Outgoing president requests SisterStory for Madonna University

Madonna University in Livonia, Mich., has been led by the Felician Sisters since its founding 78 years ago. When it came time for Sister Rose Marie Kujawa to wrap up her tenure as its sixth president and prepare the small liberal arts college for its first lay president, a transition that became official July 1, one of her requests was to bring SisterStory to campus.

Sister Rose Marie called on a husband-wife pair to make it happen: Dan and Sue Boyd, two longtime Madonna employees. Sue teaches in the broadcast and cinema arts department, Dan serves as the technology learning systems engineer. Not only do they have the skill set to manage the oral histories, they also possess a deep appreciation for women religious. In fact, they named their daughter after a Catholic sister!

Last month Dan and Sue participated in a three-day training of SisterStory supervisors at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. They’re currently seeking participants – both Madonna students and nearby sisters. Here are their thoughts on the nascent project.

Tell us about the Catholic sister you named your daughter after.

Dan: Sister Nancy Jamroz is a strong influence on both Sue and me. She is a Felician sister and was the director of the office of student life on campus for many years. If I ever was concerned about something on campus or in my own personal life, she was one of the people I confided in for advice. She is an expert listener and compassionate person who remains friends of the family to this day even though she no longer lives nearby.

Sue: Dan and I have had very close relationships with several of the sisters. Sister Nancy is still part of the Felician order. The name Nancy was close to both our hearts because two very strong and giving women shared the name: my mom and Sister Nancy.

What do you hope your students get out of this oral-history project?

Dan: My hope is that the students involved in this project will develop a greater respect for those who lead a religious life. It’s also exciting to be involved with a project that has positive implications for chronicling something that is in danger of diminishing or disappearing in the future.

Sue: I hope our students see that our wonderful sisters have so many things to share with them and the viewers of the oral histories. So many of our nuns have been driven to serve others, a quality that is not so readily reflected in today’s society.

What will your respective roles be as a husband-wife pair?

Dan: Typically when Sue and I work together, the bulk of the content is handled by Sue. She also roughs in the initial location, and after that I determine the lighting, lens selection, audio and line of sight. We have been doing this for long enough that if one of us has an idea that falls outside the normal roles we handle, it’s OK. A good idea is a good idea, and ego is not a factor.

Sue: For this project, I’ll take a lead on the interviewing and organizing aspects and Dan will take care of all the technical challenges. We are working together with our Felician Sisters to get the right fit for our students and their sisters.

What did you make of the training at St. Kate’s?   

Dan: The training at St. Kate’s was comprehensive. We were pretty comfortable with the process prior to training but learned a great deal about the actual interviewing techniques in a way that we rarely handle interviews. We typically don’t like to reveal questions prior to an interview unless we expect the interviewee to spout out facts or dates. I can see how knowing the subject very well and establishing a relationship and rapport with our sister prior to the interview could result in deeper content and a comfort level that may be otherwise impossible to achieve.

Tell me a bit about Madonna University.

Dan: Madonna University is a small liberal arts college with a student population of about 4,500 students. We just recently transitioned from a nun as president to the first lay person (and male), so the hand of the sisters is evident in our institution. Most of us feel like part of the university family. 

Sue: The entire Madonna community lives by the standards our sisters have laid out for us in these Felician values: respect for the dignity of each person, peace and justice, reverence for creation and education for truth and service. These Felician values are the cornerstone of everything on our campus.

Let's end with a few fun facts about you two.  

Dan: We live in a small town in Michigan called Highland and have been married nearly 30 years. Our daughter, Nancy, is 20 and in her junior year at Madonna as a dual major in music and broadcast and cinema arts. She and I both ride unicycles and enjoy creative endeavors of all sorts.

Sue: Besides our most wonderful daughter, we have two cats – both rescues – Angel, our black cat, and Pippin, our little three-legged fireball. Rarely a day goes by where something creative isn’t happening in our house. A trip to the corner vegetable stand may end in a colorful photo shoot. 

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.