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College’s ring has rich tradition

Angela Saoud | Friday, April 15, 2005

Class of 2003 graduate Shannon Brewer still feels connected to the Saint Mary’s campus when she looks at her right hand. On her middle finger she wears her class ring – the one familiar to Saint Mary’s graduates for more than half a century.

“There is such a tradition, such meaning behind this ring for anyone who wears it,” Brewer said. “It sets Saint Mary’s women apart from others, and that’s something I haven’t really seen anywhere else. I just feel connected to the campus when I wear it.”

And she is not alone. Balfour company salesman for Saint Mary’s Jim Bell estimates that nearly 150 to 200 rings have been sold yearly for the 37 years he has been the Saint Mary’s representative. Rings are also sold by the Jostens company, but the Balfour company’s design was in fact the original.

“The first class I sold rings to was the class of 1968,” Bell said. “Back then we used to sell through the class officers, not through the bookstore like we do now. This has become part of the Saint Mary’s tradition.”


While Balfour has been selling rings to the College since at least the 1950s, the current ring design has been in place since 1973.

“Originally, the seal and the words ‘Spes Unica’ were the only things on the ring’s surface,” Bell said. “We later added the words Saint Mary’s of Notre Dame. But in 1973 when the two schools decided not to merge, we changed the logo to Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame to show its independence from the University.”

The current ring presentation was created by Bell. While the seal had always been a part of it, he added to the presentation pending what students and faculty wanted to see. While the ring has varied over the years, the parts of the ring have remained the same for the past 30-plus years.

And as the campus and the people on it have changed, Bell said the designs and styles of the rings have changed with the needs and wants of the Saint Mary’s community.

“We used to only sell the two sizes, the small and the large,” he said. “But in the early 1980s, women started wearing the ring on their pinkie finger, so they asked if we could sell a smaller version as well.”

Ring prices range anywhere from $250 up to $600 or more, depending on the size of the diamond in the center and the karats of gold purchased.

Most rings are sold at Senior Dad’s weekend, Sophomore Parents weekend and Junior Mom’s weekend, Bell said.

Bell believes the ring is so popular because of the culture and history of the College.

“This ring and this school are unique in the sense that the women here really like the rings,” Bell said. “At other colleges, a ring may not seem so important, but it has come to symbolize part of the Saint Mary’s experience here. This is a ring that is recognized wherever people go.”


Each ring is individually crafted with a variety of components, making it unique to Saint Mary’s, Bell said.

The top of the ring consists of the College Seal, which was adopted from the seal of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

The center of the ring, and by far the largest image of the surface, is the French Cross. Crisscrossing the French Cross are two anchors, which meet to form the Greek letter Chi – the monogram of Christ, which stands for virtue of hope.

In the top quarters of the ring sit two fleurs-de-lis, representing the French origin of the Sisters.

The words “Spes Unica” emblazoned on the bottom of the ring stand for “One Hope,” again referring to the Cross of Christ.

The rings also come with the option of having a small diamond or an open book in the center of the ring.

The Tradition

Alumni Jennifer Jermano Miller, class of 1993, said her ring has simply become a part of who she is.

“I never take off my Saint Mary’s ring, just like I never take off my wedding rings,” Miller said. “I truly loved every moment I spent at Saint Mary’s – the education was invaluable; the friendships I made were lasting. I hold Saint Mary’s very close to my heart and I wear my ring as a symbol of lasting friendships, the wonderful education and the rich tradition [to which] only a Saint Mary’s woman can relate.”

Class of 1979 alumna Vickie Richardson said even through she no longer wears her ring, she believes it is special because her memories of Saint Mary’s are so special.

“The ring is a symbol of the wonderful time I had there,” Richardson said. “My ring sits in my jewelry box, but I do not wear it. I don’t even remember when I stopped wearing it, but I knew I would never part with it. It’s part of my tradition, and every woman who wears the ring’s tradition.”

As for Brewer and her ring, she says she will wear it for the rest of her life.

“It signifies important accomplishments in my life so that I know belong to the great sorority of alums and I remember my college experience with pride and a lot of nostalgia whenever I look at it,” Brewer said. “There are a lot of people who have so much passion about this school. Some people think the College is just a small liberal arts school, but it’s so much more than that. This ring simply reminds them.”