Reflections from an Alumna, Class of 1965

I owe every bit of it to the perseverance of Sr. John Gabriel, who saw something in me that I didn’t.

– Ron Veno

My name is Ron Veno, and I was a member of STA’s “Dynamic” Class of 1965. I’m not really sure why we were dynamic, but I suspect that because we were one of the very early classes to attend STA, we grabbed that moniker before any other class and held onto it – for what seems like an eternity but in actuality, it was only 57 years.

My memories at STA revolve around many classes and activities, but I’ll name just a few.

One of the first realizations I had very early on in my studies at STA was that the other schools in the region from which our student body was drawn were very advanced. Even the cross town rivals from St. Mary’s were more prepared for high school than those of us from St. Charles. For instance, I remember in Fr. Cameron’s science class, he asked if anyone could explain photosynthesis. I had no idea, but was shocked at the number of hands that went up from students who knew the answer.

With Algebra, it was the same thing. We had received zero instruction in grade school about this area of math, but it was obvious that the other students from every other region had at least a cursory knowledge of the subject. Sr. Blais (who was the algebra instructor at that time) turned out to be an exceptional instructor. I recall going to her after school and asking for some private tutoring to at least get me caught up to the rest of the class. I remained after school for two days each week while she gave me extra lessons and explained how some of the problems were solved. Ultimately, after receiving an F in the first semester, I ended up with a grade of B. I have Sr. Blais to thank for that.

I think one of the events that every one of us looked forward to each year was Field Day. It was a day that we did not have to wear uniforms. On my most recent visit to the school, I noticed that the young ladies still had uniforms and the young men were dressed in jackets and ties. Being without them if only for a day was incredibly liberating. There were all kinds of events on Field Day that culminated in a relay race around the school to determine the champion class for that year. I was a member of my class relay team for my junior and senior years at STA, and we won the title that last year. Even the teachers took part in the Field Day activities! Rest assured, however, that the School Sisters of Notre Dame did not. They remained in uniform for the duration of the day, as did the various priests involved with the school.

But I think my fondest memory at STA is the one teacher who stood out from the rest. It was my Business teacher, Sr. John Gabriel. In my junior and senior years, I had decided to take business subjects to basically get through high school. Sr. John Gabriel was my instructor for Shorthand and Typing. I discovered that I was really good at them. I was always getting A+ grades in both classes. That said, I was not particularly fond of shorthand. Sr. John Gabriel kept urging me to pursue a career in Court Reporting because, as she said, “you’re just so darned good at shorthand.”

After several urgings on her part, I finally had to tell her that I could not pursue Court Reporting because I just didn’t care for it. (“Hate it” was the way I think I vocalized it.) She stood there with her arms crossed, listening to me, looking at me with her dagger eyes (and they were very sharp daggers), and saying nothing but “mm-hmm, mm-hmm”.

And that was the end of that… or so I thought.

During that same time, I was utilizing one of my study halls a couple days a week to do some typing and filing for Fr. Dowd. He was the Athletic Director at the time, and these activities made good use of my free time. One day I walked into his office to find a stenotype machine and a reel to reel tape recorder set up with a handwritten sign on the recorder that said, “hit play.” I did, and it turned out to be a home study course in Court Reporting from LaSalle Extension University. I sat down at the stenotype machine and hit play, and proceeded to follow the instructions and began “writing” with the stenotype machine. And I LOVED IT!!!!!!

Sr. John Gabriel had ordered the home study course so that I would get a feel for what court reporting could be like – that it didn’t necessarily require Gregg shorthand but that I could do it with the more advanced method of using machine shorthand. She had enough faith in my ability that she went out of her way to make sure I didn’t squander this opportunity. I used the machine and listened to the tapes almost every time I went to Fr. Dowd’s office, and I soon became interested enough to make an application to the Emery College in Boston to learn stenotype and all of the ancillary subjects necessary for a career in Court Reporting.

Upon graduation from college, I was offered a job as an Official Court Reporter in the City of Montreal in Quebec Province. I worked there for two years until I read about an opening for a Court Reporter in the State of Maine. I applied for that job, and because of my education and experience, was offered a position immediately. I worked for the State of Maine for seven years after which time I embarked on a self-employed career as a Court Reporter, more particularly known as Ron Veno & Associates. My job took me to many places in the State of Maine, but I also had a two week assignment in Aruba, and another three week assignment in Spain. I traveled throughout the Northeast as part of my job and retired 13 years ago after 42 years of being a court reporter. And I owe every bit of it to the perseverance of Sr. John Gabriel, who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

I’m sure everyone has a teacher with whom they just seem to click, a person who can bring out something in them that they didn’t know they had. Before Sr. John Gabriel, I had decided that I would not go to college but rather would take the job offered to me by Star Market to be the Frozen Food Manager at the Dover, NH store. I will be forever grateful and thankful that God sent me a teacher with the insight and knowledge to put students on the right path.

My advice to anyone reading this is to not turn your back on the advice of your teachers. Most people who decide on teaching as a career don’t do it for the money. Most teachers realize that we must never stop learning, and all we need is someone to point us in the right direction. We may be a little off center sometimes, and during those high school years when growing up becomes its most difficult, it is a teacher who may pull us aside, and offer some positive direction in one way or another that will make all the difference in subsequent life choices. I am so glad I did not end up working in the frozen food section of my supermarket. There’s nothing wrong with that; it was just not the right choice for me.

Throughout high school, I made many friends with whom I remain in touch to this day. Although some of us live very far apart and only see each other very occasionally, they are friendships I will cherish for the remainder of my life. I do see some of them at the usual class reunions, and that scenario offers a few minutes to catch up and in many instances, it’s all we have.

I will never forget my days at STA, and how a gracious teacher with just the right amount of insight, was able to set me on the right road for the rest of my life.