Rivier University

420 South Main Street

Nashua, NH 03060

1-880-44-RIVIER

Inaugural Address

Sr Paula addressSister Paula Marie Buley, IHM
12th President of Rivier College

Thank you Dr. Hoff and to all, welcome to Rivier College.

To Sister Suzanne Bourret, pm, chair of the Corporation and Provincial Superior of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, to Dr. Jamison Hoff, Chair of the Rivier College Board of Trustees and to all Trustees and members of the Corporation. Thank you for the trust you have placed in me as the 12th President of Rivier College. I am fortunate to have inherited not only an institution with deep roots and an abiding mission but also an institution with vibrant and aspirational goals for the future.

To Bishop John McCormack, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Manchester, to the dais party, thank you for your presence and generous greetings. To distinguished delegates, representatives of higher education, and business leaders, we are delighted to welcome you to Rivier. To the dedicated Rivier faculty, administration staff and students, and in a special way to those who have provided such an exceptional Inaugural Day, thank you all. I am most grateful.

To Sister Lorraine McGrew, Sister Rose Yeager and to my IHM sisters, friends, longtime mentors, and “Faithful Witnesses” to our charism, thank you for journeying to Southern New Hampshire and for sharing this day and all days in the future. 

In a very special way, I am delighted that my brother John and my sisters Mary and Meg can meet the Rivier community firsthand. They know of your gracious welcome and sense of pride. Today, they can meet you in person and you in turn can enjoy their energy, humor, and our family spirit.

To my friends and colleagues from Immaculata University, Mount St. Mary’s University, Seton Hall University, and Anna Maria College: Welcome – it is wonderful to have you here. You remind us of the extensive contributions of Catholic higher education to the American narrative. I am grateful for the many ways you have shaped and enriched my experiences of life and leadership.

We are privileged to have with us three former presidents of Rivier College, individuals to whom this community owes a debt of gratitude. Each in their own way has marked the College with vision and values. May I ask Sisters Jeanne Perreault, pm; Sister Lucille Thibodeau, pm; and Dr. William Farrell to rise as we acknowledge your presence and accomplishments.

I had the pleasure of visiting Sister Adrienne Beauregard, pm on the celebration of her 99th birthday. Sister Adrienne served as a direct collaborator with Sister Madeleine of Jesus, Rivier’s foundress. She began her service at the College in 1942 working in positions of finance and administration for 63 years and retiring in June 2005. Sister Adrienne’s life was that of a “Master Builder.” I would like to confirm the debt of gratitude we owe her, to the founding sisters of the College, and to all the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary.  

For many institutions these acknowledgements would be perfunctory; however at Rivier they represent a tangible reality of a College community firmly grounded in its history, rooted in mission, and animated by integrated learning and community engagement.

Transforming Hearts and Minds to Serve the World

The core mission of the College, “transforming hearts and minds to serve the world," spans both our history and our future extending well beyond a marketing slogan or brand. "Transforming hearts and minds to serve the world" is part of the Rivier DNA which has burst forth from the founding spirit of Blessed Anne Marie, was actualized in a truly American vision by Sister Madeleine of Jesus Getty, and is made ever new in the life story of our students.

Transformational History

To remind ourselves and to enlighten our many visitors, I am privileged to use this occasion to reflect on the remarkable, even sacred stories of Rivier—for knowing our history will lead us ever more confidently and boldly into the future. The following three stories highlight the ever essential foundation for transformation: A vision rooted in an abiding faith and brought to life through imagination, courage, and hard work.

The first story is that of Anne Marie Rivier, who founded the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in Southern France under the lingering shadows of the French Revolution. She responded to an interior call and the dire need of French children for an education which inspired both the heart and the mind. Physically challenged from an early age and rejected for health reasons by a more established religious community Sister Anne Marie’s words pierced to the heart of the matter: “Since I had nothing, I always thought that God would do everything.” [1]  

God did give the increase and the Sisters of the Presentation expanded rapidly across France and in 1853 crossed the Atlantic to the Province of Quebec. Twenty years later they journeyed with the French Canadian mill workers to the hills of Glen Falls, NY; Island Pond, VT; and Berlin, NH. Hudson, NH would soon follow with the establishment of Presentation of Mary Academy in 1926 which served as the first home for the College.

The second story highlights the life and vision of Rivier’s founder, Sister Madeleine of Jesus. Sisters Madeleine was born Laura Beatrice Getty, 1883, in Danielson, CT and educated in local parochial and public schools. Laura met the Sisters of the Presentation in boarding school at St. Cesaire, PQ. Not unusual for the day, she entered religious life at the age of 19. Her intellect, organization, and passion for education were quickly placed at the service of her community.

Her days were full of promise as she embraced the work of educator and director of studies both in New England and at St. Hyacinth, PQ. Interspersed in this active educational ministry were correspondence courses, summer study, and residency years at the Catholic University of America.

Sister Madeleine’s crowning research achievement occurred in 1931 when she was awarded a Ph.D. in Classics and Comparative Philology. Her dissertation, entitled “The Life of North Africans as Reveled in the Sermons of St. Augustine,” won both national and international recognition from the scholars of her day. Sister Madeleine lived the educational vision expressed as a goal in the first College catalog which is “To impart to its students a thorough intellectual education and a sound moral training to fit women for true leadership.”[2]  

The College opened its doors to students in 1933, a time when the nation and the world were firmly anchored in the depths of the Great Depression. Nonetheless, Sister Madeleine imbued with bold spirit of Anne-Marie Rivier responded to the aspirations of area families. They wished their daughters to take their place as women of faith and conviction, liberally educated, and professionally accomplished. You can well appreciate that the struggle and sacrifices of this small community were many, yet their success was unquestioned. The College outgrew its space, buying the first of many parcels along South Main Street in 1941. While Sister Madeleine would take leave of the College in 1946 her memory was indelible in the minds of her collaborators and students. Upon Sister Madeleine’s death in 1965 one of her students reflected:

“Her death brought home the realization that Rivier was someone’s personal dream, the dream of a woman of vitality, of warmth and tremendous foresight who was idealist enough to envision a college where there was not, and forceful enough to nurture it into existence.”[3]

The third story represents the varied lives of our many students. Stephen Venkatasami came to the United States at the age of 14 from the Latin American nation of Guyana.  

With the encouragement of his parents, Stephen left a village of about 500, a home without running water, and an educational system devoid of resources. He arrived in New York City, stayed with his brother, and attended John Adams High School in Queens. The journey has been long and challenging, and Stephen is now a junior at Rivier majoring in criminal justice.

For many of our students, the end of a class day marks the beginning of a work day. Stephen is serving as an intern at the Nashua Department of Corrections, works at the Rivier Art Gallery, and also holds two part time jobs. As I have come to know Stephen, I am impressed by his gratitude for his high school teachers, counselors, and the faculty and staff of Rivier who have supported his efforts in the classroom and beyond.

His goal is to serve as a case manager providing support and referral services to those in need. In the spirit of Sister Anne-Marie and Sister Madeleine, Stephen continues the Rivier legacy with a vision rooted in faith and brought to life through imagination, courage, and hard work. Like many other students, Stephen’s story touches the heart of mission – in his own words - “I have a burning desire to better my life and to help others better theirs.”   

Blessed Anne-Marie, Sister Madeleine, and Stephen share three different centuries, cultures, and continents. Each in a unique way encountered social strife and economic dislocation. For Mother Rivier, it was the ravages of the French Revolution; for Sister Madeleine, the flaring tension within New England’s Franco-American community; and for Stephen a lack of opportunity. They overcame the limits of their environments, creating something new with the intrinsic belief that education is the foundation and gateway for faith, life, and learning.  

Transformational Future  

Today we begin a fourth story with a look to River’s future. Our work flows from a mission and vision of “transforming hearts and minds to serve the world” in three significant ways:

  • First, a Catholic intellectual tradition that embraces faith and reason, and values the life of the mind beyond simple productivity.  
  • A social tradition that asks and answers who is my neighbor, embracing the spirit of Catholic social thought articulated in Gaudium et Spes in which “The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of this age are shared and alleviated.” Rivier is a place where “nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in our hearts.”
  • And a spiritual tradition confident in the indwelling presence of God at work within us and among us, a place where faith matters and each personal journey of faith is respected. A place where one can find God in all things. [4]  

As a community we also value expanded access of programs and services that mirrors the needs of this region: Liberal and professional education, undergraduate and graduate offerings including a doctoral program, classroom and online program delivery. This continuing development and expansion is consistent with the thought of Blessed John Henry Newman, author of the Idea of a University, as he said  “Growth is the only evidence of Life.”

Our academic distinction is that we can embrace a description of who we are—a New American college that deeply values liberal learning while at the same time preparing students for professional practice. By celebrating who we are we can more easily envision what we can still become, creating that blend of programs that provides entry not only to a job but to a profession and awakens in our students a passion which will sustain their hearts and minds.

Our work continues through the seven themes that emanate from mission and form the foundation of the strategic plan – Delivering on the Promise to Transform Hearts and Minds to Serve the World.

  1. Programs of Academic Distinction
  2. Student Leadership
  3. Competitive Facilities, Technology, and Environments
  4. Global Engagement
  5. Marketing and Branding
  6. Philanthropy and Community Partnership
  7. Financial Stewardship and Institutional Effectiveness

Together, as we build out the strategic plan, we will reflect not only on the stories of our history, but also a global view of the future.

In doing so, may we be ever transformed by the renewal of our hearts and minds acting boldly in service to the world.

Thank you.

 


 

[1] The Fire of Her Witness p 93

[2] Crucible and Charism p 16

[3] Crucible and Charism: A biography of Sister M. Madeleine of Jesus, pm by Sister Lucille Claire Thibodeau, pm

[4] Paraphrased from The PM’s Educational Mission