By: Emma M. Meade
The Renaissance Institute is a life-long learning program that is a vibrant and active part of the greater NDMU community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Renaissance Institute has shown great resilience in adapting to a virtual format. We had a chance to speak with long-time RI member Betty Loafmann about what makes Renaissance special and why the NDMU alumnae community should consider joining or telling a loved one about RI!
Betty Loafmann, long-time member of the Renaissance Institute
EM: For those who are unfamiliar with the Renaissance Institute (RI), can you summarize it in your own words?
BL: It is essentially a life-long learning program for adults over the age of 50 in which the members do the majority of the teaching and become a friendly community to each other.
EM: How long have you been an RI member?
BL: 10 years!
EM: What did you do before you joined RI (career-wise and otherwise)?
BL: Believe it or not, that’s one of the more difficult questions to answer. After college I went to graduate school and got my degree in ministry and was ordained. Then, I was a management consultant for several years, working in about 43 states and several countries. When I first came to Renaissance, I also owned an inn in Baltimore for about 18 years. It was an historical bed and breakfast.
EM: What were the most common points of wisdom that you imparted as a management consultant?
BL: We worked with businesses to develop data-driven management systems that people could actually understand. We talked a lot about the necessity of giving positive feedback and most importantly reinforcing the good when you see it. One of my favorite comments from a client was someone who said, “Guess what, we’ve been mugged again!” What he meant by that was that the company gave out mugs to celebrate a success! I did a lot of work to help people go from thinking their management job was to focus on people that were doing things wrong or doing their job poorly, to focusing on the positive and the things they wanted.
EM: How have you brought your consulting experience to RI as far as your involvement in committees and on the RI council?
BL: Well, you heard me say to “the gang” [the Executive Council] yesterday, “I know some of our strategic planning sounds like a headache, but aren’t you excited about all the possibilities?” I think one of the reasons people like my classes is that I go as far as I possibly can to reinforce people for whatever they’re contributing. I definitely try to bring that to committees and strategic planning as well.
EM: As an RI member, you have both taken and given several classes. Is there any class you’ve taken that is particularly memorable? Why?
BL: There are two or three that really stand out. The first was the history of France. For 30 years I’d been looking for a class on the complete history of France, and that was absolutely wonderful. Another class I loved was taught by an NDMU professor and was called “Ignorance.” It presented questions like “How do we know what we know?” I discovered I was awfully good at being ignorant, so I really enjoyed that class. I also took a class on literary analysis that was terrifically helpful in figuring out what the real point of a story is.
EM: How about classes that you’ve given—what are some of your favorites?
BL: Probably one of the most significant for me was a class where we worked on the doctrine of grace. People talked about what grace was in their lives. It’s kind of an abstract concept for most people, so we had some fascinating discussions on what was involved in that. Right along with it (it sounds like most of my teaching is theological—it isn’t but I do love that), we had “If Women Wrote the Bible.” I loved teaching that because it is so liberating to realize that the Bible has so little of the world according to the perspective of women, so that was loads of fun.
EM: Do you have a favorite RI memory? It could be a special lecture, event, or something else!
BL: Yes, it was a special event. I had been to a party with several members of RI and I knew I felt very strange. Eventually, some of my colleagues from RI got me to a hospital. It turned out my aorta had ruptured. Only 10% of people survive this kind of medical event. The support that I received from the RI community was incredible: cards, calls, food, visits, etc. An RI couple even took care of my dog during that time, and the community just really gathered around.
EM: You’re teaching entirely online this semester. Did you have any experience teaching online before last semester?
BL: No, I had absolutely no previous experience teaching online.
EM: How is it going? Are there any unexpected benefits to teaching online?
BL: One of the enormous benefits is that on Zoom, people’s names are where you can see them! It is possible at RI to take classes with people and talk to them weekly, but never learn (or remember) their names! I love that aspect of teaching online. The big downside is that I was going to teach a class that I very much look forward to on the suffrage movement, but I didn’t want to teach that on Zoom. The reason for this is that I want to have a real emotional interaction with people over what it was like to go through the suffrage movement. My teaching style is very much interactive, and I feel that Zoom has somewhat limited that, but I’ve been very pleased with how people have worked with it. I do think as a group we have adapted very well to the online format.
EM: What do you think sets RI apart from other life-long learning and continued education programs?
BL: There’s no question. The big difference is the level of community. At RI you’re taking classes in areas that you probably always thought you might like but never quite got around to learning. The classes at RI are taught for the most part by a peer—and we’re such friends! You can talk about classes afterwards with each other and make new friends. We have “Summer in the City” and “Winter in the City” social activities, and I’ve noticed that after any event where we’ve gathered or had a meal together (we love to eat) you’ll hear people having the same conversation up and down the corridors about how nice Renaissance people are. It’s about being with people who are interesting and love to learn. We don’t discuss our ailments and doctor appointments much, though we have them. It’s the camaraderie that makes learning more fun, and it makes all of life feel so good. There are so many of us who would say, “I can’t imagine life without Renaissance.” That is so common as a feeling. It’s our family. It’s our mental activity. It’s our reaching out and caring. It’s our getting involved with things we never would have thought we’d be involved in because someone at RI is involved with it. These are the things that make RI so different from someplace [where] you go to class rather passively. Our program is not passive. We take great interest in each other and I just—well, [as] with the others, I can’t imagine life without Renaissance.
EM: Where do you see RI in 5 years?
BL: Well, the summer before the pandemic hit us, I began talking to people about strategic planning, because if you’re not ready for the future— it’s going to come anyways! I feel like our ability to potentially do a hybrid (combination online and in-person) program is one of the most exciting things to grow out of the pandemic. The notion that you can still be a part of the Renaissance community if you move to senior housing, or Arizona, or decide to have your hips replaced every other week is exciting! It’s wonderful that we can be available and support each other life-long, in person or virtually.
I’m also hoping that when the pandemic over we can do some outreach to alumni networks at neighboring institutions like Morgan State. We are still way too white. There’s a lot of people who have life experiences that are very important for us to know about, so I’m looking for us to at some point be able to have classes on some other campuses that offer more opportunities for integration and diversity.
Has an SSND had a significant impact on your life? We would like to hear about it!
The School Sisters of Notre Dame and NDMU are seeking your stories for the next issue of Blessings, a publication for family, friends, and benefactors of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The publication is scheduled for a May 2021 release.
The theme for this upcoming issue is “May Their Memories Be a Blessing.” The Sisters are seeking stories from our alumnae/alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends, and donors sharing memories of SSNDs past and present who have touched their lives. If you would like to share your thoughts, experiences, and memories, please submit through the form linked below. Please note the word limit for your story is 50 words. Please complete all submissions by Thursday, February 11, 2021.
You can submit your thoughts/memories/stories through the NDMU website.
As we settle into a new year and a new semester, we would love to share your good news with the NDMU community!
Did you get married this year? Welcome a new family member? Make a career change? Any and all of these updates are invited! High-resolution photos are emphatically encouraged, too. Please send your update to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Tuesday, March 9 from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., the Women’s Leadership Institute of Baltimore will present the Charles J. Busta III Business Forum in its first-ever virtual format. The panel discussion, “Alumnae Leaders Paving the Way,” will be moderated by the President of NDMU’s Alumnae and Alumni Council, Nichole C. Gatewood, Esq ’01.
NDMU has been educating leaders for 125 years. What’s the secret to developing personal leadership, and how does that extend to the business acumen necessary for professional success? Join us to hear from a selection of outstanding recent alumnae.
Panelists will include:
Register today for this incredible event!
Join fellow alums and current students on Tuesday, February 23 at 7:00 p.m. for a Virtual Bingo Night in honor of Giving Day! Engage in friendly competition for the chance to earn prizes and support NDMU. Register today!
On December 21, the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) Board of Directors announced that all formal conference competition and conference championships for fall and winter sports will be cancelled for the 2020-21 academic year in light of the ongoing pandemic. NDMU will be exploring alternative athletic activities for all the cancelled sports this spring. More information about the University’s athletic planning can be found at notredamegators.com.
Due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the need to ensure the safety of our NDMU community, all masses in the Marikle Chapel have been cancelled.
While we may not be able to worship together, there are several ways to worship from home! We recommend the app myParish, which will have a number of prayer resources and links to live streamed masses.
Another resource is EWTN Global Catholic Network, the largest religious network in the world. You can watch the Mass every day at 8:00 a.m. on TV or streaming live here. Missed the live stream? Get today's daily readings and homily at this link.
Longtime nurse researcher, scholar, educator and social change advocate, Tina Bloom, Ph.D., has been named as the inaugural Frances Kay Pitts ’96 Endowed Chair for Nursing Leadership in Women and Children’s Health at Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU).
The Frances Kay Pitts ’96 Endowed Chair for Nursing Leadership in Women and Children’s Health was established in 2014 through a generous gift from the Pitts Family Foundation and Kay and Jim Pitts, with Bloom being named as the first Endowed Chair in 2020. It is endowed to honor Kay Pitts, a graduate of the NDMU nursing program, who has dedicated her career to excellence in the healthcare of women and children as a Registered Nurse and Certified Nurse Midwife.
“Our goal in funding this Endowed Chair was to enable the Nursing program at NDMU to move to the next level of recognition in its pursuit of excellence in not only the clinical skills and research of Nursing, but the equally important leadership qualities and caring that nurses provide on a daily basis,” says Jim and Kay Pitts. “Notre Dame has a unique value set in community and faith, which enables the student to reach beyond the physical boundaries of the University. We are honored to welcome Dr. Tina Bloom as the first person to occupy an Endowed Chair in Nursing at NDMU.”
Read the full announcement here.
As we move into the spring semester, take some time to check out Gormley Gallery’s latest exhibition, Looking at Leadership. Curated by Sarah B. McCann, this exhibit features artwork celebrating the values of people who “have provided light, inspiration, and a path forward” during a year when we have faced new and continued challenges, turmoil, and loss on a national and global scale. In a time when leadership has proven immensely significant, these artists highlight those leaders and the values needed to lead.
A virtual artists’ reception was held on January 30 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. The exhibit will be open through March 5, 2021. Experience this and future virtual exhibitions from your own home by exploring Gormley Gallery’s new virtual site, gormleygallery.com.
Save the date for Notre Dame’s fourth annual Giving Day! On February 23, 2021, you can make a difference across six special funds. Make a gift in support of one (or more!) areas—the School of Arts, Sciences, and Business; the School of Education; the School of Nursing; the School of Pharmacy; Gator Athletics; or the Notre Dame Fund.
Your gift is not the only way for you to get involved in NDMU Giving Day. You are invited to our NDMU Virtual Bingo Night at 7:00 p.m. on February 23. Connect with fellow alumnae and alumni, as well as current students, while engaging in a friendly competition, complete with Notre Dame-themed prizes.
Learn more about Giving Day and register for NDMU Virtual Bingo Night at ndm.edu/givingday.
Our alumnae and alumni community mourns the passing of the following graduates of NDMU:
Jean O. Koch ‘59
Marita Barnes Mattei ‘60
Mary M. Brockman, MHSH ‘65
Jocelyn Vazzana Kavanagh ‘65
Joyce Wilson Libert ‘67
Clare Smith Pitz ‘67
Karen H. Peterson ‘74
M. Joanna W. Quinn ‘79
Mary C. Warehime, DC ‘80
Maria M. Berger ‘90
Caroline Abell Coleman ‘91
Michael F. Keating, III ‘94
Virginia C. Martin ‘03
John D. Gibson ‘12
As we begin a new year, we remember that volunteerism is a cornerstone of the Notre Dame experience. As an alum, you have many opportunities to support NDMU’s mission and its students through active membership in a number of committees, including:
If you would like more information or are interested in joining any of these committees, you can fill out the Alumnae and Alumni Volunteer Interest Form.
Feeling overwhelmed or scared in the face of the pandemic? Eager to help in some way, but not sure what you can do? Here are some ways to start:
Several organizations are helping to provide necessary supplies for our most vulnerable neighbors. Here are two Baltimore-based organizations that could use your support:
Many small businesses are taking a hit due to closures and self-isolation. Buying gift cards from these businesses can help their employees while still allowing you to maintain social distancing. You can use the cards at a later time or gift them to those in need or those still working in essential roles, such as doctors, nurses, grocers, etc.
Despite the creation and distribution of a COVID vaccine, we must remember to remain cautious and maintain a safe distance between ourselves and others when venturing outside of our homes. Keep six feet apart when possible, and always wear your mask!
Did you move? Change your email address? The alumnae and alumni office periodically distributes communications. Update your information online at ndm.edu/alums/update-info.
NDMU also has an active presence on Facebook and LinkedIn! It's a way to share information and connect instantly with fellow alumnae and alumni. Like and follow the pages for the most immediate updates!
Likewise, if you know someone who does not regularly receive notices from NDMU, please encourage them to update their contact information with the alumnae and alumni office.
This publication follows a bimonthly schedule. This issue covers news for January and February 2021. The next issue will cover March and April and will be available close to the start of April 2021.