In My Words/Fine Print, Great Passions

As you are reading this edition of SNC Magazine, most likely it is high season for weekends at the cabin, family reunions, evenings on the patio and the array of joys summer brings – minus the inevitable mosquitoes. Although, even those pesky little friends are a welcome sight, a sure sign we did indeed survive another Wisconsin winter. As I’m writing this column, it’s a type of high season on campus – one of my favorites of the academic year, in fact – that of celebrating the academic accomplishments of our current and graduating students. As Dr. Howard Ebert, professor of theology and religious studies, aptly described during his keynote at this spring’s Academic Awards Dinner, “… tonight is a high feast, the Academy Awards, the All-Star Game, the Super Bowl of academics: a time we celebrate the academic excellence of our students!”

Indeed, it was a fantastic celebration. And, without question, the excellence and accomplishments of this group of students left every one of us in the room awestruck. What also quite viscerally struck Carol and me as we honored St. Norbert’s most impressive students that evening – those receiving Distinguished Achievement Awards in their disciplines, summa cum laude and/or other honors – was their intense and apparent passion. From education to theology to biology to law, these juniors and seniors display what I’d describe as an uncommon passion for what they are being called to do in this world. One after another, as we learned of this generation of students’ many accomplishments as well as what they are off to do next as Green Knight alumni, it became decidedly clear: Our students are readily and fully embracing the creative, academic and spiritual gifts they have been given.

If the French philosopher Denis Diderot was correct in his assessment that “only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things,” we can rest assured our next and newest alumni are going to be more than just fine! In fact, it’s undeniably clear they are going to do great things in this world – and already are. Like graduating senior Autumn Johnson, who discovered her passion at SNC for social justice and serving others, leading the college’s Habitat for Humanity chapter and now, as a newly minted alum, is heading out to do work in a nonprofit focused on the needs of the world.

Like senior Kristina Herman who majored in chemistry with a biochemistry concentration and math minor. She happened to also play two varsity sports at SNC and serve as research assistant for the National Science Foundation – in her free time. Kristina is now choosing between multiple offers from Ph.D. chemistry programs.

Like senior Roman Buss, an international student from Prague in the Czech Republic, who double-majored in economics and political science. Roman is similarly fielding multiple offers – his from law schools across the country, many of them wooing him with full scholarships.

Like senior Megan Lau, an instrumental and music education major who has not only been a member of multiple choirs the past four years – from flute to hand bell to wind ensemble – but also played varsity golf, earning three Elite 20 Awards. She is now headed off to realize her passion for education as an elementary school teacher.

Like senior Emily Steuer, a sociology major whose passion for research was recently given national recognition as she was named a prestigious Fulbright student.

I could go on. The program booklet that evening was 40 pages long, printed in a font so small I might have welcomed my strongest spectacles. But the evening, of course, was not about the quantity of certificates nor the volume of handshakes as students received their well-earned honors. It was about the outcomes, driven by our mission and vision, as they must always be. Indeed, we at St. Norbert College are steadfastly and uncompromisingly continuing to create learning environments in which every student can embrace and advance their passions. In doing so, they are becoming the next generation of leaders worthy of our trust.

July 1, 2019