Luncheon honors respected retirees, 25-year employees
College leaders, faculty, old friends and family of honorees gathered in the third-floor Archway Lounge of Dion Family Student Center on Wednesday, May 25, for a luncheon to celebrate well-known longtime employees retiring from Saint Michael’s after decades of good service, along with those marking 25 years of service.
Retirees honored at the luncheon were John Sheehey (registrar), Timothy Whiteford (education faculty), Jerry Flanagan (enrollment/institutional advancement), and Jacki Murphy (admission). Nicholas Clary of the English faculty was in England leading a study-trip and so was unable to attend.
Marking 25 years of service from the faculty were Richard Kujawa (geography/economics), Susan Summerfield (fine arts/music), Mahmoud Arani (applied linguistics), and, though unable to attend, Toni Messuri (English/Student Support Services) and Peter Harrigan (fine arts/theater). Noting 25 years from the staff was Ken Kretzer, plumber in the Facilities Department.
Mike New, vice president for human resources and administrative services, began the program by reflecting on the nature of work, recalling a Franciscan friend’s steady reminder that “to work is to pray.” He added, “to work is to grow and find out who you are … work allows you to renew your life … these are some amazing individuals that we say goodbye to today as they venture into the next phase of their lives.”
Emeritus faculty and retired administration and staff present included former president Paul Reiss, Buff Lindau (public relations), Svetlana Elitinsky (modern languages), John Carvellas (economics), Edmundite Fathers Joseph McLaughlin, Richard Berube, Richard Vanderweel (religious studies), Don Rathgeb (fine arts/theater), Josh VanHouten (chemistry), William Tortolano (fine arts/music), and former VPAA Bill Wilson (political science). Attending from the cabinet besides Mike New were Bill Anderson (chief information officer); Jeffrey Ayres, (dean of the College); Patrick Gallivan (VP for institutional advancement); Sarah Kelly (VP for enrollment and marketing), Neal Robinson, (VP for finance/treasurer), Karen Talentino (VP Academic Affairs), and Dawn Ellinwood (VP for student affairs); also present were Tara Arcury from the president’s office; and Emily Thomas and Kendra Smith from human resources who helped organize the event.
President Jack Neuhauser explained why many emeritus faculty and former staff were invited to the luncheon this year — part of a different format and venue from past years to honor these groups. “I think it’s very important in this day and age to stay connected like this, to maybe the singularly important part of everybody’s lives,” the president said. “Let’s keep on with these kinds of gatherings.”
Dean Ayres presented gifts and certificates to faculty with 25 years’ service:
Mahmoud Arani, he said, “has continued to play a key role in helping to deepen internationalization in our curriculum, student body and programming across our campus in his 25 years at the College.” After listing Arani’s many responsibilities and wide range of teaching assignments through the years, Ayres said, “Whether face-to-face, online, hybrid or ELP, Mahmoud has maintained an unwavering commitment and dedication to his students and to the craft of teaching, which he recently referred in his senior review narrative as ‘the finest work I know.’ Mahmoud is invaluable in his ongoing contributions to the civic life of his department and the College, with a colleague calling him both a ‘departmental ambassador’ and ‘master politician; at the College. Congratulations Mahmoud for all you have done to promote a global ethos and enrich the lives of our students at Saint Michael’s College.”
The dean said that Richard Kujawa “has performed expertly many roles and embraced different identities during his 25 years at Saint Michael’s College,” including teaching and leadership in geography and economics and a founding member of the Environmental Studies Program.
“Richard’s teaching interests broaden to include Environmental Policy and Urban and Regional Planning,” he said, noting a quote from Richard on his website faculty profile: ‘I see part of my job as a salesperson for the power of intellectual growth and lifelong learning. I work hard to make the sale!’ Added Ayres, “Richard is widely known as a challenging and respected instructor who was awarded the Rathgeb Teaching Award in 2010. In addition, Richard is just concluding his second three-year term as Chair of the Department of Economics during which time he has excelled as a faculty mentor and departmental manager. Well done, Richard, for all you have done to support and mentor our students and faculty at Saint Michael’s College over these past 25 years.”
Susan Summerfield, Ayres said, “has been a respected administrator, an innovative teacher and above all a gifted and talented artist in her 25 years at Saint Michael’s College.” He noted how Summerfield began her career at Saint Michael’s serving as Dean of the College from 1991-1996, and served as Chair of the Fine Arts Department from 2003-2009. He quoted from a former colleague about her “total mastery of the subject.” Ayres said Summerfield “is an innovative teacher with a skill for motivating a wide spectrum of students, excelling in both teaching music majors and general liberal arts students at the College.” Along with teaching music classes and private lessons, he said, “Susan also continues to present outstanding musical performances as the College Organist and beyond the College community performing on the organ, harpsichord and fortepiano. Thank you, Susan, for continuing to put the arts, as a centerpiece of our liberal arts experience here at Saint Michael’s College.”
Karen Talentino, the vice president for academic affairs, said, “This will be 42 years we’ve had privilege of having John Sheehey at Saint Michael’s College.” She said she was intrigued to find that Sheehey started in admissions working for Jerry Flanagan, “who :realized that John’s real strengths were in helping students once they got here … so not long after John became involved in the registrar’s office, and the rest is really a beautiful history of a man who is supremely suited for his job.” Some signature Sheehey qualities, she said, were: “his incredible love for Saint Michael’s the extreme care he gives to students and encouragement towards their success; his faith (including in Saint Michael’s), and his commitment to the Society of Saint Edmund. He always wants to help others … he gets up in the morning and thinks about how he can make others’ lives better.” She said Sheehey’s “ethical and moral character is really a vision to behold on a daily basis, always interested in doing the right thing.” She reflected how technology has changed his work so dramatically in 42 years, from typewriters to computers and from relative simplicity to ever more federal regulations and “data demands from internal and external sources from all directions.” But through it all, she said, “he’s maintained his gentle spirit, his incredible work ethic, his compassion, and all I can say is it’s been a tremendous honor to work with him — and it’s difficult to imagine working without him.” She thanked him for “leaving us in very good hand,” however, with his hand-picked and well-trained successor, David Barrowclough. “Thank you, John, for all you have given to Saint Michael’s.”
Tim Whiteford, Talentino said, joined the Education Department in 2005 after 17 years as professor of education at Trinity College and a number of other leadership positions in Vermont dealing with math education. Reviewing his file, she said, made her think how rare it was to see a case “where a person’s teaching, research interests, publications and professional work integrate quite as beautifully and fully as I saw in Tim’s file. He is incredibly committed to study the role of language in math,” she said, which is not common, and also to the multicultural aspects of math and dynamics of teaching math to students of disadvantaged homes. “His students benefit tremendously from his insights of teaching students all over the world, brought to life through classroom field experiences in Winooski and Burlington.” He’s been excited to teach a Somali student to count in English or a Bosnian student how to multiply, she said, and has intrigued so many with the creations from pennies that adorn the walls outside his office, illustrating math concepts. “His colleagues also will miss his infusion of British humor and phrases,” she said. “Tim, I want to thank you for your inspiration and your creativity and what you have done for the math education program for Saint Michael’s College and beyond.
Patrick Gallivan said Jerry Flanagan ’71 is retiring after working at Saint Michael’s for over four decades, mostly in admissions, but recently in fund-raising. “He has been dedicated and committed to Saint Michael’s since day he arrived on campus in late 1960s,” said Gallivan, who feigned Googling on his iPhone for words to describe Flanagan, saying the first was “STEADFAST,” followed by related words that also applied: loyal, faithful, devoted, dedicated, dependable, reliable, steady, true, constant, staunch, and solid. “That sums it up –Jerry, you’re all of those things,” Gallivan said. He talked of the amazing work Flanagan did for the past three years raising money from alumni, helped by the connections he had made building relationships in admissions for all those decades. “Time and again they thanked Jerry for the work he did, and they’re willing to support the College today because of it,” Gallivan said. He also praised Flanagan’s ability to mentor young staff on College history and culture, and thanked Flanagan’s wife, Judy, for her support. “Jerry Flanagan is one of the people who really truly support the mission of Saint Michael’s and the Edmundites — it’s people like Jerry who continue to help make Saint Michael’s thrive and we should all be grateful for that.”
Sarah Kelly said that the imminent retirement of Jacki Murphy ’74 as director of admission has reminded her a line from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the matriarch tells he daughter, “the man might be the head of the family, but the woman is the neck—and the neck can turn the head any way it wants.” Murphy, Kelly said, is “the neck of the enrollment operation, never having desired to be the head, and she seems to have the very unique ability to turn the ‘head’ whether it be Jerry, me, the cabinet, the president, and the staff toward focusing on what matters.” Among things the “neck” has done, Kelly said, are: “kept us focused on what matters in a very pragmatic way … moved us toward a better understanding of diversity and its role in our institution and is willing to do whatever it takes to serve those who have the least in this world … has become somewhat of a software engineer/data guru during her tenure …. kept us moving forward in our departmental operations, specifically with the counselors … and is always turning toward who needs help, a pat on the back, a kick in the pants, knowing what goes on with staff.” Further, “the neck” has “a memory a mile long, is very highly regarded in the New England college counseling community, knows everyone and is well liked by everyone, is committed to Vermont and Vermonters and is deeply rooted in the educational community” and “has kept our enrollment operation as a drama-free zone.” She “gets to the heart of the matter pretty quickly… and has always made family and health a priority, said Kelly, concluding, “She forged the way for women here at Saint Michael’s and we won’t forget that …there are a lot of heads in the room, but I want to salute one hell of a neck. Thank you for all you have done for Saint Michael’s and for leaving this place better than how you found it. “
Jim Farrington, director of facilities, said Ken Kretzer always provides Farrington’s ready answer to the universal question, “Do you know a good plumber?” “Well I do know a good plumber – Ken! We are celebrating 25 years of his dedicated service to the college,” said Farrington, joking of how Kretzer makes sure that the well-known thing that flows downhill “keeps going until it leaves campus,” which is no small thing. Besides the drainage issues, he said, “Ken has played a role in standardization of equipment which is incorporated into hundreds of thousand square feet of new construction. Thank you, Ken,” said Farrington, “for your 25 years of service.”