When participating in a seminar presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities on the Philosophy of Math (an area of study that I admit, was new to me), one of my fellow participants presented the question of “what is the middle number?” After some discussion, it was decided that the middle number was zero, as any negative number was offset exactly by a positive number equally far from zero. I found myself thinking of this recently as I realized that Ursuline College is at a juncture that may well be a sort of “midpoint” in its history as one college president leaves and another arrives. For, in the next few weeks, we will install the seventeenth president of Ursuline College, Sister Christine DeVinne.
Sister Chris worked at Ursuline when I first arrived, but has been spending recent years as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Notre Dame University of Maryland (a name pronounced as if it rhymes with a shortened version of the name “Donald.”) No one was surprised to learn that she had been selected as our newest college president after a search that took most of the spring semester.
I recall the first conversation I had with Sister Chris, shortly after I arrived at Ursuline. She seemed amused (and slightly triumphant) that I had left a larger college in town to work at Ursuline. What I didn’t tell her was that I would most likely have been denied tenure had I not left; she learned that eventually, but not at our first meeting. I did, however, tell her a different piece of the truth; for the first time in years, I now drove to work with a smile on my face.
I am sure that Sister Chris remembers me as the Chair of the Mathematics Department that would not give up the cause of trying to build my department, despite low enrollments. She also remembers me from the journey to parenthood that she supported me on, through a miscarriage and down a winding road towards adoption. We were sad to see her leave us years ago, but are now happy that she is returning to lead us into the future.
Sister Chris will inherit a college that has spent the last few years taking great strides to enter the modern world. We have recently built multiple buildings (sometimes with the encouragement of local weather events) and grown as a college well respected for sports as well as for many of our academic programs. We added majors and now offer one Doctoral degree, along with many programs that award Master’s degrees. Still, despite these graduate programs, we have decided to continue calling ourselves a “college.” We also continue to work to remain woman-focused in our undergraduate programs, offering a unique experience to young women wishing to study in a single-sex environment that is rooted in the Catholic tradition, as interpreted by the Ursuline Sisters. One of the first Catholic women’s colleges in the U.S., we now remain as the only women’s college in Ohio and as only one of about fifty in the entire United States.
I have memories of Sister Chris at open houses during the time she was previously at Ursuline. A natural beauty, she would approach potential students with a welcoming grace that instantly made them feel comfortable. Now, she will need the same social skills to approach potential donors and officials who will make decisions that affect the future of Ursuline. I wish her well, and know that her years as President of Ursuline College will be very successful.
And, so, Sister Chris, welcome home!
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