibited by the College’s foundress.
“I am honored. I can hardly believe it,” Nolan said. “I am just overwhelmed. Words can hardly express what the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College mean to me. This relationship has just been irreplaceable in my life.”
The Class of 1966 celebrated their 50th Reunion at the Golden Jubilee Reception.
“I think that we have such wonderful connections with each other. We have actually seen each other a lot over these 50 years,” said Sue Eichmuller Hamilton, 1966 graduate. “We used to think that the 50 golden girls were old, and we don’t feel that way at all. We just toasted to our 75th; we hope to be back here for it.”
On Saturday afternoon, the Class of 1966 held a remembrance ceremony, titled 1966 Remembrance, Reflection and Rededication, at the Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes. During the ceremony they read names of classmates who have passed and honored their memory.
“I couldn’t imagine not choosing to come back for Reunion,” said Billie DeBeck Brunsman, 1966 graduate, from Columbus, Ind. “It is important because we have lost so many classmates that we should take advantage of the time we have together.”
At the Reunion Banquet, the Class of 1966 was proud to present the College with a check for $300,000 that represented their class giving amount this past year. This generous gift pushed the Woods Fund total over its goal and beyond $1 million. The goal of $950,000 was surpassed with a grand total of $1,017,956.95. Excitement permeated the banquet hall as everyone cheered for the support that alums and friends of the College have given over the past year to enhance the educational experience for our students.