Ceremony honors employees for milestones, retirements

Words of community, friendship and parting are highlights in program carefully organized by Human Resources

May 18, 2023
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

The annual Saint Michael’s College Retirement & Recognition Ceremony was Thursday afternoon, May 18, 2023, in the McCarthy Recital Hall, with a reception afterward.

Human Resources Co-Directors Kendra Smith and Howie LeBlanco put careful planning into a nearly 90-minute program with PowerPoint slides, aiming to build a stronger sense of community while giving due recognition to the longtime employees or retirees among the more than 100 people in attendance.

Howie LeBlanco

Howie LeBlanco opens Thursday’s gathering. The large image behind the headline shows President Sterritt, center, in the audience, with Leandre Waldo at left and Fr. Brian Cummings at right. (photos by Patrick Bohan)

LeBlanco noted that he started at the College last year at about the time of this ceremony, and it was an ideal way to get a sense of the welcoming community and its character. He specially thanked Justin Barcomb in his office for helping organize the occasion with such spirit. Smith noted that the day’s honorees represented a combined 918 years of service to the College.

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Fr. Brian prays.

The written program for the event called it “A celebration to recognize the commitments and contributions of our faculty and staff.” The proceedings began with a blessing from Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry. After the welcome from Smith and LeBlanco, the gathering heard remarks from President Lorraine Sterritt, who is retiring in June.

President Sterritt remembered the first time she attended the employee recognition ceremony in 2019, saying she recalled “being blown away by the dedication exhibited by our faculty and staff,” and her appreciation and respect “have grown exponentially in the five years I have been here.”

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President Lorraine Sterritt speaks.

“To work at a college over many years requires perseverance, optimism, and a capacity for joy,” Sterritt said. “It also requires equal amounts of resilience and hope,” and “That is what I see when I look at those gathered here: Determination to educate young people, to enhance the lives of all the people around them, readiness and willingness to overcome challenges large and small, and finally, an eagerness to celebrate our collective achievements.”

Smith followed that with a “Tribute to our Community” that had an extended peaceful meditative character inviting people truly to “be present in mind, body and spirit” and to think about special moments in their time at Saint Michael’s.

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Kendra Smith speaks of community.

She urged everybody also to reflect on what community really means, noting that “community is not a given,” “people keep us here,” and, “This is not your average workplace.” Smith then shared a video prepared by her husband with photos of many of the day’s honorees intertwined with images showing community moments, all with a musical soundtrack.

Employees recognized for years of service milestones, with names read by Leandre Waldo, chief of staff to President Sterritt, as they appeared on the PowerPoint screen, were:

5 years: Alexandra Altman, Amir Barghi, Timothy Birmingham, Angie Boyer, Jennie Clarke, Michael Ewan, Nicholas Goodreau, Jason Hammel, Pennie McEdward-Rand, Derek Miodownik, Kristin Mount, Laura Neville, Abraham Nhial, Alicia Norris, Katherine Paradis, Kyle Reddings, Lou Stazi, Xinting Zhen.

10 years: Anthony Bassignani, Renee Breault, Kristin Dykstra, Wendy Elles, David Heroux, Douglas Kerr, Andrea Lozeau, Gregory Tomasulo, Catherine Welch.

15 Years: Shannon Bollhardt, Anne Tewksbury-Frye, David Theroux.

20 Years: Denise Brault, Graham Lebel, Lori Myers, Hazel Raymond, Russell Sabens, Jerald Swope, Barry Van Sleet.

25 Years: Jeffrey Ayres, Mary Masson, Helene Nilsen, Anne Noone Adams, Patricia Siplon.

30 Years: Daniel Couture, George Goldsworthy, Sandy Karstens, Erin Slattery.

35 Years: Robert Letovsky.

The last portion of the program was the recognition of retirees. Special recognition for “Outstanding Length of Service/Departures” went to Linda Donahue for her 35 years in Institutional Advancement.

Some among the 11 retirees assented to colleagues coming to the podium to voice tributes, which were moving and impressive accounts of both achievement and profound human connections over long careers. Others had their names, job titles, departments and years of service shared by LeBlanco so that colleagues could recognize them with applause.

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Nat Lewis honors colleagues elegantly.

Some highlights of the colleague tributes included elegant words from Nat Lewis of the English faculty about his retiring colleagues Christina Root from English and Richard Kujawa from Environmental Studies. Noteworthy as well for its beautiful words was the tribute to Antonia Messuri, written by English Professor Emeritus Joan Wry and read by Kendra Smith.

The audience also heard an emotion-tinged farewell from Carolyn Lukens-Olson of the Classical and Modern Languages and Literature Department to her French professor colleague and dear friend Kristin Juel, who is moving with her family to Australia after nearly 20 years at the College. Retiring Education Professor Valerie Bang-Jensen, off on a departmental retreat and so unable to attend, had words of tribute from colleagues read, honoring her great contributions over the decades.

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Kendra Smith finishes reading a farewell tribute to Kristin Juel after Carolyn Lukens-Olson had an emotional moment.

Other retirees recognized by their naming with applause were Anne Crowley (IT), Mike Estey (facilities), Jim Hefferon (mathematics), Laurie Sabens (Edmundite Campus Ministry) and Mark Tarnacki (Marketing and Communications staff writer).

Just near the end of the alphabetical presentations to retirees came a tribute by Edmundite Fr. Marcel Rainville, S.S.E. ’67 to President Sterritt. He noted her lasting legacy, which includes leading the College through COVID while never losing hope, instigating an important strategic plan and helping establish successful Centers for the Environment and Global Engagement.

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Fr. Marcel honors President Sterritt.

She also demonstrated a true commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, helped launch the new Purposeful Learning program and had a role in the largest gift ever received by the College while overseeing establishment of new majors to keep up with changing times. Her five years were a time when her signature slogan “Do Well and Do Good” took root at Saint Michael’s, Fr. Rainville said, adding that perhaps her greatest legacy might be her kindness with everyone she met and enthusiastic presence at so many college events, along with good humor and a smile. He said he particularly would miss their exchanges in French. “You will always have a home here, and I hope you will visit often,” he said.

Following the ceremony, many gathered to mingle in the McCarthy lobby where Sodexo had set out an appealing array of appetizers, beverages and desserts.

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Audience members pay tribute to colleagues.

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