Women of many generations returned to their alma mater at Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus in Rogers Park last weekend for the Gannon Center for Women in Leadership’s 25th anniversary celebration and Mundelein College reunion.
The Gannon Center was established in 1993 with the intention of carrying on the Mundelein legacy after the all-women’s college closed in 1991 and affiliated with Loyola. The center was named after Sr. Ann Ida Gannon, longtime president of Mundelein, who died earlier this year.
The center provides scholarships to undergraduate students and supports research by faculty fellows and students.
The two-day event included lunch, a cocktail hour, dinner, brunch and campus tours. Informational panels throughout the day were led by Gannon alumnae and current Gannon scholars.
Gabrielle Buckley, the director of the Gannon Center and a graduate of Mundelein College, said she believes it’s important for Gannon scholars and Mundelein alumnae to connect in order to understand the legacy of Mundelein.
“We really like the Gannon students and alumnae to become familiar with the Mundelein alumnae,” Buckley said.“The Gannon alumnae can see where the legacy of women of integrity, scholarship and service came, and who those women were.”
Brown witnessed the creation of the Gannon Center first hand, and she said this weekend assured her the legacy is still present.
“I just love that the heritage is continued,” Brown said. “The Gannon scholars are doing such important work in the world, and that was the original vision — to empower women. It has always been a part of the Gannon Center vision.”
Loyola currently has 35 Gannon scholars from first-years to seniors. Each year, the Gannon Center chooses 10 new scholars. Colette Copic, a 21-year-old senior studying environmental science and international relations, said being accepted to the Gannon scholars program is what made her choose to attend Loyola.
In order to become a Gannon Scholar, a student accepted to Loyola must apply her senior year of high school and complete an intensive process of essays, presentations and an interview, according to Copic.
Copic said the diversity of interests in Gannon scholars stands out.
“There are people like me in environmental science, there are education majors, there are math majors,” Copic said. “It’s all a group of really strong, powerful women looking to change the world in some way.”
Gannon alumnae Megan Bannon, Erin McKinney and Karen Semone sat on the “Now and Next: Shifting Dynamics in the Workplace,” panel. Panelists identified women’s struggles in the workplace and thought out strategies to ensure a more positive future.
The “Women Run. Women Win. Women Lead,” panel discussed women in politics. Panelists included Mundelein alumna Andrea Raila, who has run for office and is a current senior tax analyst, and Gannon alumnae Barbara Schwabauer, trial attorney at U.S. Department of Justice, and Katharine Tinucci, senior vice president at MZA+Co, a public relations and government affairs firm.
Copic sat in on the “Women Run. Women Win. Women Lead” panel. She said the politically-focused panel related to her work in election canvassing.
“The panel is about women in politics, and women in politics can mean a lot of different things,” Copic said. “My experience has been primarily in grassroots, in the political process of grassroots work which is where my heart is.”
Each panelist shared their experiences as women working in the political arena. The panel covered topics such as the unique challenges for women in politics and how to get involved.
Megan Keeler, a Gannon alumna, said the intergenerational connections the Gannon program fosters were present during the events.
“We see women who are just starting out in those careers and figuring out what their passions are and how they can parlay that into amazing leadership and action,” Keeler said. “And I see it happening for some of my contemporaries. It’s an incredible cohort of women, it’s like no other experience that I think exists.”
Keeler said she was struck by Schwaurbauer’s comment during the panel on taking small steps to get involved.
“I am a very strong believer in just the little actions that can change the world,” Keeler said. “I work very closely in emergency rooms in the South Side of Chicago so I know first hand that it is those little actions that can and do ultimately affect how we all interact with each other.”
The weekend also featured campus tours and luncheons’ which allowed alumnae to reunite with old classmates and fellow scholars.
Celeste Sullivan, a Mundelein graduate, said she was happy to see the friends she made through Mundelein and Gannon.
“As women who are involved and anything to do with the Gannon Center, there is still a great camaraderie,” Sullivan said. “[I enjoyed seeing] the growth and the continuation, and celebrating the 25th anniversary.”