In 1977, St. Thomas was indelibly changed. In the college’s articles of incorporation, Archbishop John Ireland had written that the property was to be used “for the purposes of Catholic College Education of young men of the State of Minnesota and other Northwestern States.” The benefits of such an education already had stretched far beyond Minnesota “and other Northwestern States,” and, in 1977, officially were offered to women.
It was easy to see the effects of this change on St. Thomas: Much of the decision was made based on future enrollment numbers. Aquin writers pondered what the “Mr. Tommy” Award would be called and where the new female students would be housed. Connie Pocrnich was the first of 177 women to enroll for that first fall and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, St. Thomas has graduated approximately 47,000 women. While we can more easily track the gender diversity of the campus or the number of degrees those women have earned, it’s much harder to map each and every way these women have changed the lives of their communities and people around them. That impact is in part, we hope, on account of the opportunities afforded to, and earned by, them through their education.
Some of the Newsroom’s recent favorite stories of female alumnae are:
- Laura Dean ’88, who received St. Thomas’ first full-tuition science scholarship, has delivered more than 3,000 babies and is now chief of staff.
- Martha McCarthy Krueger ’11 and Emily Pritchard ’11 founded their company, The Social Lights, while at St. Thomas.
- Bridget Nelson ’87 is a comedian who has worked on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
- Aimee (Anderson) Thatcher ’96 has been a full-time firefighter with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue since 2006.
- Missy Pederson ’02 is a Ladies Professional Golf Association caddy.
- Michele Henry ’06 is co-owner of Primp Boutique.
- Kari Jo Faulhaber ’10 won a Midwest Regional Emmy for her documentary that followed a homeless man’s experience at the Dorothy Day Center.
- Rachel Larson ’15 works in Liberia to bring health care to every person there.
Throughout this year, to commemorate the arrival of the inaugural class of women, the Newsroom will be sharing even more stories of remarkable alumnae who have helped positively redefine what it means to be a Tommie. Those stories include:
- Rachel Wobschall ’81, the first female Tommie Award winner.
- Mary Brainerd ’79 MBA, former CEO of HealthPartners.
- Mary Zimmer ’84, a former St. Thomas basketball standout who started a mentoring program for alumni and current players.
- Joyce Terhaar ’81, executive editor and senior vice president of The Sacramento Bee newspaper.
- Jennifer Crotty ’88 has had three daughters attend St. Thomas.