By Erin Hallissy
Nearly 97 percent of more than 2,200 alumni surveyed last year reported that their experience as a Saint Mary’s student was “very important to me,” and nearly 83 percent said the College “prepared me well for life.”
Asked for the three words that best captured their experience at SMC, alums came up with everything from “amazing, scary, wondrous” to “community, fun, enriching,” “hard work, reward” and “stimulating, maturing, fantabulous.”
Asked for additional comments, many spoke fondly of Saint Mary’s.
“Some of the happiest years of my life were spent at the college. I once told Brother Mel that, if there is such a place as heaven, I will know I’ve made it because the bell tower of the Chapel will be smack-dab in the middle of it,” said one. Another wrote “What I really loved and appreciated most about Saint Mary’s was the relationships that I was able to build with the faculty on campus. I was really amazed at how approachable and helpful the faculty was and continues to be.”
Brother President Ronald Gallagher said in a podcast interview that the feedback heartened him.
“These responses were really affirming what we’re doing in our mission. The things the alumni were saying about the importance of the relationships they had with the Brothers while they were here, the importance of the relationships they had with the faculty and staff, were significant,” he said. “I was surprised by the consistent response about parts of the curriculum that affected them — the importance of the Great Books seminars and how they said this made a significant impact on their growth, on their intellectual and human development. Jan Term, they said, was a very positive experience for them. Those were themes that affirmed what we’re doing here.”
Many alumni said the College should continue to proclaim the ideals of the Christian Brothers, maintain affordable tuition, educate the poor and disadvantaged and bolster athletics.
Brother Ronald said he was especially struck by the comments about keeping the College affordable. The Board of Trustees decided in February to increase institutional financial aid by $3.6 million in 2007–08, a 22 percent boost aimed to help low- and moderate-income students. The College’s goal is to enroll an incoming freshman class with 25 percent of students eligible for federal Pell Grants.
“We know that’s important for us,” Brother Ronald said. “Alumni are worried about tuition and making it possible for the low-income and poor students to be able to attend Saint Mary’s College.”
Alumni also reported some worries about SMC, including lack of diversity in teaching ranks, a “deeper slide into secularism,” fewer Christian Brothers in the classroom and the closure of the football program. Some said they were concerned about the College getting too big or too exclusive, while others said they are worried about the school ending the extended education and other programs or having to lower admission standards.
To hear Brother Ronald’s podcast, go to www.stmarys-ca.edu/podcast