Student Senate celebrates 50 years of Rockhurst women

Pictured (left to right): Nina Marsh, Dr. Rocío de la Rosa Dunca, Jan Holland Stacey

Kori Hines, Editor-in-Chief

On February 27, Student Senate invited the community to celebrate the 50th anniversary of female students attending Rockhurst, which became coeducational in the fall of 1969, 59 years following the first all-male class.

The event was a celebration of the continued success of female matriculates and included a purposeful conversation about the treatment of women at Rockhurst and beyond campus.

The panelists were alumni Nina Marsh, ‘73 and Jan Holland Stacey, ’76, seniors Gretchen Boxdorfer and Veronica Clay and faculty members Dean Cheryl McConnell and Dr. Rocío De la Rosa Duncan.

The event opened with university president, Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., giving the “State of the University Address” concerning changes to the university’s infrastructure, staffing and campus life, and describing the panel as the embodiment of the Jesuit core value “Wisdom Has Built Her a Home.”

Student Senate President Claire Webster, ’19, welcomed everyone, and then yielded the time to the panelists to answer questions.

“Can you think of a specific trial or triumph you have experienced as a woman?” Webster asked.

Alumna Stacey, Rockhurst’s first female president of Student Government Association, recalled her first job as an adolescent in a hardware store where her starting pay was 25 cents less than her male counterparts. After discovering she could do her job well, Stacey’s employers raised her pay and admitted to their flawed, gendered perspective.

At the panel, Stacey commended the storeowners for acknowledging their mistake and she cited their accountability as a means to bring about gender equality.

In agreement, McConnell said, “Society around us is not valuing women. Women are not broken.”

Society around us is not valuing women. Women are not broken.”

— Dean McConnell

Dean McConnell has been with Rockhurst for 31 years and has had plenty of experience defending her leadership and qualifications. McConnell was the first female full professor in the highly-ranked Helzberg School of Management and was appointed in 2012 as its first female dean.

With her own significant firsts, Duncan shared that she is the first Mexican and Latina to obtain full faculty status at Rockhurst.

When hired in 1992, Duncan was pregnant and after giving birth she had to return to work while still in stitches—which is just one example of how her identity has been challenged, even at Rockhurst.

“As a woman, it’s one thing; as a Mexican, it’s another,” Duncan said.

As a woman who is biracial and a self-published author, Clay, ’19, shared she what she has learned about her multi-faceted identity, especially in pursuit of her goals.

“To accept my black body as a female body as much as it is a white body,” Clay said.

When an audience member asked about how to bring women of color to the level of equality of white women, Duncan said, “Ask how you can support; think of others as equal.”

Similar sentiments were shared when the discussion turned to the role of women in relationships. McConnell advised women to “Model the expectations of an equal partnerships, demand an equal relationship going into it.”

And when asked how men can be effective allies to women, Boxdorfer said, “Just because something is not your direct problem does not mean you shouldn’t take on the issue.”  And recognize your “implicit biases,” she added.

Just because something is not your direct problem does not mean you shouldn’t take on the issue.”

— Gretchen Boxdorfer, '19

With this important topic and these strong, intellectual women at the helm, the tone in the room was serious—until Marsh spoke up with a light-hearted demeanor that broke the tension and caused the audience to erupt with laughter.

When Marsh matriculated with the class of 1973, the first to include women, the ratio of male-to-female students was 9:1 she said, recalling the overwhelming feeling of being a part of the first set of women to receive a Rockhurst education.

Marsh said, “I am an average American, assistant registrar.”

But Marsh is more than that—she is an initiator of a legacy and helped pave the way for the last 50 years of influential Rockhurst women.

Interested in joining the Sentinel staff? Contact our Editor, Kori Hines, at [email protected] to see how you can get involved.