Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) alumni who attended this past weekend’s Reunion on campus had many reasons to celebrate: outstanding achievements of two exceptional alumnae, milestone graduation anniversaries, birthdays and wedding anniversaries and of course, memories of their beloved alma mater.
The three days of Reunion 2017 were filled with emotion.
Alum Mary Bridget O’Malley Kratofil ’71, felt it the minute she entered SMWC’s gates, which she hasn’t seen for 30 years. “When we pulled in to the drive and saw the sign, ‘Welcome home, Woodsies,’ I was just overwhelmed with emotion,” she said while trying to hold back tears.
“My mother [Mary Kay Baty O’Malley ‘44] always said these [the college years] were the most wonderful years of my life, and they were. …I treasure the time that I spent here,” said Kratofil, who attended the event with her sister, Mary Kathryn O’Malley ’77.
For alumna Jane Jones Lane ‘67 of Wyncote, Pennsylvania, this weekend was very special. It was not only her 50th Reunion but also her 50th wedding anniversary. Lane and her husband, Tony, chose to celebrate at The Woods, which she described as her “second home.”
Another golden girl, Carmen Sabater ’67 traveled all the way from Puerto Rico to be at the event. “I wasn’t planning to come back. Caroline Schneider Madding, my roommate, convinced me to come. And my other roommate Carol Vitale Tremaglio found me on Facebook and connected us all.”
“I have such memories of this place. I am so glad I came. I have not been back to campus since sometime before 1991. In fact, this is the first time that I have seen a few people since graduation.”
Another attendee, Frankie Supplitt Kramer ’47, traveled from the Chicago area to be at Reunion. The 91-year-old has attended Reunion every five years and wasn’t about to miss one. At first, she was hesitant to come because none of her classmates were attending, but she said she wanted to see the new Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center, a building named after SMWC’s 12 president, her close college friend.
More than 270 alumni — particularly from the classes celebrating a milestone year — gathered on campus for a weekend of events including a welcome dinner, campus tour, Reunion banquet, class meetings, a golden anniversary reception and remembrance ceremony for the class of 1967, luncheons and Mass.
The highlight of the weekend-long event was Saturday’s Reunion Banquet, in which Elizabeth Jacobi ’63 and Marti Rumely Kuehn ’69 were presented with prestigious awards by the SMWC Alumni Association. Jacobi was the recipient of the 2017 Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Award, named after the College’s foundress; Kuehn received the award celebrating her mother’s volunteerism and leadership, the 2017 Frances Murphy Rumely Award.
During her remarks, Jacobi said four words — her guiding principles in life — came to mind when she first heard she was getting the award: “conviction,” “passion,” “perseverance” and “resilience.” The award she received is given to a graduate who, like Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, reflects God’s love and abundant grace in the world and possesses strong leadership, purpose, devotion and community service.
Jacobi’s life embodies these characteristics. After earning a degree in music education and voice performance, she enjoyed a successful opera career. She later turned her talents toward helping others, particularly through the use of music for healing, culminating in the founding of the Music Medicine Institute, a non-profit organization in Savannah, Georgia. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Master of Arts in Music Therapy (MAMT) at SWMC.
Kuehn, an educator, artist and realtor whose family legacy at The Woods goes back to 1891, has continuously demonstrated leadership, dedication, love, compassion and spirituality in her volunteer work, the qualities celebrated by the Frances Murphy Rumely Award.
Kuehn said the education she received and the values instilled in her while at SMWC were important to her lifelong volunteerism: from leading a teacher’s union and helping cancer patients to working with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) a refugee ministry, an arts organization and the local SMWC alumni chapter.
Cheers and applause opened the Reunion banquet with a special entrance by the class of 1967 celebrating its golden anniversary. The members used yearbook photos as masks as one-by-one they paraded to the music of the era. A toast to the golden and silver jubilarians — the classes of 1967 and 1992 — were led by class representatives Molly Ellsworth ’92, 10G, Claire Thuning – Roberson ’67 and Jane Jones Lane ’67.
Later in the evening, the class of 1967 presented SMWC President Dottie King, Ph.D., with its class gift, $145,640. Applause once again erupted inside O’Shaugnessy Hall when King announced more than $1 million has so far been raised for the Woods Fund, exceeding the goal of $975, 000, with a couple more weeks to go before the close of the fiscal year, June 30.
During her address at Saturday’s banquet, King told alums Reunion is a time to reminisce and to look forward. She discussed the updates and changes at the College in recent years. “I believe we’ve created a positive momentum,” she said.
At the event, former students, friends and SMWC faculty/staff commemorated the life of Sister Marie Brendan Harvey SP, ’51, a beloved former leader at the College who passed away last December.
Even though it wasn’t their Reunion year, about a dozen members of the class of 1969 attended Reunion this year not only to celebrate with their fellow alums but also to mark their 70th birthdays. They were presented with a birthday cake during the welcome dinner, complete with the singing of “Happy Birthday.”
The class members traveled from different parts of the country including Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi and New York. “We decided we needed to get together for our birthday,” said Mary Kay Campbell Watson ’69, a member of the SMWC Board of Trustees.
“This is home to us,” she said. “We felt like … coming home to The Woods to celebrate,” she added.
This example, Watson said, shows other alumni that they can come to The Woods anytime, not just a milestone Reunion year.
“We’re hoping that other classes will now follow suit,” she said.