Undergraduate Commencement Speaker

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

This has been a busy spring semester for us all, and my office has been no exception.

In addition to Board of Trustees meetings and retreats, I have been through a round of Honors at Entrance visits up and down the Pacific Coast and attended a variety of other events on and off campus. Much of the news coming from these events and visits has been quite positive. The most important item of news is that the Board of Trustees at its recent March retreat has given the approval to go ahead with the construction of Filippi Academic Hall. This decision is a result of the Advancement Office's fine work in continuous fund raising for this project. Filippi Academic Hall, to be located in the parking area adjacent to Augustine Hall, will house the School of Education and the Academic Support and Achievement Programs, as well as provide much needed faculty offices and classrooms. We will begin construction shortly following graduation in May.

In recent weeks I have attended seven regional receptions for admitted high school seniors with Honors at Entrance academic qualifications. These receptions have been hosted by Saint Mary's alumni. The combined efforts of Enrollment Services, faculty, staff, alumni and students, have yielded a record number of high academic achievers in this year's applicant pool. This trend, coupled with a record number of total undergraduate applicants, causes me to be optimistic that we will reach, if not exceed, our fall 2006 enrollment targets. Vice President Michael Beseda has recently communicated with you about the significant increase in undergraduate applications. We should anticipate another large freshman class as well as an increase in the number of transfer students. I would like to thank not only the Admissions staff, but the current faculty, students and alumni who continue to make the Saint Mary's experience welcoming and worthwhile for these potential students.

I am pleased to announce that this year's traditional undergraduate commencement speaker is one of our graduating "seniors": 83-year old Dr. Clifford Straehley. Dr. Straehley entered Harvard Medical School after his junior year at the University of Michigan, and served during World War II as surgery chief at a U.S. Army base in Germany. He later practiced thoracic surgery for thirty years in Hawaii while serving simultaneously on the medical school faculties of the University of Hawaii and Stanford University. On his retirement, Dr. Straehley returned to the Bay Area with his wife, Marnie, to be near their adult daughter. Dr. Straehley had long wanted to finish his undergraduate degree; his daughter, a part-time lecturer at Saint Mary's, urged her father to enroll here. He did so in fall 2003.

Dr. Straehley is a warm, insightful man whose life experiences have relevance for all of us. The senior class officers and I are delighted to welcome him as this year's commencement speaker.

Over the March 10-12 weekend, we welcomed over 300 former Gael rugby participants, other alums and guests to campus to celebrate the last fifty years of competitive rugby at the College. Saint Mary's, UC Santa Barbara, Chico St. and Central Washington University participated in a two-day tournament (the Pat Vincent Cup, named for the venerated and now deceased rugby coach who served here from 1968 to 1984), and many alums and friends took part in various social festivities. While I was away on College business and unable to attend, I know the weekend was a grand celebration of Saint Mary's long-standing success in this highly competitive sport. The weekend was planned and executed by a committee of loyal Gaels; I want to acknowledge the efforts of Marty Storti and others in making it happen.

My best wishes to all for continuing blessings on your work.

In St. La Salle,

Brother Ronald Gallagher, FSC