Continuing the Legacy: Alums Share Their Stories

October 22nd, 2015 | SMWC

On October 22, 2015, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) officially reached its 175th anniversary. In those 175 years, what has been most important are the students who become graduates, who go out into the world and make a difference with The Woods as their foundation.

The College celebrates its students, alums and friends – their support, their generosity and all that they have accomplished as they continue Saint Mother Theodore Guerin's legacy. Here are some of their stories. Please share your story at

Maggie Kearney, 1995 SMWC graduate

As much as I love the Woods, the story I have to tell is about my mom. For most of my college years I didn't have a car, and when my mom came down to visit she would often encourage me to borrow hers for the evening if I wanted to go out. (She was well aware that social events didn't start before 9pm and she went to bed at 10pm.) I will never forget the visit, I think it was my junior year, when I came back to my room at O-dark-thirty and couldn't find my mom. I was a little surprised but she was a smoker so I figured she'd gone down to the smoking lounge (at that time on 2N) and had fallen asleep.

I head over there expecting to find mom dozing on one of the couches. I walk in and instead I find my mother sitting on a couch surrounded by at least 10-15 other Woodsies holding court. They are chatting and laughing and having a grand old time. I was actually thrown out and sent to bed so my mom could stay up and chat. For several days afterwards people were coming up to me to tell my how great and cool my mom was.

The Woods has given me so much, and I'll always be grateful but the best gift it ever gave was the gift it gave my mom. An opportunity for her OWN college experience and the chance to be a Woodsie. If only for a night.

Jeanne Rielly, 1960 SMWC graduate

One of the greatest gifts Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College gave to me was to give to and to care for others. I have been running our local food pantry for the past 17 years in Westbrook, Maine. Recently I was honored by our NBC station as one of six Who Care and our pantry was given $1,000. My whole family, our children and our grandchildren, have been involved, especially helping with baskets at Thanksgiving. We are now helping families from Africa and Iraq settle into our community via the pantry work. I loved my years of teaching French and Latin and working at a bank but nothing beats rounding up the peanut butter and pasta for families.

Debbie Lary, 1979 SMWC graduate

I must have been aspiring higher for a long time, as I never settle! Being on one board has led to me wanting and being installed onto another board as I am now on the Board of Directors for The Old Town Preservation Association where our purpose is refurbishing and restoring old houses and buildings! High expectations, yes, but through God and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, it works!

Judith Aldape, 1986 SMWC graduate

Some years ago I served as Academic Vice-President and then later as President of the Board of a local Montessori School (then named Little Flower Montessori School but now known as The Montessori Academy). While on that board I envisioned our school expanding from three preschool classrooms to an Elementary School with classrooms through sixth grade. It was a monumental thought for our parent-run school to even conceive of such an idea but I was convinced that our children needed the Montessori Method of Education beyond the age of five or six and began to talk to parents individually and in groups about the potential. I took several parents to Cincinnati where there was a Catholic Nun who had an elementary program like what I had in mind. Long story, short, a year later we hired a professional administrator, began with one classroom, in rented space and after years of work by many people other than myself, The Montessori Academy is a beautiful multi-building school that goes from preschool to 8th grade and helps the local Center for the Homeless with a preschool classroom on its premises. After this time, I completed the college degree I had begun years before by attending the WED program at SMWC. Recently I was made aware that some remembered my vision in South Bend/Mishawaka, Ind., when my daughter applied to have Maya, my granddaughter enrolled at The Montessori Academy. The Principal told my daughter that The Montessori Academy would not be there if it had not been for me. I want to encourage anyone with a vision, to believe in it and go for it, by any action that makes sense even if it seems way beyond what could be possible. I am humbled by the achievements of many being attributed to me because I had the dream and did the motivating.

Veronica “Roni” O’Connor, 1988 SMWC graduate

While visiting the campus in 1983 as part of the Roncalli High School Choir under the direction of Ms. Lynn Starkey, SMWC Class of 1978, I made my decision, to do what it took to be accepted into Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. I graduated in 1988 after four years of performing, learning, growing, working and glowing in the light that SMWC provides her students. My stories and memories abound, but each brings a smile, a warmth to my heart and a desire to get back to campus as often as possible to feel that warmth again. Simply arriving on campus brings a sense of wonder that finds you all at once at peace, while energized to be a better person, want more for yourself and others ... to aspire higher. My favorite memories include the beloved Sisters of Providence that taught through their very presence in a room, that each and every woman is unique and has an integral role to play. Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception is akin to visiting an ancient ritual in a far off land, the architecture and abounding spirit in the building make every word spoken all at once formal in some way. One step into the Cecilian Auditorium surrounds the visitor with the embodiment of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music and performers ... I lived my life within all these walls as a young woman and visit as often as I can to affirm the promise to thrive. Thank you to Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and the Sisters of Providence for your belief in me, and confidence that on that campus I would forever form my belief in self.