Luncheon honors Clara Galvis and Saint Michael's ties to her Colombian school

By: Mark Tarnacki
Galvis at luncheon

Clara Galvis at a July 1 luncheon in her honor at the Dion Family Student Center

Clara Galvis, who brings Colombian teenagers to Saint Michael's College so they can learn English and enjoy mutual cultural enrichment with Americans and other international students, was guest of honor at a special luncheon in the Dion Center on July 1 celebrating two decades of a warm and "unique relationship."

Karen Talentino, vice president for academic affairs, used that term to describe the affiliation between Saint Michael's, particularly the Applied Linguistics/TESOL Department, and Gimnasio Vermont, of Bogota, Colombia, where Galvis is the longtime "vice-rectora." Talentino called the gathering "more like a family homecoming" than a formal honorary banquet due to the warm and personal nature of this connection. "I never have seen anything quite like it in my many years being in higher education," she said.

The luncheon was the first official function attended by Jeffrey Ayres as dean of the college on his first day on the job in the post. The new dean spoke of his great interest in expanding the international scope of study opportunities at Saint Michael's -- something he's contributed to already for many years as a political science professor who welcomes international students into his classroom and leads regular study trips to Canada as a Canadian politics expert.

Mahmoud Arani, director of the Applied Linguistics/TESOL Department (the acronym stands for "Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), spoke in tribute to the "brilliant vision" of his friend and colleague Galvis – a vision that helped create and sustain so ambitious a program mostly through her astonishing energy, personal magnetism, deep dedication to the young people in her charge as if they were her own children, and the highest professional standards.

Toasting Clara Galvis

At a luncheon honoring Clara Galvis on July 1 in Dion Center, Marilyn Cormier, standing, and Mahmoud Arani, to her left, propose a toast.

Marilyn Cormier, director of community and governmental relations from the President's Office and organizer of the luncheon, observed that her longtime dear friend has been present for the inaugurations of three Saint Michael's presidents as the ceremonial representative of her school. And although the official name of Applied Linguistics' predecessor programs has gone through many iterations and acronymic titles, the annual presence on campus of Galvis -- ever a charming and ebullient force of nature in the company of her students -- has been a welcome constant, Cormier said.

Some of the guests speaking in tribute at the elegant catered luncheon in the sunny third floor reception area of Dion explained how the Colombian school where Galvis is a leader began in 1994 when a traditional Bogota Catholic K-12 school for girls decided to establish a bilingual, co-educational, Pre-K-12 institution, and Saint Michael's College was invited to consult on developing the curriculum for the school. That invitation came from Galvis, an alumna of the Saint Michael's intensive English program from the 1980s before joining the Gimnasio staff.

Others attending from Applied Linguistics, many of them making briefs remarks to remember special times or pay tribute to Galvis, were: Rick Gamache, Carolyn Duffy, Sara Sanders, Steve Nagle, Dan Evans, Elizabeth O'Dowd, Barbara Sargent, Christine Ramazani and Brenda Rousselle. For Rousselle, the longtime supervisor of operations for the Applied Linguistics Department and the principal designated school official to work with students on U.S. immigration issues, it was one of her last official functions. One of the college's most veteran employees with 47 years of service prior to her official retirement that very week, Rousselle started working for Saint Michael's and the program right out of high school.

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