The More Things Change...

Bill Quinn gives us a love letter to Sorin Oak. Catherine MacDermott tells us how the view from the red doors continues to inspire.

As told to Stacia Hernstrom MLA ’05


Bill Quinn
Professor of Biology and Computer Science
Sorin Oak at Main Campus

Sorin Oak is healthy, stately, substantial and at least 200 years old. Probably more. There’s no way to know for sure without taking a sample of the core and analyzing the ring growth. But no one wants to risk exposing it to harmful fungi or insects.

So, we guess. We extrapolate based on trees of similar size. We monitor the soil and measure the growth. We take the best care of it that we can.

What we know for sure is that year in and year out, the same things happen. In the spring, there’s a burst of growth. In just a week, Sorin Oak sheds its year-old leaves and replaces them with a new flush of full-grown leaves. The tree flowers. The male parts release pollen into the wind, which fertilize the female parts. In the summer, the tree is relatively dormant. It is able to minimize water loss, thanks to the thick cuticle on the leaves and the shape of its shade-providing crown. If all goes well, those fertilized flowers turn into acorns in the fall. Some sprout into seedlings. Winter comes, along with another dormant period. Then spring arrives again.

Year after year, season after season, with student after student sitting under its branches, Sorin Oak completes this cycle. Some years, the tree thrives. Others, it just survives. But its biology is well-suited to its environment; we know that Sorin Oak is a native tree that endured on its own long before we began caring for it. It’s hard to imagine, but it started as an acorn and then became a seedling in the same life cycle it now perpetuates. Its trunk grows about a half inch each year. That means even more shade for students of the next century — or two.


Catherine MacDermott
Professor of Business Communication
Red Doors at Main Building

Buy opportunity with your attitude.

Know why you’re doing your internship.

Timing! Punctuality! Be the first to arrive and the last to leave.

These are just a few of the tips that students have given other students over the years about how to succeed in their internships. I compile the list every semester and pass it out to new interns. Students consistently say that their internship experiences help them “put everything together” and give them the chance to contribute, practice and learn in a safe environment. For many, internships are also the “foot in the door” that leads to full-time employment.

Back in 1992, we were just beginning to have faculty conversations about experiential learning. (And if I recall correctly, we called it “active learning” at the time.) One representative from each school underwent training with outside experts and then returned to campus as “disciples” of experiential learning. Within a year or two, there was a strong movement toward incorporating service learning into the curriculum, and similarly, a core group of faculty members became active leaders among our schools. Lots of great training took place in those early years, which helped many of us not only see the value of experiential education, but also understand the distinctions among volunteerism, service learning and active learning.

I have loved St. Edward’s ever since I first walked on campus and stood at those famous red doors overlooking the city — which in many ways represents the world for which we work so hard to prepare our students. Our mission underlies and supports all that we do. Those who come here (students, faculty and staff) are drawn to this common mission, and in that commonality, there is an environment of camaraderie, care, connection and a place to grow in our humanity.