Week highlights alumnae memories
Haleigh Ehmsen | Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a three-part series exploring the unique characteristics of Saint Mary’s alumnae, leaders and
places on campus in honor of the College’s annual Heritage Week.
Linda Kawecki, member of the class of 1979 and the Alumnae Board of Directors, said Saint Mary’s Heritage Week celebrates the College’s history by highlighting the stories of its alumnae.
Kawecki said one of the most important traditions for her during her time at the College was a special gift-exchange between her and her hall mates. This tradition has persisted for 38 years, she said.
“My favorite memory is from my freshman year … 1975,” she said. “I was in a quint in Holy Cross and the five of us (plus a friend who lived down the hall) became quite close our first semester. We wanted to celebrate a special ‘family’ Christmas before leaving campus for the holidays.
“The night before we departed, we ate dinner together in the dining hall and then went back to our room where there were 30 gifts around our little two-foot tall Christmas tree. We had agreed to buy each other gifts that cost less than one dollar. This was before ‘dollar stores’ or the Internet or even decent merchandise in our campus bookstore which literally had books and was in the basement of Le Mans.
“You had to put a lot of thought into a gift that only cost a dollar, and those gifts were some of the most creative and thoughtful I’ve ever given or received for Christmas. It was such a special time to celebrate our friendships that are still strong 38 years later.”
Lynn Nelson, a nursing major and a graduate of the class of 1982, said she remembers the connections she made her freshman year while living in Regina Hall, which was once a first-years only dorm.
“Freshman year was very stressful,” she said. “Being away from home, trying to meet new friends — only one other girl from my high school attended my year and we were only acquaintances — [was difficult]. Regina was the ‘freshman dorm,’ so most of us were in singles. This actually worked well since most of us left our doors open to meet others.”1982 Saint Mary’s alumna Mary Jane Klein said she relished her time in the Regina singles as a first-year.
“Freshman year was so full of new adventures, some fun-filled and some groan-inducing,” she said. “Living in a single in Regina Hall was definitely a fun-filled adventure. You got to know everyone on your floor, because when you were in your room doors were left open to encourage anyone and everyone to stop in and say hello.
“Every student had their own phone in their room with a cord long enough to just be able to pull the phone into the hall. Without cordless phones, we developed our own version of voice mail. When you were out of your room, you left your phone on the floor in the hall so if it rang, any girl within earshot would answer it and write the message on your door’s message board.”
Mary Lederer, also a member of the class of 1982, said she cherishes the time in which she strengthened her faith in the company of her classmates during weekday massed.
“I remember slipping into the LeMans chapel at noon on weekdays for daily mass,” she said. “Fr. Murphy would be the celebrant, and I would find a number of my Sain. Mary’s friends already there. I remember how great it was to have the opportunity to take a few minutes during the day to pray and refocus on what was important. My friends who were there were great inspirations to me as they were women of strong faith and character. I think attending those masses in LeMans helped to influence my faith life for many years to come.”
Klein said of the most vivid memories of her years at Saint Mary’s includes an unforgettable encounter with a Notre Dame legend.
“My boyfriend and I had finished studying at Notre Dame’s library late one night and were walking through the middle of campus on our way to the grotto for a quick prayer,” she said. “It was a clear, cold winter evening and there was no one else walking about. As we strolled toward the administration building, my boyfriend was telling me how it was said that [University President Emeritus] Fr. [Theodore] Hesburgh (then, president of Notre Dame) often worked in his office until late at night and if you looked hard, you could see the light on in his office.
“As we got nearer to the building, we stopped talking abruptly, and looking up to the front steps of the admin building saw a tall figure, all in black, descend. Before we knew it, we were face to face with Fr. Hesburgh. He stopped to greet us and shook our hands as we recovered from our shock and introduced ourselves. After some brief words, he went on his way, leaving wondering how it happened that we were walking that path at the same [time] he should come out of his office.
“The darkness of that night, the lateness of the hour, and the honor of meeting such a Notre Dame legend without another soul around makes it a Saint Mary’s memory that will forever stay with me.”