January 2022
Tower Talk Graphic

Message from the Alumnae and Alumni Engagement Team

Happy New Year! A new year brings the promises of hope and opportunity. As you can imagine, Noyes House is bubbling with excitement at possibilities for the coming year. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that we need to rely on innovation and the comfort of change in these unpredictable times.

We are delighted to kick off 2022 with the launching of our redesigned Tower Talk newsletter. As many of you know, your Alumni Engagement Team consists of myself, Alexandra DeJohn as your Director, and Rose Glenn, Engagement Officer. One of our main goals as your new team is finding new and exciting ways to connect with you and providing you with access to one another. Rose has already done a spectacular job of breathing new life into this publication, and this is just the beginning! The more updates, stories, and ideas you share with us, the more we can do together!

We want to share more stories about what our remarkable alumni are doing in their lives, personally and professionally. We want to brag about you! We are creating new volunteer opportunities for local and regional alumni to engage with their alma mater. We are developing initiatives to bring currentAlex and Rose, the Alumni Engagement Team students and alumni together to help establish what it means to be an alum and what incredible resources our alumni community has to offer. We want our students to know who has come before them and what they have accomplished. You have paved the roads for them to carve out their paths to be empowered world leaders of their generation and continue the legacy of this fantastic alumni family.

Notre Dame of Maryland University has many elements to be proud of, but our shining star is you! You bring us more pride and joy than any other accomplishment. Thank you for being part of our family. Stay tuned for our next Tower Talk issue in April!

Blessings to you and your family for the new year.

Alex & Rose
Your Alumni Engagement Team

Interviews with Alumnae Award Winners

The interviews below were conducted with the winners of our annual alumnae and alumni awards. In the interviews, our winners reflect back on their time at Notre Dame, discuss how they’ve stayed connected as an alum and describe what it meant to win their award. The award winners are as follows:

The Elizabeth P. Hoisington ’40 Distinguished Alumna Award: Grace Solimando Zaczek ’70
Service to Society Award: Natalie Mistichelli Ramirez '94
Regina Russo Hammel ’41 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award: Kirby Gaddy ’13
Alumnae and Alumni Engagement Award: Claire Flavin Funkhouser ’71

Grace Solimando Zaczek with her husband, guest, and President Yam













From left to right: Tom Brooks, Grace Solimando Zaczek, Ron Zaczek, President Marylou Yam

What is one of your favorite memories from your time as a student? 

KG: Something that will always stick out to me was Senior 100 Nights. That was such a great night. I was on the Executive Board from my class so I was putting the night together. Brent Swinton [previous Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement] dressed up as Kanye West for 100 Nights to just kind of thank us as future alums for thinking about giving back to the institution financially, staying engaged, giving our time, and it was just so funny. I hadn't seen that presentation to young alums before.

How have you stayed engaged with the University since you became an alum? Why is it important for alumni to stay engaged with their alma mater? 

GSZ: I’ve always supported Notre Dame, to the extent I could financially and am eager to receive news of the school. Now I’m a member of the Montrose Society and I’m on their Legacy Giving Committee. I am on the Board of Advisors for the School of Nursing and then [my husband] Ron and I have created a nursing research fund with for the school. We benefit from the legacy of the experience and the support, financial support, of those who have gone before us to the school. It's given us opportunities and we have an obligation to then provide that for those who will come after us.

What does it mean to be a Notre Dame alum? What connects everyone who graduates from Notre Dame? 

CFF: I'm proud of the way Notre Dame has stayed a women's college. I think that's important that we recognize that there are certain areas where women are predominant and where women can excel as leaders. We want Notre Dame to encourage that.

How did it feel when you found out you received your award? 

GSZ: I was very surprised. I was pleased, of course, and very honored and privileged. I've always felt a very strong connection for Notre Dame both for the support and the nurturing that I received there, but also of course meeting Ron and just the environment on campus when I was there.

NMR: I was just floored, and I have to admit I started to cry little because I was just so deeply moved. I want to be a proud Notre Dame alum, and it means the world to me to live up to the values of the individuals that have shaped me and my time there. Also, to be lumped with all of these amazing women and men, it is one of the highest honors I’ve ever received in my life.

KG: I was shocked. I didn't think that you really met me because I don't feel like anything that I've done is outstanding. I guess I should give myself a little credit, but also there's so many more things that I want to do. I don't even think I've reached the peak where I would consider something that I've done outstanding. On the other end, someone thought that the work that I'm doing and accomplishments that I had are important enough to be in the running for something like this.

CFF: I was very, very proud. I was also taken aback that happened. I was proud of my class that we instituted our scholarship and raised as much money as we had. I think it's getting better but fundraising for [colleges for] women versus men is more difficult. 

Claire Funkhouser
Claire Flavin Funkhouser

One of the many reasons you were chosen for the Alumnae and Alumni Engagement Award was your involvement with engaging the 1971 Reunion Committee and fundraising for the 1971 Scholarship Fund. Can you tell me more about why you wanted to be involved with those? 

CFF: I had spent several years [as a volunteer on the Reunion Committee] including the 40th reunion. I told my former roommate that I'm going to work on the 50th and it's going to be a great event. It didn't quite turn out that way due to the period of time, but we were able to rally around and raise more money than any other class. I do think having the personal connection to the scholarship really did help. I think that people could relate to that and I'm hoping they will continue to relate to that.

The Regina Russo Hammel ’41 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award is for alumni who demonstrate outstanding professional achievement and/or contributions to community life. Describe some of those achievements you’ve made since your graduation. 

KG: I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Notre Dame. You are a lifelong learner. My institution, University of Maryland Baltimore has a new program, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership which is a Masters of Science degree. I'm applying to the program, and am excited to hopefully be starting my second master's soon. Service-wise, I love community service and giving back. I have served on boards, volunteered in the Community, wherever there's a need. I recently started a wedding planning business. I just feel like those are things that I was supposed to do.

The Elizabeth P. Hoisington ’40 Distinguished Alumna Award is presented to an alumna who, through achievements in career and or community service, embodies the principles of Notre Dame. Can you tell me what it means to you to receive an award like this for all of your devotion to Notre Dame?  

GSZ: It's a recognition that the opportunities and experience that I had at Notre Dame have borne fruit in what I was able to do in my professional life and in the community. Particularly working with the various roles I had, which improved health care and access to health care for people who would not otherwise have had it. I was really pleased, particularly to receive an award that was named for General Hoisington because I come from a military family and I actually met General Hoisington at an event, I believe, at Notre Dame before she passed away.

The Service to Society Award is presented to an alumna or alumnus who best exemplifies the ideals of a Notre Dame education through the application of their education, initiative and humanity to socially useful ends in the community, nation or world. Tell me more about working with the Catholic Charities of Baltimore, what have you accomplished with them? 

NMR: I’ve been volunteering with Catholic Charities, since I was a student at Notre Dame. My job is to help people become champions for those who can't champion themselves, and to help make sure that we're continuing to meet the needs of these vulnerable populations and to continue to help them meet their God given potential. I give up my time, my talent for our various programs, both as a volunteer as a donor. I think that's important and I’m honored to say that we have a lot of great people in this city who've stepped up to help. It takes all of us to make change, and so I hope in my way I’m helping to be a positive example of what an organization can do to be a vehicle for change.

What advice do you have for any young alums? 

NMR: The one thing that I’ve reflected upon is the importance of relationships and building strong relationships. The other piece of advice is never lose your passion for life. Whatever that passion may be, whether it's for service, your professional direction, family, friends, a vocation, I think never losing your passion for life is important. Then, having fun and just laughing and smiling is important as well. Just enjoying the gift of life that you know we've been given.

Natalie Ramirez and Mary Anne O'Donnell
Mary Anne O'Donnell and Natalie Mistichelli Ramirez

Help Notre Dame Go Beyond!

Go Beyond: The Campaign for NDMU is a $45 million campaign to support transformational initiatives at NDMU, including faculty research, student scholarships, and capital improvements to the university’s Knott Science Center and athletics facilities. The campaign's public announcement encourages everyone to support NDMU's mission to educate leaders to transform the world. As of Dec. 31, the University had already raised $35.9 million, representing 80% of the campaign's total $45 million goal. 

Alumna Julie Ben-Susan ’69 is an active and vibrant volunteering member of the Notre Dame Alumni Community. She enjoys staying in touch with her Class of ’69 classmates sending greetings and news each season. Julie is deeply engaged in the Go Beyond Campaign, serving on the Campaign Cabinet as a Co-Chair on the Alumnae Engagement Committee. She and her husband, Paul, wanted to do something BIG and meaningful, so they pledged $50,000 as a Challenge Gift to inspire the greater Notre Dame community to participate. “Notre Dame has had a huge impact on my life. As a proud alum and Cabinet member, Paul and I felt compelled to make an impactful gift with hopes that we would inspire others through a match challenge gift,” Julie Ben-Susan ’69.

Any donation of any amount will count towards the Challenge Gift Initiative, so we hope you will make a meaningful gift of any size and help us make a BIG difference by joining Julie and Paul to support the Go Beyond Campaign!

Group of alumnae
Reunion Weekend 2021 Recap

The annual weekend celebration was held on campus on October 1-3 and brought over 125 alumni together. There was an air of excitement from the alumnae who were able to connect in person, honor alumnae and alumni awardees, attend mass, and engage in classmate discussions. We pride ourselves on hosting a successful weekend while providing safety and comfort, as well as the ability to create high-level experiences for our guests.

Did you graduate in a year ending in '2 or '7 and are interested in getting involved on the Reunion 2022 Committee? Email adejohn@ndm.edu to learn more!

More Stories

Gibbons Hall Renamed to Caroline Hall

Together with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, it gives us pleasure to announce that we will be renaming the University’s oldest academic building to honor Mother Caroline Friess, who is known as the foundress of the SSNDs in the United States. In recognition of the eternal ties between Notre Dame of Maryland University and our foundresses, the SSNDs, Gibbons Hall was renamed Caroline Hall on Dec. 1 to celebrate the significance of Mother Caroline’s contributions to the education of women and children in the United States.

Mother Caroline Friess (1824-1892) was a pioneer in education and advocacy for women. She was considered a “woman of her times,” coming to America with Mother Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger in 1847. Taking an energetic and keen interest in education, Mother Caroline rose to the position of Commissary General of the SSNDs and led the expansion of the congregation in North America. At the time of her death there were 2,000 sisters teaching 70,000 students across the United States. With this historic announcement we honor Mother Caroline Friess and the legacy and mission of the School Sisters of Notre Dame on our campus at Notre Dame of Maryland University and beyond.

Faculty Approves Statement on Anti-Racism

In the spirit of the mission of NDMU to create inclusive communities, and the SSND commitment to eliminate the root causes of injustice, the faculty of NDMU affirms its unequivocal opposition to racism against Black and Brown people and to end discrimination against all people of color in all of its forms. A Faculty Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) has been formed to join with NDMU students, administrative leadership, and community to work collaboratively in order to ensure that our university is an anti-racist institution. The task force continues to gather lived experiences of racism and hear ideas on how to bring about justice from students, faculty, staff, and administrators. 

Read The Full Statement

Athletics Review- Fall and Winter Sports

Women's basketball cheering on their teammatesBasketball: The Gators basketball team are fifth in the CSAC standings with a 3-3 record against conference opponents, as of Jan. 10.

Cross County: Christy Canjura and Laura Longeway were named to the 2021 Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) cross-country All-Conference team as announced by the league. Longeway came in with a (33:06.7) split to secure a spot on the Second Team All-CSAC with her 12th place finish. Canjura was named to the All-Sportsmanship team for best demonstrating the NCAA Division-III philosophy of "Discover, Develop, Dedicate."

Field Hockey: NDMU shined during its four-game run to close out the 2021 season. The Gators just missed the CSAC Championships, ending the season 5-9 overall, and 3-4 in the CSAC. Two women's volleyball members

Soccer: NDMU made its second straight CSAC playoff appearance despite missing out on the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The Gators last made the conference championships in 2019. The Gators ended their regular season 5-9 overall. Junior midfielder Sara Morales and sophomore forward Amma Alascia were named to the 2021 All-Conference Teams.

Volleyball: The No. 2 seed Gators volleyball team won nine conference matches before falling to the top-seeded Cedar Crest in the CSAC Championship match on Nov. 6. Gabbi Taganas '23 was recognized as First-Team All-CSAC hitter. 

Save the Dates

January 29- Girls & Women in Sports Day
Register here to attend!
The Notre Dame of Maryland University Athletic Department invites you to join us for a free event supporting Girls and Women in Sports Day on January 29, 2022. Aligned with the goals of the national annual day of observance, we will acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, recognize the influence of sports participation for women and girls, and honor the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sports. Events include: student-athlete panel stories and Q&A (current students & alumnae), sport stations run by NDMU coaches & student-athletes, photos with current players & Gabby the Gator, pizza, & drinks.

February 1- Remembering bell hooks
Join for this virtual event to remember author and social activist, bell hooks. Join us on Zoom from 6:00-7:00pm. Any questions can be directed to the Women's Leadership Institute of Baltimore at womenlead@ndm.edu.

February 15- Giving Day
Giving Day coincides with Notre Dame Day, a great day to reflect back on your time at Notre Dame and consider helping current students pave their way. The Challenge Gift Initiative launched on November’s Giving Tuesday, just after the Go Beyond Campaign’s public announcement, and will run until our Notre Dame of Maryland University Giving Day. Julie and Paul’s excitement for the Campaign has already inspired many, with more than half of the $50,000 Match Gift donated on Giving Tuesday alone! Their great hope is that we will double their gift by the close of Giving Day.

March 8- WLIB Women's History Month Speaker: Dr. Kaye Whitehead
Save the date as the Women's Leadership Institute of Baltimore hosts Dr. Kaye Whitehead as the Women's History Month speaker. Any questions can be directed to the WLIB at womenlead@ndm.edu.

March 23- President’s Leadership Forum Featuring Kenneth R. Banks
Save the date as the Women's Leadership Institute of Baltimore hosts Kenneth R. Banks for the President's Leadership Forum. Any questions can be directed to WLIB at womenlead@ndm.edu.

April 2- Morrissy Honors Program 40th Anniversary Celebration
Register here to attend!
Calling all Morrissy Alumnae! Dr. Evelyn Spratt (Morrissy Program Director) and Dr. Andrew Moore (School of Education) are conducting an oral history project to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Morrissy Honors Program. They are working with two current Morrissy undergraduates, Kristina Pickering ’22 and Jensen Armstrong ’24 in an exciting project that was recently presented as a model for faculty-student collaborative research at the National Collegiate Honors Council. These researchers are conducting interviews with Morrissy alumnae from 1981-2021 and need your help.  If you would like to share your experiences in the Program and can give 30 minutes of your time for a virtual interview, we would love to have you be a part of Morrissy history! Contact Dr. Spratt at espratt@ndm.edu for more information. 

April 13- WLIB Mentorship Roundtable
Save the date for the Women's Leadership Institute of Baltimore Mentorship Roundtable. More information is to come. Any questions can be directed to WLIB at womenlead@ndm.edu.

April 23- NDMU Day of Service
This is a new event that will bring members of the campus community together to participate in a day of service. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff can all participate either on campus or off campus. More information regarding this event will be announced soon.