Reflecting on Marylhurst
Commencement is always a time to celebrate. And so it was a moment for celebration at Marylhurst University earlier this month, when 224 students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas and move on to the next chapter of their lives and careers.
These graduates represent the best of Marylhurst University: hard work, dedication, resiliency and grace.
For everyone in attendance, this year's event also struck a bittersweet note. It was the final commencement ceremony prior to the university's closure later this year.
Closing a university is a painful process, and the entire board of trustees feels the deepest sympathy for students, alumni, staff and faculty members working through this disappointing situation.
At the same time, our community showed its best that Sunday, coming together to celebrate the legacy of Marylhurst and 124 years of graduating students who make our world a better place.
When the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary came to Portland in 1859 to establish an educational community, they couldn't have known the impact they would have on so many lives. After opening and expanding St. Mary's Academy and College in Portland, the Sisters needed a separate location for the college. In 1930, Marylhurst College opened on the beautiful campus where this year's graduation took place.
In the years leading up to the Great Depression, the Sisters were not only educating Portland's youth. They fought the Ku Klux Klan for the right to private education. They took their fight all the way to the United States Supreme Court — and won. Caroline Gleason, also known as Sister Miriam Theresa, advocated in 1913 for passing Oregon's minimum wage law, one of the first in the nation.
Marylhurst has fulfilled unmet needs in higher education since its beginning as a women's college, then as an institution for older and nontraditional students, and later as one of the first to offer degree completion online.
As Sister Joan Saalfeld said in this year's commencement address, "Over the years, Marylhurst has provided access to a quality education for those whose opportunities were limited by gender, age, location or other barriers. In doing so, the Sisters — and all the wonderful people who joined the enterprise begun by the Sisters, all those who have taught and worked at Marylhurst over these past decades — have created opportunities for thousands of Marylhurst graduates" —- just like this year's Class of 2018.
As our graduates move on to new careers, to new job prospects or to other colleges and universities to continue their education, the Marylhurst community is proud not only of the work they put into attaining their degrees, but also of the positive impact we know they will make on the lives of others.
While this year's commencement ceremony was bittersweet, we are glad it provided an opportunity for our community to come together one final time to celebrate this great institution, its many fantastic graduates, and its positive, impactful legacy — which will remain in the minds of so many long after the University has closed its doors.
Sister Joan said it best: "The legacy of Marylhurst is in each of us; in the values we hold, in the person we have become through the community with whom we interacted and learned — those who taught here, who studied here, who worked here in support of our mission and purpose. And that legacy does not end when operations cease here in this place. That legacy never ends."
Chip Terhune is the chair-elect of the Marylhurst Board of Trustees and will oversee the closure of the university. Sue Hildick is the vice chair-elect of the Board.