Can essence be quantified? And if so, what is its unit of measurement? For NDP, the answer is easy. What is essentially Notre Dame can be calculated by an accounting of each individual girl. Take NDP junior, Lauren Tomasic, class of 2014, for example.
While I was interviewing Mrs. Chris Kaiser, the Dean of Students, recently, Lauren stopped by the office with a small gift for the Dean. Clasping her hands in front of her, Lauren seemed slightly nervous as she watched Mrs. Kaiser remove the gift’s tissue paper wrapping. Lauren’s quiet anticipation exposed her hope that Mrs. Kaiser would be pleased and that the gift would mean as much to her as it meant to Lauren.
“I love it!” Mrs. Kaiser confirmed, as she held the framed photo of the two of them, taken at Gym Meet, in front of her. Lauren beamed. “Oh! And the frame is decorated in your class colors!”
“I made it myself,” Lauren explained modestly.
” I know just where to put it,” Mrs. Kaiser assured her as she made room on one of her crammed shelves full of NDP mementos.
I was touched by Lauren’s palpable sensitivity and genuine sweetness. After she left, I asked Mrs. Kaiser if she thought Lauren might be a good student to interview.
“She’s one of the best!” Mrs. Kaiser assured me without skipping a beat. ‘Nough said.
A few days later, Lauren and I sat down for an interview in the Fishbowl during her lunch break. She brought her lunch with her, packed in a little thermal lunch pouch, and proceeded not to eat it throughout the interview. When I insisted, she took out a little cup of green grapes from the pouch and with very delicate hands, picked one grape from the cup and held it between 2 slender fingers. Eventually, it made its way to her mouth. I think she ate about three grapes during the entire interview. My guess is, she thought it rather impolite to talk and chew at the same time.
“I just don’t want you to faint during your next class,” I protested.
” Oh, I have a free period next mod, so I’ll be OK,” Lauren reassured me. That made me feel a little better. I would hate for her to pass out or fail a test on my account. She ate a second grape. I was mesmerized by her elegant hands.
“I play the piano,” Lauren told me by way of explanation. ” I played for Gym Meet. We won the song plaque.” Piano, it turns out, is just one of Lauren’s many interests. Her real passion is science. Last summer, Lauren attended a biomedical camp at the University of Maryland. This coming summer, thanks to her science teacher, Mr. Tom Peri, she will shadow a NICU (neonatal intensive care) nurse and an anesthesiologist at a local hospital. And next semester, she will take 3 AP science classes in Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science.
“I really, reeeealllly love science,” Lauren emphasized just in case I had missed the point.
Her dream job is to be a doctor in a third world country. One might think that was youthful idealism except for the fact that Lauren has already worked among lepers in Guayaquil, Ecuador as part of a church sponsored service project and has plans to return again this spring. Closer to home, Lauren is a lector at her parish and at school, she serves on the Honor Board and as a Math & Science peer tutor. She is also a member of the Math and Science Honor Societies.
In addition to her passion for science and service, Lauren loves sports. According to her, she has played sports “her whole life” and had planned to try out for the lacrosse team when she came to Notre Dame. But a torn ACL sustained during a tournament the summer before her freshman year put the kabosh on that. The NDP swim coach, Mrs. Byrd, who knew Lauren from summer swim club, picked up on Lauren’s disappointment and got her interested in managing the swim team. That, in turn, led to a position on the crew team. Lauren and her teammates can be found sculling around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor every night during the season. But wait! There’s more. Just to complete the circuit of this already extremely well-rounded young life, Lauren, it turns out, is also crazy about baking and a member in good standing in the Bake Club. Just this year, Lauren singlehandedly designed and baked a cake in the shape of an NDP ring to share with her fellow juniors on Ring Day and baked and iced 147 individual cupcakes – one for each classmate – for Gym Meet. This skill alone, I would imagine, makes Lauren a favorite among the class of 2014! With everything Lauren does, it is clear that she is an extremely thoughtful, kind, and generous soul who cares deeply about the well-being of others.
There is one other thing that manifests itself within minutes of being with Lauren. That is her love for Notre Dame.
“I love it here so much. Since I was a kid, I always pictured myself going here.” Maybe it’s in her genes. Both Lauren’s mother, Janet (class of ’81), and grandmother, Helen (class of ’48), went to NDP. In fact, Lauren loves NDP so much that she convinced her little sister, Megan, 4 years her junior, to transfer to Notre Dame for middle school so that they could share the NDP experience together (I’m sure Lauren’s parents had something to do with the decision but this is Lauren’s story).
Soon, it will be time for Lauren to start looking at colleges and she is excited by the prospect. Still, there is a part of her that admits to “never wanting to leave Notre Dame.” I asked Lauren if she could tell me in one word what she loves about Notre Dame.
“Only one?” Lauren protested.
“Only one,” I insisted.
Lauren nibbled at her third grape as she pondered the question, stumped by having to narrow her choices. Suddenly she brightened and offered her answer:
“Everything!” Lauren said triumphantly. “I love everything about Notre Dame!”
And Notre Dame loves everything about Lauren. Her enthusiasm for learning and her eagerness to share; her generosity of spirit and her willingness to serve; her small kindnesses, her big heart and her essential goodness. Lauren is the personification of what we hope Notre Dame to be. She is quintessentially Notre Dame.