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A Journey in Partnership

Paul Wadell (Theology & RS, Emeritus) has been inspiring Becky (Welch) Lahti ’00 (Emmaus Center) in her work on vocation since she was an undergraduate. Now Lahti, pictured above with Wadell in Ed’s, the campus coffee shop, works on in the field he did so much to develop at St. Norbert. It’s a journey she’s been reflecting on ever since we first invited her to share in this photo op with her mentor.

When I have the opportunity, I enjoy sharing a fun fact about one of my connections to Paul Wadell: In the fall semester of 1998, I was a student in the very first class that Paul taught at St. Norbert College. The class was Christian Ethics, and we met at 8 a.m .– so, yes, it was literally the first class he taught here.

I can still picture our classroom in Boyle Hall, wondering if this new SNC professor could be as kindhearted and genuine as he seemed to be. The answer was yes! Paul had a way of making students feel known and cared for, learning our names quickly and using them often when he spoke to us. Chatting over coffee nearly 25 years later, those qualities remain unchanged.

While there are so many things that my 21-year-old self didn’t know, I am certain that I never imagined I would someday call Paul a colleague and friend. I couldn’t have known that. eight years later, I’d be back at St. Norbert College working alongside him in support of vocational exploration among students, faculty and staff. I suppose I speak from experience, then, whenever I assure students that life will not go as they expect – noting that more often than not that’s a very good thing.

It felt fitting then, when I was asked to be part of a photo shoot for an article that would feature his reflections on retirement and vocation. I am grateful for all that I have learned from Paul and never pass up the chance to have a conversation with him. It was no trouble at all to “act naturally” for the camera. In fact, we stayed sitting at Ed’s long after the camera stopped shooting.

Paul may be retired, but he left an indelible mark on this place and continues to be a source of wisdom. The work that he helped begin in the Program of Faith, Learning & Vocation continues through the Emmaus Center for Spiritual Life & Vocation and other areas across campus. We use his writings on vocation in various programs and offerings, and often invite him to campus as a well-loved guest speaker and facilitator.

I am grateful for all that I have learned from Paul. I will always jump at the chance to continue the conversation we began so many years ago.

Oct. 31, 2022