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THEIR OPINION: Welder puts U-Mary on the mapBismarck Tribune [in GF Herald]Published Sunday, May 11, 2008BISMARCK — People who know Sister Thomas Welder are apt to use superlatives when speaking of her.The widely admired Benedictine sister, 68, will step down as president of the University of Mary on June 30, 2009.For her part, doubtless Sister Thomas will make it be a graceful transition to the welcome given to her eventual successor.For two decades, Sister Thomas has led the college, then university, as it blossomed, now seeing itself as “America’s Leadership University.” To be sure, it has a wide reach. From its spiritual home, the spectacular hill campus south of Bismarck, it reaches learners on-site in 16 places in five states, scattered from Billings and Poplar, Mont., to Fort Riley, Kan., to Kansas City, Mo. — and farther yet through online courses.In 1985, when the transformation from college to university happened, there were 925 students. Now, more than 3,000 are enrolled.When Diane Welder started at the new college in 1959, it was as a student and to join the religious community of Benedictine sisters. She finished her undergraduate education in Minnesota and returned to Bismarck in 1963 to join the college faculty. Then, it offered a bachelor’s degree. With Welder at the helm since 1978, it progressed to offer master’s degrees in several fields and now a doctorate in physical therapy.But those are only measures of U-Mary as an institution of higher education. The community — and that’s how it sees itself, to include the sisters of Annunciation Monastery — holds to values that permeate its life: Hospitality, service, moderation, respect for persons, prayer and, not surprisingly, community.You can be in Sister Thomas’ company and experience a one-nun embodiment of those Benedictine values.It’s also an experience of her humor. And musicality. And courage. A student, in awe of her, said, “She’s the bravest person, man or woman, I’ve ever known.” Fighting the good fight with chronic kidney disease through transplant and dialysis, she inspired people — while turning the attention away from herself, saying, “The support I receive from the Benedictine women here is a gift beyond anything I ever imagined.” She was lifted in the prayers of people of many faiths and expressed her characteristic gratitude.When Sister Thomas announced to the university community in 2006 that she had the prospect of a second kidney transplant, she adorned her e-mail with a grace note: “The 13th-century poet, Rumi, offers this insight: ‘Your lamp was lit from another lamp. All God wants is your gratitude for that.’”The transplant didn’t happen, but the good sister continued her ministry and persevered in serving, on the board of directors of Montana-Dakota Utilities, for one.No doubt, she’ll be serving in some capacity as long as she lives.
JUST EXTRA POLISH. I DO SOME WORK WITH EXCELL SO I KEEP THE CAPS LOCK ON :-P
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