Parting Gift

June 3, 2011

Each year, as the Loyola community counts down toward Commencement, the senior class selects a gift to leave to their alma mater.

The Class of 2003 gave funds to create the 9-11 Memorial on the south side of the Chapel. The Class of 2005 purchased a painting of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus to hang in the Chapel as a tribute to Fr. Harold Ridley, S.J., Loyola’s president from 1994-2005, who had admired the piece before his death that January.

The Class of 2011’s choice was not surprising to those who have been following this class’s journey. In their sophomore year, they lost classmate Stephanie Parente when she and her mother and sister died in a murder-suicide committed by her father. Then in September 2010, the class said goodbye to classmate Evan Girardi, who died suddenly from a heart condition.

Those were dark, troubling days, and the community came together in prayer, sorrow, and anger. They were days when Loyola’s Catholic, Jesuit tradition seemed especially valuable, as grieving students searched for strength, peace, and hope.

In the first days after Stephanie’s death, I spoke with a student who wanted to find a way to honor his crew teammate and her memory. He and his friends had had an idea for a rowing fundraiser to raise money for a scholarship in Stephanie’s memory. Time passed, and the idea faded.

When the class also lost Evan—a popular student who had a deep commitment to community service—that idea rose to the surface again. Asked what gift the class wanted to leave the University, the students decided to memorialize the two friends they had lost with an endowed scholarship in their names.

Stephanie’s roommates and Evan’s closest friends worked closely with class leaders to meet the goal, but the end of the academic year was drawing near. On May 17, after a Mass in memory of Evan and Stephanie, the classmates gathered on the President’s Lawn for the Senior Class Barbecue. With Commencement just four days away, they asked their classmates one more time to help them meet their participation goal. There, as a class united in joy, anticipation, and maybe just a little trepidation about the future, the Class of 2011 came together to meet and surpass that goal.

Students Fundraising

Joined by their parents and others in the extended Loyola family, the Class of 2011 has raised the largest senior gift in Loyola’s history—and you’ll learn more about that in our next issue. That evening, though, as the students realized what they had just accomplished as a tribute to their friends, they threw their arms around each other in joy. Their excited screams carried easily over the noise of the party. (Thank you, David Rehor, for the photos.)

What an amazing moment and memory for the class.

What a beautiful gesture for two much-loved, much-missed friends and classmates.

And what a powerful gift for future students.

Students Cheering
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