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SXU - A Family Tradition: The Browns


Saint Xavier University (SXU) legacy alumni family Celeste '72 and Rebecca (Becki) '14 Brown had two very different experiences at SXU, but both gained the same foundation of excellence and Mercy values that they continue to carry with them to this day.  

Celeste, Becki's mother, was the first in her family to attend college, but her family always placed a high value on education, which she passed down to Becki. Today, the retired nurse and teacher, both having worked in fields that directly lend themselves to Saint Xavier's Mercy mission, are grateful for the ways Saint Xavier set them up for success.  

Celeste majored in nursing at Saint Xavier, a natural choice since she knew she wanted to be a nurse since she was four years old. Living in a rural area, she was the only girl around for quite some time and was always there to help someone who'd skinned their knee or injured themselves. Doing things for others came naturally to her. During her senior year of high school, one of her teachers, Sister Mary Linda, recommended that they start thinking about Saint Xavier for nursing school. At the time, Saint Xavier was the oldest program in the state of Illinois and one of the only with four-year accredited programs. When Celeste attended, the institution was an all-women college (until her junior year, when it became co-ed), and she stayed in Pacelli Hall all four years, during which time she was a member of the chorus. During her junior year, she was a resident assistant (RA) and during her senior year, she took part in the Mercy scholarship program, where her tuition and room and board were paid for in exchange for working at Mercy Hospital for a year after graduation.

"The one thing I remember the most besides the wonderful friendships I formed is that Saint Xavier taught me how to critically think. The Sisters of Mercy were wonderful at that – it was such a volatile time in society with war and protests, but the Sisters expanded our horizons. Saint Xavier helped me to become a person first, then taught me how to be a nurse. I went on to spend seven years at Mercy Hospital and because I was able to critically think, I didn't have to know all the answers – just how to get to them. The background I was given was so solid that I still use it 45 years later," said Celeste.  

Since graduating from Saint Xavier, Celeste has held several nursing positions and has loved each one of them but is now retired.  

Becki majored in English secondary education at SXU. When she was in fourth grade, she got a moment of clarity when she realized she should be a teacher, as she wanted to help people. After she finished student-teaching, she taught the second half of the year at Veterans Memorial Middle School in Blue Island and then began working at St. Alexander Parish School in Palos Heights, where she taught reading, language, and social studies to junior high students. This past year, she changed it up a bit and taught third-grade students, also at St. Alexander.  

"Saint Xavier made me a well-rounded person. I didn't just take English classes and education classes – I learned about history and science. I was also part of the Honors Program, where I had plenty of opportunities to learn about things I wouldn't have necessarily focused on otherwise. I learned how to communicate, how to research, and how to utilize basic skills," said Becki.  

Becki was incredibly involved on campus during her time at SXU, particularly in the Music Department, where she was a part of the Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Band and Combo, Orchestra, and Marching Band. She was the first non-music major to earn the Outstanding Contribution award for the department during her senior year. She was also a DJ for the on-campus radio station, WXAV, and worked as editor-in-chief of the Xavierite during her senior year. She was a member of the Improv Club and the Anime Club and worked as a writing tutor at the Learning Center.    

Celeste was a huge supporter of DJ Beckster's work on WXAV and would spend her lunch breaks listening to her daughter's program in her car. She also attended all of her concerts and improv shows. The two have plenty of fond memories of their time at Saint Xavier, both separate and together, and are grateful for the activities they got to participate in and the strong friendships they formed.  

Both also continue to live the SXU core values and Mercy mission in their daily lives. Since Celeste retired two years ago, she's continued her service with volunteer work at Neat Repeats, a retail shop for Crisis Center for South Suburbia and volunteer work with the Oak Lawn Public Library, as she believes reading is one of the most important parts of anyone's life. As Becki teaches at a Catholic school, she is immersed in faith and its relation to service daily and spends time educating her students about the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy, having most recently focused on the concern for Earth with a recycling project.  

In the future, Becki would like to go back to school and earn a master's degree. Celeste is working through visiting all of the state parks in Illinois and has started giving talks at the library about the the state parks. Both are eager to continue learning for life.