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Noted, First to Last: An Essay in Contrasts

The very first alumni note published by St. Norbert College named, not surprisingly, a priest – more precisely, a priest-to-be. The Rev. George Beemsterboer, Class of 1911, we learned, would complete his studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary, Rochester, N.Y., and was to be ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The date was 1917 and the publication was the very first edition of the college yearbook, Des Peres. St. Norbert College itself was no more than 20 years on from its founding as an institution to prepare young men for the priesthood.

Three other candidates for the priesthood and two newly ordained men joined Beemsterboer in those notes – as well as Harold Allie, Class of 1916, now on the USS Pennsylvania, who had been appointed personal stenographer to Rear Admiral Mayo. And readers learned that Martin J. Van der Heyden, Class of 1909, “has made a real success in business. He is now the district superintendent of the metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Joliet, Ill.”

Since the college began publishing for alumni readers in the 1950s, alumni notes have found their permanent home in their magazine. And, by chance, the very latest batch of notes to arrive in the magazine office includes one concerning a priest: It’s news that the Rev. Bob Finnegan ’49, of St. Norbert Abbey, celebrates his 70th jubilee this summer. But these recent notes, awaiting publication in the fall, include topics unheard of for that 1917 edition: a woman lawyer (Maya Zahn ’08), a sports science and biomechanics intern (Devon Silver ’20), a marriage (Chauntelle Skarr ’03) and a new baby (for Nikki Hoffman (Ferron) ’10 and Alex Hoffman ’10).

And there will be deaths to note that we sorrowfully anticipate. In that 1917 edition, there were no deaths to report from among those few, and still young, men then counted among the college’s alumni: Their first losses would come the following year, after the United States entered World War I and four St. Norbert men would lay down their lives in the service of a precarious peace. Here in the 2020s, however, with an alumni base of many years behind us, news of recent deaths claims several pages of each issue. Those obituary notices are the last thing we can do for our readers, and our student editors take them very seriously.

These days, by the way, Beemsterboer (who would become a professor and a monsignor and who died in 1971) and his news would not have made the cut for this issue either. With a wealth of successful alumni to feature, we now try to avoid anticipating events, so word on his graduation and ordination would also be held for the fall edition.

June 30, 2022