FOND DU LAC — A new partnership between St. Mary’s Springs Academy and Marian University makes Catholic education opportunities more accessible to families, educators and students from pre-kindergarten through college and beyond.
The Sr. Judith Schmidt, CSA, Benefit Program, named after Agnesian Sr. Judith Schmidt, who served both institutions for more than two decades, offers any student who has completed at least four semesters at St. Mary’s Springs Academy High School the opportunity to attend Marian at a 50 percent discount. In addition, faculty and staff members at Marian can send their children to St. Mary’s Springs, from pre-kindergarten through high school, at that same discount.
“This has been a dream of the sisters and administrators to have a pre-K through 16 model and to partner and do that,” said Mary K. Kosmer, controller and director of business and finance at Marian.
The agreement also allows teachers at St. Mary’s Springs to further their education and take advantage of Marian’s graduate education program, meeting their needs for continuing education, at the reduced cost.
“A lot of times (attending graduate school) is cost-prohibitive for the teachers and that was the other piece of the puzzle,” Kosmer said.
She said that while there had always been some collaboration between the two institutions, such as sharing athletic fields, there had never been a formal partnership.
“There has always been a willingness to do more and to be more visible in each other’s activities,” she said.
Barb Senn, director of advancement at St. Mary’s Springs, said this agreement has enormous ramifications.
“Those are huge discounts,” she said. “We want Catholic education to stay strong in our community. If St. Mary’s Springs Academy and Marian University aren’t working together, aren’t pooling our resources, not thinking strategically about the future, aren’t helping our families to have the option of continued Catholic education from pre-kindergarten all the way through college graduation, if we don’t do it together, we’re probably not going to end up being very strong. In this economic climate, it’s hard for families to afford private education. So we have to find ways to make it possible.”
The partnership, signed Aug. 2, is already making it possible for several families. Kosmer said that at least three or four employees of Marian, with two or more children each, have shown interest in sending their children to St. Mary’s Springs because of the new agreement. Retroactively, three or four St. Mary’s Springs graduates, who had committed to Marian before this agreement had been announced, will be receiving this discount.
“I believe some of our faculty who have signed up for classes in the fall will also be receiving this discount,” Senn said.
While the monetary consequences are impressive, there are also mentoring, stewardship and collaborative possibilities that will result from the partnership.
“We really want to have many different types of partnerships between the two facilities,” Kosmer said.
This partnership is unique in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
“I don’t think we’ve come across any other pre-kindergarten through college partnerships,” Senn said.
Kosmer added, “It helps that physically we’re not very far from each other,” noting that that pre-school, grade school, middle school, high school and college were all within a few miles of each other.
Kosmer and Senn said that it was a combination of the right group of people and the right economic climate that helped in forming the partnership.
“Both Sr. Judith and Dr. (Steven R.) DiSalvo (Marian president) value Catholic education and that really helped this along,” Kosmer said.
When it came time to formalize the partnership, it was an easy decision to name it after Sr. Judith.
“Sr. Judith has had a passion for education for a very long time,” said Kosmer, noting that she had taught and served as vice president at Marian for more than 20 years, and then served as president of St. Mary’s Springs for three years, seeing the institution through a merger of several parish grade schools into a single, archdiocesan-run pre-school, elementary, middle school and high school.
“She has been the link that has pulled us all together,” Senn said.
Sr. Judith, who this year retired from the presidency of St. Mary’s Springs, but will continue to fundraise for the school, said, “Naming the partnership after me is a real compliment. The partnership is a dream come true and is a legacy that will last far into the future.”
DiSalvo said the agreement is necessary to help provide quality, affordable Catholic education at all levels.
“This partnership is a great opportunity for students and professionals to reach their highest potential of success from a program that is founded in the Catholic tradition,” he said. “Because of this partnership, we are able to provide a stronger academic community for future generations.”
DiSalvo said the new partnership is generating interest beyond Fond du Lac.
“At a recent meeting, five Catholic college presidents in the region stopped to talk with me and ask about this,” he said.