By Erin Hallissy
The French came up with the notion of terroir — that a wine is affected by where it is grown, the type of soil, the weather, the topography. Champagne needs the soil of the Champagne region of France to be authentic because the same grape grown in the Napa Valley won't have the same characteristics. We decided to explore the notion of terroir and how Saint Mary's College — and its students, faculty and staff — are unique because of the ground we are rooted in and the unique surrounding influences of our setting, mission and people. People often remark on how beautiful Saint Mary's is — the white Mission-style buildings that seem so at home in California, the lush landscaping of the campus, the gentle rolling hills surrounding it that are almost startlingly green in the late winter and early spring before turning a golden brown in the summer. But our setting is only one part of our terroir. We are also molded by the Christian Brothers who have run Saint Mary's since long before it moved to Moraga in 1928. For almost 150 years, the Brothers and their mission of educating the poor and centering their lives on students have been a hallmark of the College. The Brothers have come in all shapes and sizes (and sometimes are known as readily by their nicknames as by their first names), and in all personalities, from gentle encouragers to outspoken orators. Many alumni express great fondness for one Brother or another, and sometimes many, even while telling stories about being scolded by prefects or professors. Our location in Northern California also contributes to our terroir. I spoke to some of our Australian basketball players last year, and they told me they felt at home in Moraga because it is laid-back. That's certainly a trait Californians are known for, and it creates for many students a feeling of comfort and ease. But students also appreciate that the curriculum is rigorous, and that small class sizes give them a chance to really know their professors — and for the professors to know them. Our Catholic and Lasallian missions also help cultivate our community in many positive and challenging ways. They are foundations that we return to again and again, and our quest for truth is supported by the traditions of the Roman Catholicism and the charism of the followers of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. We invite you in this issue to experience some aspects of our terroir.
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