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June 14, 2018, Miami, Florida – Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD, President of Barry University, has announced her retirement effective June 30, 2019. Sister Linda, who graduated magna cum laude from Barry College for Women in 1962, is the first alumna to become the university’s President, a position she has held since July 2004.
“For the remainder of my tenure as your president, you can rely on me to serve you – our students, faculty, and staff – and our alumni, benefactors, and community partners, energetically and enthusiastically, remaining faithful to and focused on Barry’s Catholic, Dominican identity, its empowering Mission and Core Commitments,” Sister Linda wrote in a letter to the university’s faculty and staff. “As an Adrian Dominican Sister and a very proud Barry alumna, I shall always be grateful for your faithfulness to mission, commitment to demonstrate and expect rigor and excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service, and your devotion to our wondrously diverse student body.”
John Bussel, Chair of Barry University’s Board of Trustees, credits Sister Linda with strengthening the university in numerous ways, including leading Barry successfully through the most turbulent of changes ever in higher education. Her management and operational skills have turned a large, disparate organization into a highly effective institution, he said. “Sister Linda is a guiding light to the Barry community, and she personifies the Adrian Dominican charism to seek truth, make peace, and reverence life.”
During Sister Linda’s 14-year tenure, in spite of challenges such as economic volatility, changing demographics, and nontraditional competitors, Barry has experienced program growth, diversification, institutional re-organization, and new and hybrid learning modalities. A revised Mission Statement now includes Core Commitments that shape student living, learning, leadership, and community engagement initiatives.
Since 2004, the total assets of Barry increased by more than $87 million, 69 percent. In addition, Barry has received local, state, federal, foundation, and individual grant and gifts close to $40 million, supporting basic science research, the renovation of teaching and laboratory spaces, construction of new buildings, scholarships, program development, and nine mission-focused centers and institutes. These include the Center for Human Rights and Social Justice and the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, originally directed by Patricia Siemen, OP, now Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
Provisionally credited at the start of Sister Linda’s presidency, the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law received full accreditation in the Fall of 2006. Currently enrolling over 700 students, the Orlando campus has been expanded with five new buildings. The main campus at Miami Shores also grew with the addition of two residence halls, an office and classroom building for the School of Podiatric Medicine, and the Rene Sylvester Tower on Interstate 95.
Sister Linda has also overseen the expansion of learning opportunities at Barry University. New Extended Learning programs provide students with additional opportunities to earn degrees at various Florida sites through distance education modalities. Barry accommodates the shifting demographic trends, enabling working adults to earn master’s and doctoral degrees.
In the last 14 years, Barry University has become a minority majority institution, with no single group having a majority. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal named Barry University one of the most diverse universities in the United States and recognized it for creating the most multicultural learning environment.
A native of New York, Sister Linda moved to the Miami/Dade County area with her family in 1958. After graduating from Barry in 1962, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation. She earned a master’s degree from Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian and a PhD from Michigan State University in 1980.
Sister Linda served at Barry as the chief student life officer from 1969 to 1978 and as founding dean of the School of Professional and Career Education (PACE) and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1981 to 1986. In 1986, she was elected to the General Council, serving under Sister Nadine Foley, OP, the Prioress, until their term was completed in 1992. She was President of Gwynedd-Mercy College (now University) in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, from 1993 to 2002.
Her retirement in 2019 will not mean the end of ministry for Sister Linda; after a sabbatical, she will discern her ministerial options.
April 4, 2018, Washington, D.C. – As youth from throughout the United States marched on March 24 to protest gun violence and the mass shootings of several of their peers throughout the years, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates stood with them in support and solidarity. Sisters attended the national march in Washington, D.C., as well as “sibling marches” throughout the country.
Adrian Dominican Sisters Kathleen Nolan, OP, and Maurine Barzantni, OP, were among an estimated 800,000 people who crowded into the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest the epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings. The event was organized by students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who lost 17 classmates in the latest school shooting.
“It was a different experience because of the density of the people,” Sister Maurine recalled. “We were so packed that we could not even move.” Instead, the two Sisters watched the program on a nearby large screen. Still, Sister Maureen added, “it was wonderful to think of 800,000 people supporting a cause that had not [previously] been popular to support.”
Sister Kathleen, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, noted that the event was clearly the work of the students, who all spoke articulately about their hopes to end gun violence. “It was also clear that the adults were there to support the students,” she said. “The adults knew their role.”
Both Sisters noted the failure of U.S. adults to persuade Congress to pass a bill that would include a sensible solution to the rampant gun violence in the nation – and most notably the mass school shootings that have taken place over the past 20 years. “We should have stopped this at Columbine [High School],” Sister Maurine said. “And then they killed children” at Sandy Hook School and other schools.
Still, both Sisters Kathleen and Maurine were happy at the groundswell of support for reasonable gun control measures – and by the diversity of people calling to an end to gun violence. “It wasn’t about being a Democrat or Republican or about religion,” Sister Kathleen said. “It was about saving lives. Everybody who was there that I saw was there to support the kids and promote gun safety to save lives, so that this would never happen again.”
In Washington, D.C., and around the country, students leading the marches also focused on making an end to violence in the schools into a political issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections.
In Adrian, Michigan, as in other places, voter registration was a key effort of the students. Speaking to a crowd of about 300 people – including numerous Adrian Dominican Sisters – leaders from Adrian High School and Tecumseh High School noted their own eligibility to vote in 2020. They promised to hold candidates to their responsibilities to vote for reasonable measures to end the violence at schools and in the city streets.
The student leaders in Adrian spoke articulately of the pain and fear of growing up as part of the generation of school violence and promised that the issue would remain way past the day of the marches. At the invitation of the students, teachers spoke eloquently of their refusal to be armed as part of the solution – and of their role to teach children, not to add to the violence.
While Sisters attended the march and rally at Adrian’s Old Courthouse, participants attending an Adrian Dominican Sponsored Institution Conference in Adrian took time from an already-packed schedule to pray in solidarity with the students and for an end to the violence.
Attending the March in Detroit, Sister Suzanne Schreiber, OP, said she was impressed by “the number of young people at the March, their passion for dealing with the gun violence issues and their emphasis on voting.” She was also inspired by a young woman who spoke of her own mental and emotional illness “in relation to what is often a misdirected focus on mental illness in the conversation [on gun violence].”
Although thousands attended the event in Detroit, Sister Suzanne said it was a very peaceful experience. She noted that members of the Meta Peace Team were on hand to offer mediation in case of conflict, but “all was peaceful.”
Sisters Patricia Leonard, OP, Judith Rimbey, OP, and Donna Baker, OP, faced some opposition when they participated in the march in Palm Beach, Florida. “We marched down Southern Boulevard, [President] Trump’s access to his home on Mar-a-Lago, with thousands of people, all age groups,” she reported. “It was truly impressive.” They noted that the march participants were heckled by only a couple of supporters of President Trump, but the crowds responded peacefully, waving their signs.
In San Francisco, Sister Judith Benkert, OP, and San Rafael Dominican Sisters Mary Kiefer and Patti Bruno joined a crowd of thousands, taking public transportation to the march site on Market Street. Amid signs with messages such as “Guns do kill people” and “This is a not a moment! This is a movement,” they gathered to hear the speakers. “Senator Diane Feinstein was the oldest,” Sister Judith noted. “The youngest were sixth-graders to 20-somethings. All were short and to the point: schools should be safe. Signs asked for laws that required background checks for everyone – with no loop holes.”
Noting the population of 2,800 people in Watkinsville, Georgia, Sister Mary Priniski, OP, noted that an impressive number – 300 to 400 people – attended the March for our Lives at Veterans Park in that small town. People in the area were eager to raise their voices for common-sense gun control, Sister Mary said, speaking of a woman from rural Georgia who traveled 40 miles to attend the event.
Sister Mary recalled children carrying signs, asking that they not be the next victims of a school shooting. “The final two speakers were a sophomore and a senior at Oconee County High School, asking us to vote since they could not do so,” Sister Mary said. “However, we were reminded that in 2020 they could vote and in 2024 they could run for office. It was a day filled with hope and promise.”
Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, saw moments of sadness, but more moments of promise and excitement during the march that drew an estimated 15,000 people to the march in Houston, Texas. Among the attendees were students from St. Agnes Academy and St. Pius High School, both sponsored by the Houston Dominican Sisters.
Sister Maureen was saddened by a 10-year-old boy who tried to figure out how he would respond to a shooter in his school – and concluded that he would stand near the door to protect his classmates.
On the whole, however, Sister Maureen was impressed by the students, who clearly led the event. “There was something about this that was so touching because it was all young people who were clear about what they wanted.” Although Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke and has promised to appoint a committee to study gun violence, the march was run by high school and college students.
The students’ emphasis on voter registration and on taking the gun violence issue to political leaders was hopeful for Sister Maureen. “We’re in the state we’re in because of apathy, because we don’t vote,” she said. “The young people have said, ‘We do have a voice. Let’s use it.’”
Feature photo (top): From left, Adrian Dominican Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, with Laura Henderson, a member of the Dominican Family in Houston, and Houston Dominican Sister Carol Mayes, OP, participate in the march in Houston, Texas.
Left: Participating in the Chicago march are, back row, from left, Sisters Joan Mary, OP, and Marilín Llanes, OP, and front row, from left, Sisters Jean Keeley, OP, and Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP. Right: Sisters Mary Trzasko, OP, left, and Beverly Stark, OP, at the march in Charleston, South Carolina.