Gaelebration
Gaelebration

Gaelebration was the first official party of the sesquicentennial year. It was also the College's open house, and the entire Saint Mary's family was invited.

Thousands Flock to Saint Mary's "Gaelebration"
to Honor College's Sesquicentennial
Gaelebrators turned out in force to celebrate the College's sesquicentennial

Gaelebrators turned out in force to celebrate the College's sesquicentennial

After 150 years, Saint Mary's has a lot of reasons to celebrate, and it pulled out all the stops on Gaelebration, the signature community event of the college's sesquicentennial year. Thousands of Gaels, family members and friends of the college converged on the campus on October 6 for the biggest – and definitely the most festive – celebration in Saint Mary's long history.

"It shows that we are this huge, vibrant, fun-loving, capable community," said Russell Harrison, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

On a brilliant early fall day, with puffy clouds rolling through a clear blue sky, Saint Mary's showed its stuff at Gaelebration – an academic open house with a large dose of carnival and music festival thrown in – and people from all over the Bay Area and beyond came to engage with the college and learn more about its academic offerings, relive fond memories of their time at SMC or just enjoy the friendly SMC vibe.

Riding high on the Ferris wheel

Riding high on the Ferris wheel

A Ferris wheel and gourmet food trucks lent a carnival air to the day, and in De La Salle Quad, parents watched as children rolled around wildly in bounce houses and lined up eagerly for rides on a horse with a pink mane. On the Chapel Lawn, the Elite Jazz Band, soul singer Shawn Brown, Alma Desnuda and Elements of Truth, with SMC's own Keznamdi, performed, filling the campus with music.

Meanwhile visitors and community members alike sampled dozens of academic presentations and events ranging from "Ancient Greek Astronomy" and "New Venture Entrepreneurship" to "Gaelebration Great Books" and "Confections of a Chocoholic." And just as students at Saint Mary's learn through engagement, visitors jumped at the opportunity to engage with the college academically. They took on a River of Words Eco Quiz, tried out the Astronomy Department's solar telescope, and tried to stump the professors with questions on dark energy and black holes in the Quantum Physics Round Table. (See "Gael Academy Offers a Glimpse Into the Mind of Saint Mary's.")

Rita Garcia '02, who drove up from Oceanside with her two children, was amazed at the academic offerings. "There's always something new happening here," she said. "I feel kind of jealous. I want to go back to school!"

Opening the festivities, Harrison read a proclamation issued 150 years ago, when the cornerstone was laid for the original campus, in San Francisco, which was dedicated "for the instruction of the youth of California not in literature merely, but what is greater, in true Christian knowledge."

A lot has changed since those early day, but as Harrison pointed out, "Through all the years, Saint Mary's foundation in Catholic, Lasallian and liberal arts traditions continues to illuminate every aspect of campus life and learning and to connect generations of Gaels as well as the amazing community of friends of Saint Mary's."

Brother Dom with State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and Board of Trustees Chairman Russell Harrison

Brother Dom with State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and Board of Trustees Chairman Russell Harrison

Among the friends of the college on hand were U.S. Representative George Miller, State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Andersen and Moraga Vice Mayor Howard Harpham, who all offered their congratulations.

"The brothers and the faculty of Saint Mary's College have for 150 years ignited the intellectual energy of students from around the world," Miller said, adding that "Saint Mary's has been a gift to our nation."

The reach of the college extends even further, said Brother Ronald Gallagher, the college's president "We're part of the fabric of California, and the nation, and the world. We're known not just for the quality of education but for the welcome, and we're known for the service that our students, our faculty and our staff provide, not just here but all over the county, the state, the nation and the world."

As proof of that commitment to service, dozens of volunteers joined forces the Soda Center during Gaelebration and, in a two-hour period, packed up more than 10,000 meals for needy children in Afghanistan.

Saint Mary's is also known for its close-knit community, a quality that was mentioned time and again throughout the day.

Graduate Counseling Professor Drew Krafcik, who was carrying his 5-month-old daughter, Frannie, while his wife and parents, visiting from St. Louis, checked out the schedule of offerings at Filippi Academic Hall, said, "There's already such a sense of community here, but it's nice to have a special day to recognize it."

Many people came to Gaelebration specifically to savor the sense of community that they had found at Saint Mary's.

Thomas Bell '09 joined other veterans of service trips organized by Professor Shawny Anderson for a presentation in the Soda Center. Bell, who went on two service trips to New Orleans after Hurrican Katrina, said he came back because "Saint Mary's feels like a second home." And Trevor Condon '11, who participated in trips to Dominica, Tanzania and earthquake-shattered Haiti, said, "Watching these videos reminds me of who I want to be."

Visitors also packed presentations that reinforced that sense of community. In Dante Hall, students and alumni viewed a slide show called "A Walk Through History" on SMC's African American history, from the early 1980s to the present, created by sophomore Kalani Sanders. Down the hall, a talk by Brother Ronald on "The Irish at Saint Mary's College" drew a full house. And in Brother Jerome West, visitors packed a presentation on "150 Year of Saint Mary's College" by Professor Emeritus Ron Isetti.

Visitors gathered around for the Word Tapas poetry reading.

Visitors gathered around for the "Word Tapas" poetry reading.

The day was also full of great artistic experiences, like scenes from "Spring Awakening," a "Word Tapas" poetry reading, and a stunning "Art of the Cross" exhibit in the museum. And then there were happy surprises, like a fly-over by a WWII-era biplane fighter similar to the planes used for training when Saint Mary's was a navy preflight training school in the early 1940s, which had everyone craning their necks to see it and whipping out their cell phones to capture the moment.

Standing in line for the Ferris wheel, Michael Carlson of Sacramento had two words for Gaelebration: "Amazingly cool." His wife and four children, including Brianna, a senior honors finance major at Saint Mary's, all agreed. Looking around at the scene on campus, he added, "It seems like you're doing something great every time we come here, but nothing like this!"

By Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications

Photos by Matt Beardsley

Gael Academy Offers a Glimpse Into the Mind of Saint Mary's
Professor Robert Bulman offered insights on Hollywood high school films

Professor Robert Bulman offered insights on Hollywood high school films

Gaelebration wasn't just fun and games. Nearly 50 hours of "Gael Academy" events throughout the day offered an opportunity for guests to meet mind-to-mind with some of Saint Mary's finest thinkers. Stargazers, philosophers, history buffs, activists and world travelers alike found something to satisfy their thirst for knowledge.

Fittingly, "Thinking with the Brain in Mind," which explored the mysterious tricks the mind plays on us, was one of the first offerings. The workshop explained how our brain's normal behavior can actually hold us back from thinking and learning.

Devon Day, a sophomore who attended with his mother, Katie Day, said he was fascinated by the insights he learned about how people who are engaging in the same conversation can perceive different realities. "Conversation is really why I'm here," he said, explaining that he's an Integral major. "You're not just listening to lectures, you're really engaging."

After some mental training, guests had the chance to wrap their refreshed brains around the mighty cosmos with Astronomy Professor Ron Olowin. Plunging through the rings of Saturn and taking a journey through a black hole were part of a tour of our solar system from right here in Moraga.

Coming back to Earth, the newest Gael minds found themselves in Nicaragua from the friendly confines of Filippi Academic Hall. Professor Michael Barram of the Religious Studies Department shared insights from the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and its impact on today's globalized food system.

After all this talk about international trade, there was no better place to stop next than a talk with Professor Tom Cleveland of the School of Economics and Business Administration, who spoke about what it takes to be a new venture entrepreneur.

Moving from new ventures to ancient history, guests in the "So, You Think You're a Celt?" presentation were informed and entertained for two hours, both in the classroom and in the field, literally. An overview of Celtic culture and history from Costanza Dopfel of the Modern Languages Department transitioned into live fighting, clothing and craft demonstrations from the Iron Age Celtic re-enactors who took up residence right on campus.

From Celtic fighters, it's a short hop to Irish singers, who were featured in a multimedia presentation by Marshall Welch, director of CILSA. "Spirituality and Politics of U2" used video clips, lyrics and songs to teach the messages of this world-famous Irish rock band.

Individuality is a hallmark of U2's lyrics and songs, and no one knows this concept better than Robert Bulman of the Sociology Department. Discussing American culture and individualism as seen in Hollywood high school films, Bulman shared some thought-provoking sociological insights on how films like "Mean Girls" and "Coach Carter" demonstrate double standards about social class and adolescence.

If reliving high school memories wasn't enough of a blast from the past, then Saint Mary's Professor Emeritus Ron Isetti's talk about the 150-year history of Saint Mary's provided an entertaining showcase of the story of the College over the years.

Kathryn Peterson and her daughter, Erica, a sophomore communications major, were among dozens of visitors who enjoyed the talk. Kathryn was fascinated to learn about "the sacrifices people made to build the college." A fan of history, she said she would love to "study the greats to learn how we evolved and the roots of our democracy."

The Debate & Speech team tackled the big issues of our day

The Debate & Speech team tackled the big issues of our day

If so, her next stop should have been "Gaelebration Great Books," where visitors could drop in and participate in a typical Seminar conversation with great Seminar teachers like Frances Sweeney, Sue Marston or Barry Horwitz.

After expanding your intellection horizons, why not plan a trip with some inspiration from Jan Term travel? Professor Carla Bossard of the Biology department shared stories about experiences science students have had in every corner of the globe.

If exploring the globe wasn't your cup of tea, maybe exploring the skies was. Thanks to the Integral Program, guests could learn about ancient Greek astronomy, measuring the height of the sun by using the new Meridian Plinth outside Galileo Hall.

Moving from an old technology to new ones, the School of Education explored "Teaching with Technology," encouraging visitors to BYOD (bring your own device), such as smart phones or iPads, to learn new ways of using educational technology in the workplace.

To end the day, guests heard from a great teacher, Brother Ronald Gallagher, the president of Saint Mary's. As Gaels, we're tied to Ireland, and "The Irish at Saint Mary's College" offered tales of Saint Mary's long and historic connection to the Emerald Isle.

Sophomore Ryan Bangs emerged from the class with his parents, Randy and Patti Bangs of Salinas, and said, "Now I understand why everybody kept asking me if I'm Irish."

Throughout the day, stories, ideas, theories and more enlivened the "Gael Academy" and undoubtedly left an impression on all those who "Gaelebrated" the day away at Saint Mary's.

By Daniel Murphy '13

Photos by Matt Beardsley

Gaelebration By
the Numbers

College officials estimate that 5,000 to 7,000 people attended Gaelebration.

A total of 2,820 people took shuttles to the event.

More than 2,000 cars and about a dozen bicycles were parked on campus.

The crowd included more than 300 families attending the Parent and Family Weekend and about 250 attending Fall Preview Day.

About 200 volunteers helped out at the event.

More than 125 faculty and staff members participated as presenters/exhibitors.

Guests listened to 15 separate performances from bands, students, faculty andalumni

A total of 18 students, faculty and staff got wet in the dunk tank.

More than 2,000 people ate the Sodexo carnival food.

6 dignitaries attended the opening ceremonies.

5 food trucks kept the hungry crowd fed.

1 World War II-era biplane circled the campus

1 Celtic village set up camp on campus

1 Ferris wheel delighted thousands of Gaelebrators!