Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) welcomed around 250 alumni and guests from 26 states and Australia to Reunion 2023. The campus took on a special excitement and energy to celebrate the friendships, legacy and traditions that have made The Woods a place like no other. President Dottie L. King, Ph.D., shared a message that stuck with her throughout the weekend on the true meaning of being a member of The Woods family.
In her remarks at the Reunion Banquet, President King, shared how much the journal passage from Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, read during We Remember, We Celebrate, impacted her. She then explained that the readings are like favorite childhood stories that are never forgotten. “The stories of The Woods don’t end with Mother Theodore, though. Through the years, the stories have kept going. Whether you’re part of one of the really big classes from the 60s or a part of one of the smaller classes in later years, your experience of The Woods was your experience of The Woods, and you have stories to tell about it. I’ve heard so many of those stories, and they’ve really had an impact on me. They’ve informed me about the fiber of this institution. I’ve retold the stories. I’ve borrowed from them. I’ve learned from them. I’ve been inspired by them. On days when it’s hard, I’ve remembered them. All of those stories are our stories,” King said.
Alumni enjoyed a weekend of events and activities to commemorate their time at The Woods and celebrate its growth and vision for the future. They participated in the annual banquet, attended class meetings and participated in the We Remember, We Celebrate ceremony, remembering lost classmates. They also learned about the strategic vision for the College from President King and her Cabinet. During the evenings, Le Fer Hall and Les Bois Hall were filled with conversations and laughs as alums reminisced of their time as students at The Woods.
Reunion Weekend culminated at the banquet with the Alumni Association Board of Directors presenting its prestigious awards. Margaret McElroy ’63 was the recipient of the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Award, and Dr. Eva Gankiewicz Merkel ’83 received the Frances Murphy Rumely Award.
Remarks from the Golden class, 1973 were given during the banquet. “I know The Woods is a place where we’ve formed lifelong friendships, as you can see from everyone here. I know The Woods taught us to be humble, kind and virtuous. So, with those accolades, let’s raise a toast to the class of 1973. We are in our 70s now, so guess what? We survived the 60s twice!” said Lynn Bronikowski ’73.
During the banquet, the class of 1963 recognized President King for her hard work and dedication to the College and for continuing its mission. King was presented with a medallion by the class. Anne Lenhard Benington ’63 shared remarks on behalf of the class of 1963. “In 2011, up to this brink walked a woman of character, determination, faith and strength of purpose, our beloved President, Dottie L. King. She took the job as Interim President, but quickly the powers that be realized that she had the will and vision to revitalize The Woods. She was named President,” she said. Anne then shared a few challenges that President King faced early on in her presidency. Challenges included needed renovations for buildings on campus, enrollment numbers dropping and the process of the College becoming coeducational. “And so, honoring her has been long overdue. Tonight, the Class of 1963, on our 60th Reunion, would like to do just that, honor a woman that we deeply admire,” Anne said.
Sarah Ketenbrink Williams ’48 came back home to The Woods for her 75th reunion accompanied by two of her daughters and granddaughter. “It feels wonderful to be here. It always feels like home,” she said.
The weekend was a continued reminder to cherish the moments of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Reunion 2023 at SMWC will be remembered for years to come. Save the date for Reunion 2024, which will take place from May 31 through June 2.