During the 2013 College of Saint Elizabeth Founders Day celebration December 4, this year's Mother Xavier Award recipient, Dr. Patricia C. Bryant,'77 and '12, captured the hearts of College administrators, staff, alumnae/i, family, friends, students and guests with tales of her 40 years in education, as well as her life as a student.
Dr. Bryant had a similar impact the day before at O'Connor Hall, when she told students how the teachers at the College had helped her become a very confident, capable and inspired young woman. She advised the students to give extra time and effort when they struggle because the payoff is limitless; take calculated risks; give back where, how and when they can, and lastly, "Live your best self!"
Kim Land, '17, an education and psychology major who aspires to be a teacher, a school superintendent and eventually an education lawyer, said she was very moved by Dr. Bryant's presentation.
"I couldn't believe that she was doing exactly what I wanted to do. … It's empowering to know that we can do the same thing and we can give back to the community like Dr. Bryant did."
Land said she chose her major because, "The education program here is amazing. ... I took Education 101 and I found my niche."
For Dr. Bryant, that niche is her native Jersey City, where she has worked as a teacher, administrator, principal and, most recently, associate superintendent of early childhood education, supervising some 4,500 preschool students. She graduated from the College of Saint Elizabeth in 1977 with a degree in education and returned to earn her doctorate in educational leadership in 2012. Her thesis focused on helping foreign-language preschoolers by improving professional development of teachers.
At one point in her career, Dr. Bryant became principal of the lowest performing school in the district, an area with a high crime rate. Under Dr. Bryant's leadership, everything changed – the school climbed to the top third for performance within four years. "What does that say about children and their unlimited potential when given support and encouragement?" she remarked to CSE students Tuesday night, Dec. 3.
Sunaray Johnson, '16, who is also from Jersey City, said she was very impressed with Dr. Bryant's ability to persevere despite many obstacles in her life and career.
"Just seeing that there's a woman who comes from where I come from who can make such positive things happen is very inspirational," said Johnson. "I thought to myself, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.' It was great to hear her talk."
Johnson is pursuing a career in health care and says her experience at the College will be very helpful in the future.
The Mother Mary Xavier Award is the College's most prestigious honor for graduates. Each year, it is awarded in recognition of the vision, courage and faith of College of Saint Elizabeth founder, Mother Mary Xavier Mehegan (1825-1915), who also founded the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth in 1859.
At a time when a college education was an unrealistic hope for all but a few women, Mother Xavier, along with Sister Mary Pauline Kelligar, the College's first president, and other determined Sisters, pushed forward their dream—and the College of Saint Elizabeth was officially approved as an institution of higher education for women in 1899. Today, the College serves more than 1,500 full- and part-time students, men and women, and offers more than 25 undergraduate, 10 graduate and two doctoral degree programs.
"I want to thank Pat for the wonderful gift she is to the communities of Jersey City, the College of Saint Elizabeth and the students she has truly inspired," said CSE President Helen J. Streubert, during the Founders Day celebration December 4.
Visitors to the event were also serenaded with a Christmas concert featuring the Elizabeth Singers, the festival choir and the orchestra.