Alverno President Andrea Lee, IHM, PhD

From the President: Spring/Summer 2019

I recently found myself in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, fully engaged in the “entertain the grandsons thing.” Not quite warm enough for swimming, and with one of them hobbling around on a soccer-injured knee, we make our way to the Mall of America, a favorite destination for some increasingly obscure reasons. One reason with magnetic force — the arcade where an electronic card collects points (instead of tickets) by the thousands, building toward obtaining a ridiculously overpriced game that we could buy for far less than what it would cost in the tokens necessary to attain it. The thrill of the chase, I guess.

After an hour and 30,000 points added to the card, we bank our winnings and move on. We settle in at Johnny Rockets, a favorite spot for hamburgers and shakes. The boys seize our table, the one we’ve been visiting for more than a decade since Tony, my oldest grandson, was a toddler. I look at them — my two gorgeous, mixed-race, Haitian-Swedish grandsons, joined by a friend since Montessori preschool, an extraordinarily bright and engaging Nigerian boy visiting from Iowa with his oncologist and pharmacist parents.

Clearly enjoying their face-to-face time together, which translates to “no phones or iPads, so nary a move made on their incessantly ongoing Fortnite game,” the boys notice the recently remodeled tables where, previously, a small lip on the edge had allowed serious games of nickel hockey to consume the time waiting for food. The boys are simply happy to be with each other — talking, laughing, sharing summer plans both grand and not so grand.

Our waitress has known these boys since Tony was two. He now stands with a shy adolescent smile to match her height, with his currently popular “big hair” included in the comparative sizing. She spoils them with more food than we ordered, with the regular kids’ shake flavors of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry turning magically into the more desirable and adult Oreo cookies and cream. We tip generously.

An interracial couple and their children sit down at the next table and my younger grandson, Andre, is immediately entranced. Some, if not all, of the family are deaf and carry on an enthusiastic conversation in American Sign Language. Andre whispers to me that he knows how to sign some words, and I encourage him to try. I tell him that he also can communicate with his eyes and his smile. He spends the meal doing just that with the family’s younger daughter. Our human connection with this family is real, if wordless, as we all wave good-bye.

The mall is a temporary home to thousands, all on the move and, in every possible description, diverse and alive. It is a place of human commerce, but a place of community as well. The vibes are positive.

This is a microcosm of the world these boys will enter and the world for which we are preparing students at Alverno — fast-moving, technology-driven, diverse and, more than ever, needing the blessing of close, meaningful, person-to-person contact. Eyes and smiles definitely work, and sometimes they work better than words. Alverno College is good at this work — very good, and always striving to be better.

We don’t know everything about the world our students will enter, I thought as I recently bestowed hard-earned diplomas on hundreds of happy students at May commencement. I am sure, though, that our students are ready for whatever lies ahead because of their Alverno education and the strong abilities now woven through their minds and souls. Thank you for helping to make that possible. The world is counting on it.


This letter originally appeared in the spring/summer 2019 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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