May 29, 2019

Whitehouse Floor Remarks on the Retirement of Sister Jane Gerety

As-prepared for delivery

Mr./Madame President, I join Rhode Island’s senior senator here on the floor today to honor the work of Salve Regina University’s seventh president, Sister Jane Gerety.  She will retire next month, capping a decade of service to the university and the Newport community. 

Sister Jane has accomplished remarkable things in her tenure.  She established a new satellite campus in Warwick to help working Rhode Islanders take graduate and continuing education courses.  She helped establish online study options, bringing the university’s many offerings directly to Rhode Island students in their homes.  She launched new programs of study, including a master of fine arts in creative writing, experiential learning opportunities in a range of fields, and a doctoral program in nursing.  She raised millions of dollars in funding to strengthen Salve’s endowment, supporting every facet of university life.  She also supervised numerous improvements to Salve’s beautiful Newport campus, including a $26 million renovation of the O’Hare Academic Building. 

Sister Jane’s work has contributed a great deal to the city of Newport and the state of Rhode Island.  Newport is home to an array of Gilded Age mansions and other culturally significant buildings set atop cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Many of those architectural masterpieces now belong to the university and have needed significant upkeep.  From the outset, Sister Jane recognized the value of Salve’s stewardship of Newport’s architectural heritage.  The beautifully maintained campus, replete with the newly dedicated Gerety Hall in honor of Sister Jane, is a gem of an asset for the city and state.

Sister Jane’s work extends beyond our state border.  Under her management, Salve has strengthened its Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy.  Today more than ever, the Pell Center is a fitting reflection of its namesake, Sen. Claiborne Pell, for whom our democratic ideals held limitless power.  The Center’s academic programs, publications, and forums spread important ideas around the globe, advancing American domestic and foreign policy, cyber security, and diversity in leadership.

As impressive and praiseworthy as those professional accomplishments is the immediate, lasting difference she has made in the individual lives of those around her.  A member of the 2019 Salve class says he will remember Sister Jane en route to “bring candy and snacks to student athletes for conference games,” and her “willingness to meet with any student in her office.”  Indeed, when visiting Newport, young alums in search of graduate school advice or a word of encouragement have known they are welcome to stop by Sister Jane’s office to find an open door and wise counsel. 

Over the course of her career, Sister Jane has embodied the values of her Catholic order, the Sisters of Mercy.  The Sisters were founded with a mission to spread the gift of education and care for those in need in their community.  Last year, Sister Jane told the Newport Daily News she sees the institution she led as “imbued with mercy,” adding, “I hope I’ve helped to cultivate that spirit.” 

In her service, Sister Jane also honored a tradition of female leadership.  Sister Therese was a skilled leader before Sister Jane, and Sister Lucille was a powerful leader before Sister Therese.  This impressive tradition of leadership over decades by Sisters of Mercy is worth celebrating on its own, and Sister Jane has well advanced that tradition.

Sister Jane, it is clear to all that the spirit of mercy has flourished under your leadership.  We wish you well in your retirement.