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Keenan rector and wife adjust to married dorm life

| Monday, March 6, 2017

Noel and Jaclyn Terranova met at a wedding, dated long-distance for about three years and got married in May 2016. Just after their wedding, Jaclyn moved from her off campus home and started living with her husband — in Keenan Hall, where Noel is now the only married rector on campus.

Noel Terranova, in his fifth year as the rector of Keenan, attended Notre Dame for graduate school.

“I became a rector in the way that anyone gets any job,” he said. “It’s a job in my field. My training is in theology, and I have background working in campus ministry in higher education and pastoral ministry. For me, it was new to be in student affairs, properly speaking. That’s been a growth area for me. But I would say that I got into this position because I felt called to work directly with college students and share in their lives and their experience.”

Even before she lived in Keenan full time, Jaclyn Terranova was around the hall. Noel said the residents of Keenan knew Jaclyn well.

In last month’s Keenan Revue, Jaclyn Terranova, as the first female resident of Keenan Hall, made history as the first female performer.

“I never thought about it that way,” she said. “I guess I am the only woman here. But it’s fun. I have my own 9-to-5 job off campus, so I’m definitely part of Keenan Hall, but I’m not in the role that Noel is in, so I can pick and choose what I do. I do all of the fun stuff.”

Jaclyn Terranova works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in elderly care and rehabilitation. Noel Terranova works, as he put it, from “whenever a.m. to whenever a.m.”

“It can be difficult to find that time together when so much of what I’m doing is programming in the evening hours,” Noel said.

“Dinner is the sacred time for us because we try and always eat together, and that’s the time when I wind down from my day and Noel either continues or gets ready for his,” Jaclyn added.

Rectors are often involved in other University functions, including teaching, administrative work and campus ministry. Noel Terranova team-teaches a theology class that integrates aspects of residential life. However, much of what rectors do involves interacting with students in the evening hours. Noel Terranova said balancing work to ensure he’s not working all day and all night can be difficult.

But Keenan residents have embraced the couple. A sign outside their door denotes their apartment as belonging to “the rector” and “first lady.”

“The guys are just so excited and so polite,” Jaclyn Terranova said. “I’ve received three standing ovations in my life. All three of them came from Keenan guys.”

“Engaged, married and pregnant,” Noel added.

As far as raising their child in the dorm, the couple is still talking about that.

“Right now, we are very excited to be considering that as an option,” Noel Terranova said. “But we don’t have an answer on whether or not that’s going to be possible.”

Both cited the Keenan Revue as a special memory of their time in Keenan. One of the first skits of this year’s show was a reenactment of the couple’s wedding.

“I thought it was really memorable, being up on stage with Jaclyn in her wedding dress, pretty clearly pregnant going through a fake wedding,” Noel Terranova said.

Jaclyn Terranova said she couldn’t see or hear anything during the performance, but she felt included in the community.

“Just to be backstage when Noel was making his speech, and to be with the guys and have them be so pumped — It was totally, ‘I’m part of Keenan’ and that really cemented it. It was a lot of fun,” she said.

As the interview ended, Goose, their dog, bounded into their apartment. He had been out for a walk with a resident of Keenan.

According to the couple, Goose is an equally integral part of the Keenan Hall community, integrated “before I ever was,” as Jaclyn Terranova put it. Goose roams the halls, interacts with residents, and “loves it when people come into his space.” He enjoys spending time with the dorm’s housekeepers and outside Keenan’s pizza restaurant, Za Land.

Whenever Noel Terranova is on duty, Goose accompanies him on rounds, a job he takes very seriously. When Goose needs a walk, the couple will often ask for a volunteer via the whiteboard outside their door. Someone almost always responds to the call.

“Having a dog in the residence hall, whether the students interact with him on a regular basis or not, gives a feeling of home,” Noel Terranova said. “This building, architecturally, is not our finest building on campus. It has sort of a cinderblock, institutional sort of quality to it. It’s the people and the experience in here that make it feel not like an institution but like a home. I think having a dog is just one more aspect of how this place can really feel like home and not like an institution.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Jaclyn Terranova lived in Keenan Hall after their engagement. The couple maintained two separate residences prior to their marriage. The Observer regrets this error.

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  • Jackie O’Brien

    Really nice article Tom!!

  • Alice Felker

    Very well written, Tom! Great job! 🙂