Mary Kaye Waldron

Award Winner

Burns honored with Waldron award
Heights Issue date: 4/27/06

Each year, the Boston College community honors the legacy of Mary Kaye Waldron, a member of the BC '95 class who succumbed to cancer before the conclusion of her senior year, with an award in her name.

J. Joseph Burns, associate academic vice president for undergraduate programs, received this year's award at a banquet in the Murray Function Room of the Yawkey Center Monday. Burns is the 11th recipient of the award, which seeks to recognize the excellence of a faculty or staff member who has positively impacted student life.

"I'm just overwhelmed by this expression of appreciation for the work that I, and so many folks in this room, have put in at BC," said Burns. "I feel like I'm accepting this award on behalf of everyone."

The Mary Kaye Waldron Award was established by the Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC) in 1996. Waldron was involved with the Jenks Leadership Program and the Salt and Light Company during her time at BC, and was the first female to receive the Power Award which is granted annually by the men's basketball team, of which she was a manager. The Mary Kaye Waldron award, the only one of its kind chosen entirely by a committee of students, is meant to be awarded to the faculty or staff member who best embodies the spirit Waldron displayed in her time at BC.

The event began with a reception for invited guests, followed by dinner. Lora Krsulich, A&S '07, Conor O'Phelan, A&S '08, and Katherine Butler, A&S '09, co-directors of faculty and student relations for the UGBC, emceed the event. After their introductory remarks, Rev. Donald MacMillan, S.J., provided the ceremony's convocation speech. "God bestowed great gifts upon both Mary Kaye and Dean Burns. Tonight, as we honor Joe, we honor Mary Kaye in the same way," he said.

Next, Jim Waldron, Waldron's father, welcomed those in attendance. He extended special thanks to this year's selection committee. "Students at BC always amaze me. This is a stand-up committee, and they deserve your applause," he said.

Following his remarks, a video montage of Waldron's life was presented. After the brief film, professor Brian Braman, last year's award recipient, spoke about Burns' special connection with his students.

"When people talk about Joe as being a role model, he's that, but he's also a mentor, but he's a mentor in the sense of allowing the students in his life to raise significant questions about the kind of persons that they want to be, allowing them to feel the kind of frustrations they may be going through about their future, and then helping them think through, in a meaningful way, what those questions, directions might mean," he said.

"He's kind of a living example of what BC has wanted to be since its inception," he continued. Burns' deep commitment to his students is most admirable, he said.

One of those students, Jayshree Mahtani, A&S '06, - who nominated Burns for the award - was on hand to present Burns with the award. "He truly is the definition of a BC Eagle," she said.

During his acceptance speech, Burns reflected on the passion and vigor for life that Waldron displayed throughout her courageous fight against cancer.

He also spoke of the paradoxical circumstance of accepting an award with true humility. "This question of being humble and being recognized for being who you are is a sort of strange juxtaposition. I mean, I don't feel particularly humble, but I feel like I do everyday what I would most like to do in the world," he said.

Burns related this juxtaposition to the life of Waldron. "We celebrate the life of Mary Kaye because she did too. She wasn't courageous in the face of death just for the sake of being courageous. Instead, that was simply the kind of person she was, the kind of person she was loved for," he said.

After the conclusion of the ceremony, both of Waldron's parents mingled with the crowd, fielding questions and exchanging stories.

"We're just so overwhelmed that BC continues to honor our daughter in this way. It really is a testament to the students, whose collective voice echoes their undying appreciation," said Bonnie Waldron, Mary Kaye's mother.

She also thanked the UGBC for its continued efforts of support.

Previous winners of the award include Sr. Mary Alyce Gilfeather, assistant dean of LSOE; Ramsey Liem, professor in the psychology department; Dean for Student Development Robert Sherwood; Dan Leahy of Campus Ministry; Dave McMenamin, director of the PULSE Program; John Cawthorne, associate dean of LSOE; and Brian Braman, professor in the philosophy department.

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