Dear Friends and Alumni,
I know you will enjoy reading this issue of the Bridge. It is packed full of expressions of Finlandia's core values: student
learning and growth, teaching excellence, heritage, innovation, collaboration, strategic achievement, and more.
Institutional core values, however, are only as good as the people who embody and live them. People matter. In fact,
people matter the most. There is a West African proverb, "People are the thing." We know this. Yet, we often live as if
it were not so.
In this issue, we remember and celebrate one of those people who belong to our story, now past: Gloria Jackson. In this
donor edition of the Bridge, it is appropriate to pause and remember Gloria, a woman who chose to live so generously.
Below I share a part of the homily I delivered at Gloria's funeral this past May.
Gloria lived life well. She lived life fully.
She filled it to the brim, it seems to me.
She filled it with family and with faith.
She filled it with trips. She traveled almost constantly.
She filled it with dozens of civic and philanthropic commitments, chief among them, education.
She filled it tirelessly championing all things Finnish and Finnish American.
She filled it with friends, lots of friends.
She filled it with projects. Gloria loved projects.
She filled it with summers in Eagle Harbor and winters in Paradise Valley.
Though Gloria loved both residences, I believe her heart always resided in the U.P.
She filled it with her dogs over the years: Rocky, then Toni, then Nuppi, and Flicka.
Gloria made every effort to be kind toward others.
This is not to say she held no judgments about people.
But you had to earn judgments from Gloria. She did not hold them without good cause.
She set the bar high for herself and those around her.
She valued integrity and strong follow through.
She kept her commitments and expected everyone else to do the same.
Gloria was not a quitter. She was uncommonly methodical, deeply caring, a quintessential host.
Gloria would not infrequently speak of plans that I, honestly, thought were a bit out of reach: more recently we talked about biking
the Superior CircleTour, and in a year or two summiting Kilimanjaro. Such plans seemed unrealistic at times. I tried not to notice
because she took such great joy in imagining and planning such things. And, truth be told, I more often than not would be simply
caught up into her enthusiastic anticipation of another new experience, another personal challenge to chase down.
Gloria could laugh at herself. One public slip we laughed about more than once was during a Finlandia commencement
address when she, intending to wish our graduates "the best success," wished them instead "the best sex." Though the former
would have been well received, the latter packed a better punch. She could laugh about this.
For these reasons and so many more, Gloria's death is untimely. She had at least another 25 years worth of grandmothering to
do, projects to complete, places to visit, guests to host, and life to live. So, her death is not welcome. Death has taken her from
us, and God, in Christ, has received her. So we celebrate a life well-lived, hearing and believing a promise that brings hope
that will endure long after today's grief.
Philip Johnson, Ph.D.
Fall-Winter 2011 Bridge