For someone with no direct stake in the outcome, I was surprised by how good it felt to see Julie Sullivan officially inaugurated as the 15th president of the University of St. Thomas last week. Her tenure here has just begun, and I understand the triumphs – and a few trials and troubles – are still in front of her.
The ceremony itself was memorable, showing off this institution at its very best. It was crisp and clean, purposeful and passionate, reverent and respectful. I’m always impressed with the music program at St. Thomas. The Symphonic Wind Ensemble set the tone for the afternoon. And the Festival Choir blew the room away, especially with Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run.”
But the day belonged to Julie Sullivan. I had a chance to talk with her for almost an hour for a video we did, and I came away impressed with her attitude, background, candor, determination and focus. Quite simply, she seems to know exactly who she is, why she’s here and what lies in front of her.
I especially like the notion that she’ll share with us what’s going on – the good and the bad, the struggle as well as the satisfaction. She made a point of it in her inaugural address.
“Truth is important in anything we do,” she told the assembly of 2,000 students, faculty, friends and alumni. “We will always address challenges and controversies with integrity and honesty, and we will work together as a community to help each other through difficult times.”
I truly believe Sullivan relishes the challenge, and it comes along at precisely the right time in her life. Judging by the reception for her at the inauguration, the St. Thomas community shares her belief.
From students to staffers and friends to faculty, Sullivan appears at ease – eager to listen, anxious to learn and inclined to openness.
One more thing: As an old Lutheran boy who quickly learned to accommodate and appreciate a woman wearing the vestments and preaching the sermon, I feel kind of exhilarated with a woman at the helm of the good ship UST. Change is good, even for someone without a smart phone.
And while I’m on the subject, thank the Lord for the women in Congress and those on the court for the Minnesota Lynx.
The Lynx are the best professional sports team in town. They won their second title in three years. They are bright. They are accessible to their fans. They seem to like playing together, putting egos aside and the team first. And not one of them has been arrested or suspended or imprisoned.
I can’t think of a single pro athlete as capable as Lindsay Whalen of putting the fortunes of a ball club on her back: providing a spark, driving the court, passing the ball, relishing the role, pushing her team.
Teamwork hasn’t exactly been a trademark of Congress. But the logjam that threatened to throw the country into defaulting on its loans was broken in large part because of a group of women in the Senate, including Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Amy Klobuchar, our Democrat from Minnesota.
“I’m very proud that these women are stepping forward,” John McCain told TIME.com. “Imagine what they could do if there were 50 of them.”
Well, now we have one at St. Thomas.