Spotlight:The senior who inspired the Class of 2007

by Matthew Storin

On a Saturday in August, three years ago, Keri Oxley of Fremont, Ohio, sat with her parents at freshman orientation. Both she and her parents were experiencing some uncertainty about her choice of a college. For one thing, she had been “wait listed.” But they were heartened by a speech given by Brian O’Donoghue, the student body president. His words were inspiring to students and parents alike.p. As Keri tells it, one of her parents said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that someday?” Well, folks, she did it, and then some.p. Four years after O’Donoughue’s welcome, the 22-year-old Oxley stood on the same stage and electrified 6,000 parents and incoming students with a forcefully delivered challenge to the newest members of the Notre Dame family. She spoke about the common role that mirrors play in lives, including her own. She recounted her experience working in Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta, where mirrors were discouraged. A nun explained, “Without mirrors we are forced to see our reflection through the eyes of others.”p. To the newest Domers Oxley said, “This is your time. You have four sacred years ahead of you. Now is the time to abandon your mirror and look outward. Allow the people you live with in community, your rectors and your advisors, to challenge you, to guide you, to aid your growth.” Keri’s speech She told the new students how after winning the presidency of her sophomore class, she went to the Grotto to light a candle. She has done the same thing on a daily basis ever since. Concluding her talk, she said:p. "Last night I decided to light an additional candle, in a spot directly above the location I have kindled for the past three years. Class of 2007 this is your candle! I promise to keep this candle glowing throughout the duration of your first year.p. “There are no mirrors at the Grotto, only reflections. Allow the light of this candle to serve as a reminder to seek the challenges and reflections from the inspiring community around you. Class of 2007: I welcome you to the Notre Dame family.”p. The crowd, which had listened to previous speakers with concentrated attention but little response, began to applaud lustily. It continued to build. First Year of Studies Dean Eileen Kolman, who had chosen Oxley for the honor, looked over toward the speaker who had now taken her seat. The applause continued to swell, and soon the entire crowd was on its feet.p. Keri Oxley, a former resident of Badin Hall now living off campus, is a philosophy major. She hopes to be a medical doctor. She is also a candidate for a Fulbright Fellowship that would bring her back to India where she would like to study “patient relationship autonomy with respect to death and dying.”p. As one of the last students admitted to Notre Dame in the Class of 2004, Oxley is an inspiration to anyone that has taken a risk and overcome obstacles. One of the primary reasons she chose to attend Notre Dame was the “bench test.”p. At each of the nine schools, she and her parents visited, they found a bench on campus and sat there for up to an hour. They timed how long it took before a student or someone else smiled or said something welcoming. “Notre Dame was the clear winner,” she recalled.p. Indeed.

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