Marist School’s Goizueta Center for Immersive Experience and Design in Wooldridge Center was the site for a delightful gathering on April 26 for many of Marist’s most devoted supporters.
The significant contributions of these leadership donors pave the way for the success of the Annual Fund, helping to strengthen the Marist educational experience for all students. Marist expresses its gratitude each year by honoring them with a special reception.
One of the highlights of this year’s reception was the opportunity for President’s Circle members to utilize the virtual reality (VR) technology in the Goizueta Center’s Immersive Theater, which is a key tool in helping students build the empathy they need to be global-ready servant leaders when they leave Marist. Guided by Mrs. Kelly Mandy, chair of Marist’s Global & Humane Studies Task Force, attendees donned VR goggles and were transported beyond Marist School to the many sites around the world
that have been important in the history of the Marists. This Marist Way experience is just one of many interactive and immersive experiences that have been installed in the Immersive Theater throughout the school year. Others explored the mystery of the Incarnation
, the lasting impact of the Harlem Renaissance
, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and the Día de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico
, and many more topics.
Reception guests also heard from Marist School Principal Kevin Mullally with updates about the current academic year, which has been a successful one for the school in many exciting ways. In particular, Mr. Mullally shared news about the stellar performances of the Marist Robotics team, which successfully competed at the FIRST World Championship, and the Debate team, which recently competed at the highly selective national Tournament of Champions. Both of these examples of success reflect the excellence of Marist’s college-preparatory curriculum and well-rounded extracurricular, spiritual, and leadership educational experiences offered here.
To further exemplify the strong foundation that Marist provides its students, the centerpiece of the evening featured virtual visits from two accomplished recent graduates—Kennedy Walls ’20 and John Sexton ’19—both of whom are making a positive impact well beyond their university communities.
Kennedy Walls, a sophomore at Princeton University working on a degree in medical anthropology with certificates in Global Health and Health Policy as well as French Language and Culture, spends time outside of her studies building her nonprofit Aid the Journey, Inc., which she founded while a student at Marist. Aid the Journey provides medical supplies, feminine hygiene kits, and educational materials to refugees in Clarkston, Georgia, and she is in the process of expanding its services to New York and New Jersey. Along with her mother, Walls attributes experiences at Marist with sparking her desire to “be a person for others.” She was involved in student organizations devoted to community service such as Active Minds, a club focused on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, and Share the Journey, where students help build empathy and solidarity for refugees. She also participated in student government to plan student community service events and served as a peer leader, retreat leader, and eucharistic minister. She plans to become a physician to help improve health equity worldwide, specifically for migrant populations. When asked what she is most grateful for from her Marist experience, Kennedy said, “Marist’s faculty and staff are unparalleled. Making connections with them by going to tutorial helped me feel comfortable now approaching professors, having conversations with them, and building rapport.”
John Sexton will begin his senior year at the University of Notre Dame in the fall, and he has an ambitious goal to achieve shortly after he graduates. John’s father, Shawn Sexton, was diagnosed with ALS in 2014. With the knowledge that Shawn would need independence as the disease progressed, John applied skills he learned in Marist’s computer science and STEM classes to develop LifeDrive, a hardware device with software applications connected to an intermediary control system on a motorized wheelchair and a mobile phone. The device allows Shawn and others like him to enhance their quality of life by being able to fully operate their power wheelchairs with their eyes, voice, or manual controls. John is aiming to bring LifeDrive to market by late 2023 or early 2024. John acknowledges that his Marist foundation has helped him tremendously in getting to where he is now. His experience on the Marist Robotics team taught him the valuable skill of working as part of a team to creatively solve problems, and, as a member and eventually drum major of the Marist Marching Band, he learned to appreciate the value of strong community and to be comfortable serving others through leadership roles. Those experiences serve John well at Notre Dame where he will serve as head drum major of the Band of the Fighting Irish this fall on top of his academic and entrepreneurial pursuits. Being a force for good and of service to the community is important to John, a perspective that became deeply ingrained in him at Marist School. His advice for current Marist students is this: “A service-oriented mindset coming into college is really beneficial because it gives you a great foundation for building your life going forward. Talk to teachers, administrators, friends, family. Talk to people, learn from them, and absorb as much information as possible.” John and his company were featured in a “What Would You Fight For” video that aired on NBC in fall 2021. Watch the video here
In his opening prayer, Fr. Rowland spoke of how Marist prepares students to fulfill their vocations in the world as faith-filled, global-ready servant leaders who “do great things for God.” He chose those words of Society of Mary Founder Fr. Jean-Claude Colin to emphasize the passion for service that is clearly possessed by Kennedy and John, both of whom are shining examples of a Marist education at its best. He imparted a blessing upon all Marist graduates and upon the many benefactors of Marist School, who help advance the Marist mission.
Mr. Mullally summarized the impact President’s Circle members have through their giving and said, “When we started working on Strategic Plan 2025, we didn’t have in mind, but we do now, what it means to lead with integrity, compassion, and a sense of purpose. We see that in these graduates and see that in the work they are doing and that so many of their classmates are doing. We know that the ability to foster that, the ability to increase their capacity to do that, comes in so many ways because of the generosity of those gathered here and because of your support of the school, our mission, and what we’re able to do in terms of offering programs of excellence.” He closed by offering a sincere thank you to President’s Circle members “for all you do to help make stories like Kennedy and John’s possible and for all you do to share in the spirit of the Society of Mary as we live it out here at Marist School.”