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Like many of the events held over the past 18 months, the campuswide finale to “Opening Doors: Celebrating 40 Years of Coeducation” helped tell the story of women at Holy Cross and encouraged all members of the community to reflect on challenges and opportunities now and in the years ahead.
More than 500 students, faculty, staff, and alumnae filled the Hogan Campus Center Ballroom for the event on Jan. 28.
In her keynote address, Ann McElaney-Johnson ’79, president of Mount St. Mary’s College and member of the Holy Cross Board of Trustees, discussed what Mount St. James meant to her and her four sisters who also graduated from the College (Kim ’76, Meg ’77, Jane ’81, and Julie ’87).
“Holy Cross changed my life, and the lives of my sisters. … Each of us had our own distinctive experience at Holy Cross – yet there is something we all shared, and that something is not unique to our family. It is an experience that so many families and so many students share. Holy Cross helped us — all of us — develop habits of mind that have served us well: the desire and the ability to think deeply and creatively, to communicate with clarity and confidence, to take risks, to excel,” she said.
“As a Catholic liberal arts college, Holy Cross taught us the best of the Catholic intellectual tradition (although most of us did not really understand or care about that term back then). And it did more. Holy Cross truly taught us what it means to be women and men for and with others. Our experience compelled us to think beyond ourselves and to see our education in the context of the needs of the world.”
Citing the low percentages of women among members of Congress, Fortune 500 CEOs, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals, McElaney-Johnson urged the audience to level the playing field by channeling the same type of courage shown by the pioneering women who entered the College in 1972.
“As we celebrate the College’s commitment to opening the doors to women, let us not lose sight of the work we are still called to do,” she said. “There are still doors that need opening, and barriers that need dismantling.”
McElaney-Johnson said that Holy Cross offers students the tools to make a positive difference in the world.
“Just as the College did back in those first days of coeducation, this community continues to ignite a fire in the hearts and minds of students — women and men,” she said. “Holy Cross gives us the gift of imagination, of courage, of possibility and then calls us forward. And that is a precious gift.”
The Delilahs, an all-female a cappella group, and the Rhythm Nation Steppaz, the College’s step team, provided entertainment. Several alumnae members of the Delilahs traveled to campus to join the celebration, and posters throughout the Ballroom told the stories of how graduates’ lives were shaped by their Holy Cross experience.
The event, just as with all of the events in the coeducation celebration, was organized by a coordinating committee convened by Jacqueline Peterson, vice president of student affairs and dean of students.
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