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Ursuline College Founder's Day Celebration

On Sunday, November 16th, we went to Ursuline College's annual Founder's Day celebration which consisted of a thoughtful mass and a delicious brunch at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights. Beautiful guitar music was provided by Sr. Kathleen Heer and Reverend Gary Chumura, Pastor of Our Lady of Peace and St. Adelbert Parish presided over the mass in which he talked about his experiences working at the local Juvenile Justice Center. It was particularly moving when he talked a pizza party that he gave for the young inmates on Labor Day and how one young man cried because this was the first time he had ever been given anything. He also talked about working with a nun who had immigrated to the United States from Tanzania. When the young inmates asked her why she was there, she replied "because you are here."

The mass established the proper ambiance for the rest of the proceedings because the purpose of Ursuline College concerns inspiring young women to give above and beyond themselves. We sat with Mr. Robert L. and Ms. Gloria Janson who have been married for 54 years and felt the same way about it.

Along with the other attendees, we were then moved to another area for some speeches, brunch and award presentations. Mr. John M. Newman, Chair of Ursuline College Board of Trustees, gave the welcome in which he reminded people that 2014 marks the 143rd Anniversary of Ursuline College and that Founders Day is celebrated on November 17th of each year because it was on that day in 1871 that the Ursuline Sisters received a charter from then Ohio Governor Rutherford Hayes to establish Ursuline College. Thus, Founders Day is "about looking back and recharging." He went on to say that in 2015 two new buildings will be opening on campus which are the new Athletic Center and the Center for Creative and Healing which will house classes pertaining to counseling, nursing and art therapy. Sadly, it will also be the year that Sister Diana Stano, O.S.U, Ph.D. will be stepping down as the President of Ursuline College after 18 years.

Sister Diana spoke before brunch too and, with a twinkle in her eye, assured the attendees that she was aware of the Browns game that afternoon and they would be out in time. She presented a timeline of the important things that have happened over the years at Ursuline. For instance, in 1929 the first two African students graduated; in 1967 students were given the option of wearing pants instead of skirts; in 1998 accelerated programs for adults to obtain their degrees were established; and in 2000 the multicultural center was opened.

During brunch we sat with Mr. Richard D. Tomsick, Assistant General Counsel at Forest City, and his wife, Mery. Mr. Tomsick teaches a course about real property law for the UCAP program that was designed for "non-traditional" students such as adults who work while they attend college. We learned that UCAP classes meet for 4 hours one night a week for 5 weeks which is the equivalent of one semester and the students are expected to put in 20 hours of work at home for each night of class. All of the instructors for the program have hands-on experience with the subject matter that they teach and the ultimate goal of the program is to assist the students in obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree. Many pre-law students are enrolled in this program.

After we were finished eating, two young graduates of Ursuline named Molly and Melissa talked about their experiences traveling, respectively, to Africa and Ecuador and how their adventures inspired them to appreciate what they materially have and how rewarding the work that they did was to them.

Then Sister Diana handed out several awards to deserving individuals.

First, Dr. George S. Matejka received the Marie LoPresti Award for his community service in various capacities including his work with animals. During his acceptance speech, he recalled how he recently took some students to the Humane Society so that they could volunteer some time. He said that it was his wish that in 45 years these young people would still be doing some sort of community service.

Then two Teaching Excellence Awards were given to Sister Diane Therese Pinchot, Professor, Art Dept. and Dr. Melissa Barranger-Mathys, Asst. Professor in the Chemistry Dept. We know Sister Diane from our work with the Interreligious Task Force on Central America over the years and were very happy to watch her be honored. Sister Diane said that what she strives for is to create a "safe space" in her classroom for her students to freely express themselves. Dr. Barranger-Mathys said that she likes it that her classes are small and this enables her to get to know her students more intimately. Moreover, she strives to make her chemistry classes enjoyable, fascinating and inspiring.

We were glad to see our good friend Sister Rita Mary Harwood and we told her about seeing the movie "Dream: An American Story" which deals with immigration last week. Unfortunately, she could not attend the screening re at but would like very much to see it. Dr. George S. Matejka told us that he knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong when he taught at Notre Dame college during the 1990's. And Mr. John M. Newman told us that he consider Ms. Wong to be "quite a lady about town" and we agreed.

As the program concluded, Sister Diana Stano thanked all who were present for their great show of support. The founder of the Ursuline Sister was St. Angela Merici in 1536 and, as we were leaving, Sister Diana encouraged us "to follow in the steps of Angela Merici" and to "grow on the shoulders of those who have gone on before."

For us, the Founding Fathers Celebration was more than enough of a reason to drive to Mayfield Village on a cold morning but only a few miles away was the Kala Art Show "Art for the Heart" at the Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood so off we headed. Once, we were there we were amazed by the beautiful paintings, acrylics, and quilts on exhibition and to learn that all were done by Indian Artists.

We talked to Ms. Mona Alag, our good friend who was honored the previous evening at the Project Sewa Fundraising Party, about the Kala organization and we told that it is composed of four permanent board members who are herself, Ms. Debbie Hanson of, Ms. Margaret Gonsalves, and Ms. Poonam Punwani. In addition, there is another spot on the board for an artist who is someone different each year and this year it was Dr. Bhupinder Sawhny who we had also met at the Project Sewa Party. All of the proceeds from the art sales would go to the American Heart Association.

To be sure, we walked around and spoke to several of the artists who were:

***Dr. Vijay Rastogi who immigrated to the United States from India about 53 years ago in 1961 when it was "a heck of a lot easier." He has been trying for years to obtain Green Cards for two of his relatives without much success. Dr. Rastogi became a U.S. citizen in 1967 and believes that "there is no better place in the world" than the United States due to "freedom of opportunites" although he believes that India is "getting better" and still likes it because "zoning is not so strict" and the "government doesn't keep track of you."

***Dr. Shaila Sundaresh immigrated to the United States in 1972 and became a citizen in 1987. Her friend, Dr. Santosh Kalhan immigrated here in 1970 and became a citizen in 1976. Both doctors are retired now and both said that they regard the United States as their "home" now.

***For Dr. Taru Patel "art is a hobby" and she is a "doctor by profession." She is married to Dr. Mahesh Patel and they immigrated to the United States in 1970 and became U.S. citizens in 1975 and took advantage of the opportunities offered by the United States to establish their own practice.

***Dr. Bhupinder Sawhny immigrated here 40 years ago in 1973 and became a citizen in 1976. He told us that what he likes about the United States is that "people are honest and people do their job."

Wine and what looked like great india food was being served but we had to leave after a short while to go to our last event for the day.

And that last event was the annual holiday celebration "Croatians Celebrate Christmas" presented by the Croatian Heritage Museum in at the American-Croatian Lodge in Willoughby.

We got there in time to see the last part of the Zumbercani Tamburitzans perform and to take some pictures of the lovely Christmas display at the the Croatian Museum, namely the Nativity Scene. Ms. Branka Malinar, the proprietor of the museum, was glad to see us and introduced us to Mr. Ivan Katic and Mr. Zelko Skalicki, two successful businesspeople with whom we exchanged contact information. Ms. Malinar was disappointed, as were several other people, that attendance at this event was not too good this year but she realized that a lot of this had to do with two sporting events that were going on at the same time. First, the Croatians were engaged in a soccer match with the Italians and of course there was the Browns game too.

We talked to Mr. Robert Jerin who organizes Croatian tours and asked if he would be taking a group there over the holiday season and he replied that due to the weather, he always goes in the summer. Our friend Ms. Goldie Malone from Croatian Lodge 859 filled us in on recent goings on; there are now four priests who are members of that lodge and three of them are in the singing group. Father James Batcha, the pastor at St. Nicks, was there with us at the Croatian Lodge and walked over to shake our hand.

The highlight of the day was a performance by Tajci, the internationally reknowned Croatian-born singer and recording star who performed at this very event last year. Just as she was starting, Tajci asked the attendees if they would prefer her to sing in English or in Croatian. After receiving a divided response she very agreeably said that she would alternate and sing in both languages.

In between songs, she spoke of how she was a succcessful pop star in Croatia but she wanted to pursue her dreams so she immigrated to the United States in 1992 where she spent time with the Croatian community in New York and was told that if she stayed over five years she would never go back and as it turned out she didn't; she became a U.S. citizen in Los Angeles in 2000 and is now married with three boys and lives in Cincinnati.

One of the songs that she sang (in Croatian) was about an immigrant sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. Sometimes, though, she feels very nostalgic for her country of birth as many immigrants do. As the show was concluding, she thanked all who were there and said that it is important that we all come together on occasions like this to keep memories, traditions and customs alive.

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