A Good Relationship

‘Tis the season of valentines and adoration, chocolate hearts and expressions of affection. Ah yes, this time of year makes a relationship researcher’s heart sing! But today’s Scroll is not about young love, old love nor the kind where white dresses and tuxedos mark big beginnings. Rather, it’s about the sweet little relationship so many of us have with an enduring love: the University of St. Thomas.

It’s a healthy relationship built, I theorize, on some of the same lovely principles that make all long-term relationships work: mutual affection, intention, hard work, productive conflict, lots of positivity and good old fashioned communication.

And while I wish the answer to one of the most common questions I’m asked (“What’s the secret of long-term happy relationships?”) was something like my math colleague Jeff McLean might represent in a no-fail formula (2+3=5 … every time!), there isn’t such an equation, darn it. That said, when I talked to some of my colleagues who are being honored for milestones at tomorrow’s “Year’s of Service Celebration,” there were definitely a few common denominators in their responses, as well as some interesting news in the stats of this vast and impressive group:

237The number of "Years of Service" awardees this year!

35: The number of years that both Shirley Polejewski and Faith Bonitz have maintained their employer-employee relationships with St. Thomas! In the world of marriage etiquette, Father Dease, that means a gift of coral or jade … maybe a nice jade necklace with coral inlay? (Text me your credit card number and I’ll pick them up a perfect little something.)

6: The maximum number of words or less I asked a handful of the awardees to use as they express what they love most about working at St. Thomas:

“Respected, challenged, appreciated; caring campus community.” – Linda Dorn (10 years)

“Great students, caring staff, outstanding faculty.” – Karen Lange (25 years)

“Positive, energizing, make-a-difference environment.” – Gina Zitzer (5 years)

“We do both liberal arts and career prep.” – Bob Werner (20 years). Bob can’t count. That’s eight words, Bob! But we’ll let it slide because doing so, research shows, is an important approach in a long-term happy relationship.

“I witness servant leadership daily!” – Beth Murphy (5 years)

“Purple is my favorite color.” – Susan Alexander (30 years)

“Passionate people with big hearts who care.” – Mark Vangsgard (5 years)

“Important work, community, music, conversation, connection” – Dan Gjelten (20 years)

“Our mission makes all the rest possible.” – Sister Sharon Howell (25 years)

1: The number of employees who reported it was the filled long johns in the student center that she most looks forward to every day she comes to work. According to my usually questionable math, that means Susan Alexander has consumed approximately 7,800 donuts since signing her first faculty contract 30 years ago.

100%: The percentage of respondents who reported, with great certainty, that it’s people and relationships which make St. Thomas quite special. For example, Linda most looks forward to “working alongside exceptional colleagues and friends every day I’m on campus.” Karen enjoys “interacting with students.” Gina credits the “positive energy of the students faculty and staff” for her desire to come to work every day while Dan observes that “it’s the smiles I get when I walk across the quad.” Bob is filled up by “the energy of the students!” And Mark and Sister Sharon point to, respectively, “seeing students and coworkers every day” and “working with students and my colleagues.”

Countless:   The number of employees who have “most memorable moments” to share, each a glimpse of why they are proud to call St. Thomas home. Here are just a couple:

In Karen’s world of Student Affairs, it is, of course, all about the amazing students! “I love seeing the changes in students who come here for orientation as hesitant first-year students and then walk across the stage as confident seniors four years later! It has been so much fun watching students walk into the new Anderson Student Center for the first time. Their jaws drop with excitement!”

Dan reflects on a life-changing moment similar to those he sees acted out in meaningful ways again and again across campus. “Lisa and I will never forget the tremendous outpouring of love and support following our accident outside of Portland, Oregon, five years ago. It was profound, life-changing, and anchored us permanently in this community. It might have been so different and it was an unexpected moment of grace, a bonus in our life and the sort of thing that happens regularly here. I’m always struck by the possibility of a conversation with a theology professor on the quad, for example, in which he says something to me that comes out of his knowledge and his discipline but which is not scholarly so much as it is enlightening and meaningful at the human level. Last August we toasted our lives on a beach in Oregon and gave thanks for our dear friends at St. Thomas.”

(0): The amount of cash you have to bring to enjoy a beer, wine, soft drink, fabulous treat or yummy appetizer to celebrate your colleagues being honored tomorrow at the "Celebrate Years of Service" party. Didn’t know about it? No worries. Now you do! It’s Wednesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Woulfe Alumni Hall, Anderson Student Center. Enjoy a mix and mingle atmosphere at what sounds like the perfect occasion to honor the beautiful relationships between UST and its dedicated employees. I know I’m going. You?

Plus one little P.S.:

19: The average number of edits Doug Hennes has to make to ensure my Scrolls are publishable. Thanks, Doug. I appreciate you a ton, almost as much as I do the things that make my own heart of 14 years-employed-by-UST sing each day: smart and creative students, micro-frothed cappuccinos crafted by Travis at the library’s Coffee Bene, and the very coolest people on campus: my COJO colleagues, of course (insert secret COJO 111 hand signal).