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At the End-of-the-Year Celebration: ”Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.” – Carl Friedrich Gauss

So Good, It Could Never Be Copied

As the end of her final semester approached, Maggie McConnaha ’18 took a look back over her undergraduate years and around her at the classmates who had shared those years with her, and came to a simple conclusion: The Class of 2018 is inimitable.

As many of us leave SNC’s campus once and for all, maybe staying nearby at the new medical college, maybe flying around the world, we pause to reflect on the last four years. The Class of 2018 is inimitable: So good, it could never be copied. We are originals – used to being the example and the consistent guinea pigs for new endeavors. We were the first class to welcome President Brian and Professor Carol Bruess to our campus, transitioning from the recipients of Kunkel’s Krew's help to the ones welcoming the new first-years. We were the first to learn to call the science building GMS instead of JMS, and the first to regularly use the new pool we were all promised on our tours four years ago.

Together we watched most buildings on campus get a facelift. The entire science building and sports center were built from the ground up. Boyle even got new carpets! We responded to pressures in the world and came back with Occupy Solidarity, a student-led campus movement for inclusion. Together, we’ve proposed TRIPS, created new clubs and organizations, and mentored the students who’ve come after us. Many have been awarded scholarships and have been acknowledged for their contributions to campus through service, leadership and academics, while others have participated behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. In our last year together, we spent hours studying, writing our capstone papers and finishing our individual research projects.

But now those projects are done (hopefully) and we’re sitting here, waiting to get out into a world of uncertainty. When you’re young, it’s hard to look beyond college graduation. I remember thinking that being 16 was the oldest a person could be and that driving a car was the pinnacle of human achievement. The path is fairly set: middle school to high school, high school to college and … then what? How do we take what we’ve achieved and what we’ve learned together and turn it into a life worthy of a SNC grad?

We might have a job or a partner that forms part of our plan. These are the parts that make up a life for any college graduate. But St. Norbert students have an extra aspect that needs to be considered when we leave this campus: How do we continue to share the mission of the college in our words and actions? We have four mottos to consider: radical hospitality, joy and hope, solidarity and fiat lux. [These were the annual themes adopted in succession for each of the undergraduate years of the Class of 2018.]

How do I follow in the footsteps of the Cassandra Voss Center and open my home and my mind with radical hospitality for others? We know that radical hospitality refers to both welcoming people to our tables to share meals, but also ensuring everyone has a seat at the table to share their ideas, hopes and goals. Will we lose ourselves in the cut-throat environment of med school, or will we humble ourselves, remembering the times here when we sought the help and expertise of others?

How will I use beauty like the Rev. Jim Neilson and the art department to share messages of joy and hope in a world consistently battered with negativity and fear? As we leave our beautiful campus with its budding trees and flowers, we will work towards bringing beauty and joy to those around us. Will we become guides like our First-Year Experience (FYE) mentors (or whatever it’s called now) and lead others through joy and hope through stressful situations? Will our new teachers present concepts like literature and math to fresh minds in new, creative ways? How do we embody hope to those we meet?

How will I stand in solidarity with others? We have amazing examples to mimic. The TRIPS program brought us around the world to stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. Best Buddies shows us what it’s like to walk in friendship with one another. How can we stand in solidarity with those around us?

And lastly, how will I walk with giants like St. Norbert, the staff and faculty of St. Norbert College, and the wonderful people who are here with us today, and be the light in the world? All this year we have been calling to “let there be light.” As we leave, it is up to us to be that light in the world. We each have talents, knowledge, friendships and goals that will lead us to be light in different places. The good thing is, we have all the skills we need to make a difference starting right now.

When we came to St. Norbert, I couldn’t help but notice that my tour guide kept smiling and saying hello to almost everyone we passed. I thought it might have been something they just did for show to get us to come. But after four years here, I’ve come to realize that’s not true. We share more than just a mutual love of potato bowl and turkey shwarma, we can reminisce about more than first-Saturday-of-the-year picnics, and we will carry with us more than the content we’ve studied. We have all those rich things with us, it’s true, but we also have learned about communio – it’s that buzzword you might not hear ever again until your own child starts looking at colleges and stumbles across St. Norbert. Like the class of 2018, SNC is so good that it can’t be imitated anywhere else.

More than alumni, we are now ambassadors of St. Norbert College to the rest of the world. Teaching by word and example, we are being asked to bring hospitality, joy, hope, solidarity, light and service to people who need us. We have been enveloped in a campus teaching us all that we need to know. Now we are called to do the same for others.

June 30, 2018