President Yam's Speeches & Public Remarks

2015 Notre Dame Day

Dr. Yam's Remarks on Notre Dame Day, Feb. 10, 2015

This been a wonderful celebration of the academic achievements and the dedication of our Notre Dame community. Let’s give another applause to all those we’ve recognized today for all of their achievements.

And I’d like add my congratulations to our Mission and Ministry awardee, Debra Franklin, and our Distinguished Staff Award winner, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Erin Foley. You both represent the spirit that makes Notre Dame such an exceptional place.

On this Notre Dame Day, I’d like to take note of two milestones we are marking this year. The first is, of course, the 120th anniversary of our first year as a college; in September 1895, Notre Dame offered its first college classes. As the first Catholic college in the US to award the 4-year baccalaureate degree to women, we were an institution that was ahead of its time in advancing the education of women

And it was 100 years ago that Notre Dame students chose the Maryland cornflower as our official school blossom. The Maryland cornflower is a deeper blue than the common flower you see in fields. 

I’d like to thank the organizers of today’s event, not just for their hard work in putting together a wonderful program, but also for choosing such a fitting theme: Walking in Beauty. As you heard, this is a translation of a phrase found in Navajo folklore. It refers to being in harmony with the world around you, to being at peace and living a good life. In fact, we have a Notre Dame version of this concept in our honor pledge when we say we will “see all beauty.”

Another way of expressing this idea, which is a part of Biblical and Christian tradition, is living in right relationship: right relationship with ourselves, with others, with God, and with the whole of God’s creation. And this is the basis of our dedication as a community to social justice, as expressed in our mission statement and its call to educate leaders who will transform the world by striving for excellence, building  inclusive communities, engaging in service to others, and promoting social responsibility.

Members of our community strive to live this out every day, in the many thousands of hours of service we perform in the community, in the way we serve others in our jobs, in the way we care for each other and in the way we work hard in our classes so we will be prepared to make our mark in the world. We do this led by the vision of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the founders of our University and our continuing inspiration today.

Let me point out just a couple of examples. When the Maryland Daily Record announced their winners of the 2014 Leading Women, which recognizes the achievements of community leaders under 40, Notre Dame was well represented. Included among the honorees were two alumnae: Elizabeth Brescia of the Class of 2012, who is a Foster Care and Adoption Resource Specialist with the Adoption Exchange Association; and Kate Christensen Mills, Class of ’99, who is Assistant Director of the Office of Congressional Relations with the, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And of course, Melissa Lees, our director of campus ministry and service!

And just last week we heard that one of our outstanding pharmacy students, Ifeoma Ibe, has been appointed by the American Pharmacist Association Academy of Students Pharmacists as the National Contact Person representing the USA in the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation. This is a huge honor for Notre Dame that will help us extend our global reach. 

And of course there are all of the achievements that we’ve recognized today. You are all outstanding examples of the transformative spirit of Notre Dame.

Thank you.

2014 Thanksgiving

Dear Notre Dame Community,

It’s hard to believe it’s already the end of November and the beginning of the holiday season. The Thanksgiving holiday that we are about to celebrate is an opportunity to pause from our busy lives, to gather with family and friends around a festive table, and to offer gratitude for our many blessings.

This year I feel particularly blessed, and I am personally giving thanks for the privilege of serving this wonderful University, with its enthusiastic students, its dedicated faculty and staff, and its faithful and generous trustees, alumnae, alumni and supporters. I am thankful to be a part of an engaged community that is energetically embracing the important work of formulating our strategic plan that will help us to move to the next stage of our development as a University. And I especially give thanks for the vision and courage of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in founding this University, as well as for their continued inspiration that brings us together as partners in mission.

My wish for you is that you all will have a special moment to recall your blessings and that you are able to gather with family or cherished friends to celebrate the holiday according to your own traditions. Have a wonderful, restful Thanksgiving.

With gratitude,

Marylou Yam

2014 Foundation Day

Dear Partners in Mission,

On Friday we will celebrate the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s Foundation Day. It commemorates the day, Oct. 24, 1833, when 36-year-old Caroline Gerhardinger and two friends began a life dedicated to religious devotion and service in imitation of Jesus in the town of Neunburg vorm Wald, Bavaria. Caroline took the religious name of Mary Theresa of Jesus.

Just 14 years later, Mother Theresa embarked on a perilous cross-Atlantic journey with five of her sisters to begin a new mission in America, where they would establish schools and eventually a college in Baltimore that educated children and young women to go forth and transform the world.

Today, some 181- years later, the SSND charism is alive and well at Notre Dame of Maryland University. As we begin our 120th year, the NDMU community continues to be a beacon of transformative education, living in the hearts, minds, words and actions of all of our Partners in Mission.

Like Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, we, too, "Trust and Dare" – we trust in the goodness of God and the good will of one another, daring to reach out to help those in need. 

2014 United Way's Project Homeless Connect

Remarks at Project Homeless Connect, Oct. 2, 2014

It is so wonderful to see all of you here today to volunteer for Project Homeless Connect, especially so many of you from our colleges and universities. Boy, there’s a lot of energy in this room!

Today will be an important and powerful experience for all of you. This is a great way to put the idea of serving others into action. And this is an opportunity to make personal connections with people in our city who may be hidden to us, or whom we may see on the street, but not normally engage in a conversation.

I’d like to share with you a few of the reflections expressed by some of our students who participated in Project Homeless Connect last year. When asked what they learned about themselves from the experience, many said not to judge others by their looks. Here are a few more:

  • People are willing to open up to you when you allow them to without bias. 
  • Respect is everything. 
  • Not everyone who is homeless doesn’t have a home. 
  • How people have the ability to remain positive in hard situations. 
  • We can help each other, no matter what. 

Homelessness is a chronic and persistent problem in our city, and we’re not going to solve it by what we do here today. But your presence, and the kindness and attention you will show our guests, speaks volumes about how our people experiencing homelessness are important members of our community. They are as deserving of human dignity and respect as any other person. They are our brothers and sisters.

So thank you again for taking time out of your busy lives, your jobs or your classes, to be here with us  today. Education is in part about learning to serve, or as we tell our students at Notre Dame, making an effort to transform the world. You are needed here and it’s great to see you here helping to make Baltimore a better and more welcoming place for all.  

2014 Move-In Day

President Yam's Remarks at Move-in Day 2014

President’s Welcome and Signing & Pinning Ceremony

Welcome – Class of 2018!

I am delighted to see you here today. It is an honor and privilege for me to speak with you as you begin studying at Notre Dame of Maryland University-the first Catholic college to award the baccalaureate degree to women in the United States!  This is our 120th fall semester of college classes.  That’s 120 weekends of hauling boxes up stairs!   

And 120 times our faculty members have prepared to greet you, with warmth and with rigor, with hope and with a belief in your capacity to succeed.  You are entering into a tremendous legacy!

Thank you for putting your trust in us.

Welcome to our community of learners.

Here, you set your own course for a successful academic experience. Take advantage of every opportunity – choose wisely. Ask for advice!  Enjoy the breadth and depth of courses in the core curriculum and in your major area of study. Enhance and enrich your learning with community service, study abroad, internships, and a collaborative student-faculty research project.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame, our founders, believe that education means enabling persons to reach the fullness of their potential.  The Sisters teach us that education assists students in directing their gifts toward building the earth and developing leaders who, through the use of their education, transform the world.

To achieve this goal, the courses you will take will enable you to advance your skills in communication and critical thinking; to explore humanistic and social perspectives; to demonstrate leadership; to recognize the ethical dimensions in personal, social, political and aesthetic experiences; and to acquire a depth of knowledge in your major and a passion for life-long learning. Notre Dame prepares you for a lifetime of engaged work, not just a series of jobs. 

At Notre Dame of Maryland your professors are aware that you bring your experience to your education; it necessarily shapes your understanding. Everyone’s learning is a little bit different. Thus, we expect you to be actively engaged in your education – be an active participant in every class, (every course, and every term) read, write, observe, think, listen, reflect, question, dialogue and create.  And that can be FUN!  Be engaged in your learning and your living—relish it, have fun. Grow spiritually and get involved in the many student life and campus ministry programs, clubs, trips and sporting events!  Last year there were over 200 student-led activities on campus.  Lead an event!  Make new friends.  Some of the friendships you make in the coming years will last for a lifetime.  

We join you at an exciting time in your life, and you join us at a very exciting time in the history of Notre Dame of Maryland. Last Spring we opened our brand-new Civera Fitness Center and the new University Academic Building – a $16 million state-of-the-art facility that includes simulation labs, where we have a mother who can give birth three times a day. We are proud of these new learning spaces and grateful for the generosity of our alumni and friends who help make your education a success.  Gibbons Hall—the oldest building on campus—is undergoing a major renovation; you probably noticed the scaffolding as you drove by.  Doyle Dining Hall is also being renovated—we expect that it will look wonderful for Family Weekend in October.  In the meantime, Gator Alley, our second dining facility which is also in Doyle Hall, remains open—and it had a makeover last year.

Speaking of our campus, Notre Dame will very shortly be featured as the first University in the world with a virtual Google tour, which will enable you to tour our beautiful campus indoors and out with a computer and a mouse.

From your armchair, you can see that Notre Dame has four academic divisions: the schools of Nursing, Education, Pharmacy, and Arts and Sciences. 

Our master’s degree and RN to BSN nursing programs  were awarded national re-accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, our new full-time four-year nursing program was accredited by that same commission, and t the the school received a $1.5M gift from Kay Pitts to endow a chair in nursing innovation and leadership.

Our School of Education programs were re-accredited for the maximum number of years possible by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.  Notre Dame was the first private college in MD to be NCATE-accredited, and Notre Dame prepares more new teachers than any other private college in Maryland – and nearly as many as the University of Maryland, College Park.

Our School of Pharmacy graduated its second class, and two current students were awarded Baltimore Albert Schweitzer Fellowships for research in this area.

Three books were published by members of our English Department; our Art Department hosted a national print competition; our undergraduate Philosophy Bowl Team went to a national competition; and students in many other disciplines learned how to do research while working alongside faculty mentors.  All of our programs build from the core of the liberal arts.

One of our standout biology students, Brittany Dunkerly, was the subject of a feature this summer in the Huffington Post on her work in a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine lab as part of Notre Dame’s Sister Alma Women in Science Program.

For the 8th straight year, Notre Dame students were winners of a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace. Last year, three students conducted a project in Swaziland to help women their have more marketable textile products, and this past summer, two Notre Dame 2014 graduates traveled to Tanzania, where they taught computer skills to students at the Faraja Primary School for Disabled Children.  

Like these prize-winning students, we want you to learn how to tie your learning to your spirit and give that gift to others.  First-year students all take NDMU 100, where this process begins—along with study skills, group discussions, and dessert at my house.  (I have each class over for dessert.) NDMU 100 students have assignments tied to our campus common reading. Again this year, Notre Dame will host a noted author as part of that program. On October 7, Liz Murray will be here to speak about her inspirational life story described in her book Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard.

But what we focus on most is your inspirational story. What gifts are you bringing to the world and how can we help you make the most of your special talents? 

I look forward to seeing you on campus. I wish you all good luck and give you my best wishes for a productive and fulfilling Notre Dame experience!

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And now to mark this important moment, I invite students entering Notre Dame to come up to the stage for a University tradition: receiving your Notre Dame pin and signing your name in the register.