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From Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.

Today, Kerry Grosse, Arts ’92, is Marquette’s associate registrar — the point person for getting all final grades filed correctly and on time, among other responsibilities — but 16 years ago, she was a brand-new admissions counselor traveling the Midwest representing this university.

On her first recruiting trip, she drove a rental car from Milwaukee to the north woods hamlet of Luck, Wis., to meet students from nearby high schools. Checking into the town’s only motel during what turned out to be peak field-and-stream season, she was greeted in the lobby by a sign that read, “Pheasant hunters, please do not clean your birds in the bath tubs.”

“I must admit,” she recalls with revulsion, “I had second thoughts about my new career at that very moment.”

Grosse is hardly alone in having encountered a few hurdles on the way to a rewarding career at Marquette. In fact, she remembers her stay in Luck as a formative experience in finding guidance from Ignatian principles during challenging situations. “I paused, thought critically for a moment and asked myself, ‘Where can I get some Lysol in this small town?’”

Her story is fresh in my mind because Kerry was honored last month, with fellow staff members Timothy Badger, Stephanie Danz and Lynn Mellantine, Grad ’99, as a recipient of this year’s Excellence in University Service Awards. Besides being a time of late-night coffee runs and jammed libraries, the end of the academic year at Marquette is a time of gratitude, when we recognize members of our staff and faculty who lead the way in making Marquette a caring and mission-driven community, not just a simple workplace.

At the June awards luncheon for staff, I shared what I had learned about these four recipients. When they signed on at Marquette, each received a job description filled with assigned duties and expectations. Then each began expanding these lists. Danz, for example, was already integral to the functioning of the Law School when she took on the additional duties of a retiring co-worker to keep things running smoothly.  In all cases, the redefinition of their roles was about more than basic addition. As described by admiring colleagues, these special people welcome the problems brought by others and lead the search for solutions. They look out for the best interests of others, particularly our students. They turn their employment into an exercise of imagination, compassion and love.

The staff awards have their faculty counterparts in the John P. Raynor, S.J., Teaching Excellence Awards, which are distributed annually at the Pθre Marquette Dinner in May. There, this year’s winners spoke reassuringly of operating within an academic culture that values teaching and provides a sense of camaraderie as they strive for lasting influence in the lives of their students.

Dr. Rebecca Nowacek, an associate professor of English, reported finding inspiration in the work of improvisational actors who readily engage what is sent their way from those sitting across from them. 
Dr. Mark Cotteleer contemplated some of the criticism he has received from students amid much acclaim for his celebrated supply-chain management courses. And Dr. Sarah Bonewits Feldner saw the words on the wrapper of a Dove bar — “You are exactly where you are supposed to be” — distilling how she feels about the classroom where she teaches communication studies. Her driving ambition, she says, is for her students to feel the same way about the classroom and for them to leave Marquette ready to find (or make) places where they feel they belong.

This concern for students and their individual growth is a hallmark of the Ignatian approach to education, and it comes through loud and clear from this year’s award winners, faculty and staff.  Working in a field known for its abstract formulas and quantitative precision, Dr. John Moyer said he really didn’t hit his stride as a member of our mathematics faculty until his then-college-age sister visited his classroom. “I distinctly remember seeing my students differently that day, perhaps seeing for the first time that those college students were real people, with real lives, just like my sister Jill.”

He closed his remarks with an expression of love and thanks for his wife, Peg. “She has bent over backwards to accommodate my early mornings and late hours at Marquette and embrace her greatest rival for my affections — teaching,” he says.  I can’t think of a better way to close out the year — and to look forward to next year — than with these reminders that the futures of our students are in very good hands.

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