Starting small, ending big

By Rachel A. Maher ’94, DMD
Owner of Dentistry for Children in Wilmington, Del.

Have you ever noticed it can takes years after someone gives you advice to fully understand the reason it was given to you in the first place?

Maybe it takes that long to experience, reflect and appreciate it.

That is how I feel now, at this moment, as I reflect on my connection with Alvernia and the advice given by my father when I was choosing a college. I have so many Alvernia memories flooding into my head and a big smile on my face!

I was introduced to Alvernia College 25 years ago. My father handed me a book of small Catholic colleges in Pennsylvania to look through as I tried to decide where I would attend after high school. He said, “Start small, end big. You’ll get out of a place what you put into it.”

Jokingly, I used to tell people I chose Alvernia because it was first in the alphabetical listing. In reality, Alvernia had everything my parents and I were looking for.

I majored in biology with the goal of attending professional school after graduation. I quickly developed a great appreciation for my professors, who had great energy for educating students and a deep passion for the subjects they taught. They made themselves accessible to students wherever needed. The liberal arts “core” included courses like philosophy, ethics, language arts, foreign languages and arts that helped widen my view and expand my palate, especially important because I had a focused major.

My experiences inside and out of the classroom at Alvernia helped contribute to my becoming confident, motivated, well-rounded, team oriented and marketable after graduation. I attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and completed residency/specialty training at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. Alvernia’s motto, “To live, To learn, To serve,” remained in my heart and mind even though I was no longer on campus.

In fact, it rings in my ears every day when I treat difficult patients in my own pediatric practice that I opened 12 years ago. It is a short phrase with powerful meaning.

Changes to the physical campus and the addition of student groups and activities on campus are incredible! I am in awe and appreciate the tremendous vision and dedication toward continuous growth and improvement for Alvernia. The determination and commitment to make Alvernia’s mission and core values front and center and visible to all who visit campus are impressive.

Alvernia’s faculty, staff and students serve as shining examples in providing service to the Berks County community and far beyond. It’s an example that is contagious and an amazing tribute to the Bernardine Sisters.

Several years ago, I was invited to participate in the university’s President’s Advisory Committee and then to join the board of trustees. As a student I always viewed Alvernia from the inside out. Now, as a board member I view it from the outside in. After I attended my first board meeting, the current chairman, Kevin St. Cyr, said to me, “We are so glad you joined us.” I whispered back, “Why?” He responded, “Because you are the link between the past and present!”

I gave that a few minutes to sink in and then thought, “That’s a big job!” It is a sentiment I share with all alumni and students who read this. You are the links between the past, present and future of Alvernia.

Remember, you will get out of it what you put into it. Start small. End big!

Alvernia Class of 1994 alumna Rachel A. Maher, DMD is the owner of Dentistry for Children in Wilmington, Del. She is a board-certified diplomat of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, an active member of the American Dental Association, and a member of Alvernia University's Board of Trustees.

Read more like this in DECADE 2005-2015 | Alvernia Magazine