Alverno President Andrea Lee, IHM, PhD

From the President: Summer 2017

Of late, and amid an all-out push to complete Alverno’s strategic plan (at least long enough to take a breath, swimming as we are in the swirling waters of change), I’ve found myself in the company of several bright, intelligent and curious young girls. To wit, a 5-year-old making the rounds on her “yes day” birthday with her 2-year-old “mini-me” sister in tow; two Eleanors — quite the active little women — one bespectacled with the determined demeanor of a future scholar, the other on her way to a (perhaps first) weekend in New York City; and a 10-year-old, the spitting image of her mother but with a “definitely my own” persona and endless supply of on-the-mark questions. Others encountered in various places on campus, often daughters of students exposed early to the directional power of watching their mothers study and succeed.

These young ones are the women of Alverno’s tomorrow and the reasons why we are so intent on shaping a future worthy of their intelligence, creativity and endless curiosity. They are why we work so hard to position ourselves well by articulating a contemporary strategy for Alverno, one firmly linked to what we know we do well. Our strategy is also strongly linked to the emerging needs of the Milwaukee region that soaks up Alverno graduates like a desert that knows life-giving rain when it encounters it.

Amid my recent encounters with the captivating energy that surrounds young girls came the inevitable but, to most, unimaginable end of the life of Sister Joel Read ’48. Over 90 years of age, with a legacy shaped by 35 years as Alverno’s president and more years than that as a life-transforming teacher of history, Sister Joel met God face to face on May 25, shortly after the sun slipped beyond the horizon on the traditional feast of the Ascension of the Lord.

I experienced the humbling grace of spending many hours at her bedside during those last few days, and it was impossible to escape (nor would one want to) the lovely juxtaposition of young girls at the beginning of their lives and Sister Joel at the end of her wildly successful one. Media and personal tributes poured in from everywhere, and her funeral in the School Sisters’ chapel offered those present a tribute worthy of a great woman. Yet both the funeral and her burial across the street from Alverno were in keeping with the School Sisters’ deep conviction that the work of one is the work of all and that each takes her place in life and death in the long line of School Sisters doing God’s work on earth.

Sister Joel’s death came when this magazine was already irretrievably on the production runway, so look for a more full and adequate tribute to her in the Fall 2017 issue.

As for Alverno’s future, the young girls I’ve encountered focus me on a point beyond the end of the visible horizon, inspiring my work every day. But not just my work. They also guide the collective work of many who helped shape Alverno’s Strategic Plan during countless meetings and listening sessions over the past year. Thank you!

We hope you like the energy, life and focus of our plan, expressed in “five trees.” We’ll introduce the trees in this issue — Academic Excellence and Women’s Leadership, Health Care, K-12 Education with an Urban Focus, Mental and Behavioral Health, and a “new” school to house our adult, online and non-traditional curricular offerings. More information and more excitement to come in future issues of this magazine.

I’m looking forward to some time with family and friends over the summer, and I hope you are as well. A little respite before a great surge of activity ahead! Thank you for being our best argument for the power and worth of an Alverno education.


This letter originally appeared in the summer 2017 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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