Head of Enrollment, Communications Moves On After 34 Years at SMC

Michael Beseda with his family and a blessing from the pope.It was the end of an era as Saint Mary’s said goodbye to Michael Beseda, vice provost for enrollment and vice president for college communications, who has worked at the College for more than three decades, starting just a few months after he graduated from SMC’s Integral Program in 1979. Beseda has been named vice president of enrollment and university communications at Willamette University in Salem, Ore.    

The Faculty/Staff Dining Room was packed as colleagues, current and former faculty members, Cabinet members and Brother President Ronald Gallagher all saluted Beseda for his contributions to the College.

And they came bearing gifts, including bottles of Brother Timothy cabernet for Beseda, the wine connoisseur; a framed copy of one of the Saint Mary’s museum’s William Keith paintings; and a medal and plaque bestowing on him The Order of Saint Mary’s. Then there was a very special gift presented by Brother Charles Hilken: a blessing from Pope Francis bestowing on Beseda “an abundance of Divine graces for 35 years of service to Saint Mary's College of California.”

Beseda began his SMC career as an admissions officer and later served as director of admissions and assistant vice president for research, planning and technology. He has been in charge of enrollment at Saint Mary’s for 15 years and for college communications for 10 years. In addition to his B.A. from Saint Mary’s, Beseda holds a master's degree in World and Comparative Literature from San Francisco State University.  

Beseda’s farewell party was a mixture of roast and toast, though, as one speaker pointed out, no one is the subject of so many jibes who isn’t held in great affection. Among the roasts was a satirical cover of Saint Mary’s magazine, which he founded, presented by Elizabeth Smith, assistant vice president for college communications, and a tongue-in-cheek list of the “Top Ten Reasons Why Willamette Is a Good Career Move for Michael Beseda,” delivered by Keith Brant, vice president for development.

After accepting the jibes, the heartfelt expressions of gratitude and the gifts, Beseda thanked the members of the Saint Mary’s community and acknowledged their contribution to his success.

During his time at the helm of Saint Mary’s enrollment, Beseda and his teams have worked to admit an increasingly diverse and academically qualified student body and to raise awareness of “this special place,” as he put it. Last year, Saint Mary’s was listed in the prestigious higher education guidebook “Colleges That Change Lives,” and this year, it accepted the most academically qualified group of incoming students in its history, with an average high school GPA of 3.64.

Among those he thanked, Beseda singled out Joseph Lanigan, who taught at Saint Mary’s from 1959 to 2005 and returned for the farewell gathering.

“Joseph was one of the first people I met at Saint Mary’s and one of the most important teachers in my life,” Beseda said, recalling his days in Lanigan’s Seminar classes. “To this day, I remember conversations he led on Platonic dialogs, Euclid's Elements and many other authors. The ideas and approaches he demonstrated and engendered shape my life to this day.”

Finally, he told a moving story about an experience at Mont La Salle, the Brothers’ residence in Napa.

“Often, during departmental retreats, I ask people to walk up to the Brothers’ cemetery. It’s up a little hill, behind the Brothers’ residence, in an open glen,” he said. “One night, after maybe a few drinks, a group of us walked up the hill past the Stations of the Cross. It seemed like the area was lit with floodlights. I soon realized it was moonlight reflecting off the gravestones, but it was as if the moonlight had been magnified. And it reminded me that the Brothers had been that kind of light for generations at Saint Mary’s and that today all the people in the community are that light.”

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