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University of Dayton Magazine
Mullins' wall of letters and cards

Saying goodbye

1:56 PM  May 16th, 2013
by Megan Garrison '14

Many professors collect mementos over the years, pinning cards from former students next to clipped newspaper cartoons and yellowing snapshots. Philosophy professor Monalisa Mullins, though, uses such a “wallpaper of memories” to supplement her coursework.

“I’ve always had students write a page about something that is taped on my door for extra credit,” Mullins said. “I came across a pile of some of the pages while cleaning out the office. The responses still humble and surprise me.”

It took Mullins, who retired this spring after 35 years at UD, awhile to do a final clean-out.

“I’m still getting messages or notes from students who graduated 15 years ago. Now that I am retiring, the notes and cards have become difficult to take down. I start and then I end up pausing to read each one, remembering that student,” she said. “There is such a sense of community from our students; they are polite and respectful. I just love them.”

One of the gifts she hopes to leave behind is the Monalisa Mullins Scholarship, awarded to a student who has been involved in the UD community. It was given to its first student, Emily Striver, this May, and a new plaque now hangs in the Fitz Center to encourage new ideas and stress a goal towards a greater campus identity.

“It’s hard to leave a campus like this,” said Mullins, pulling another tissue from the box on her desk. “It’s hard to leave this office.”

For a woman whose office walls tell its own story, she harbors many favorite memories, from CAPP Stone cookie baking to overnight homeless vigils to dinner conversations with Marianists.

“I have always shown this film, God Bless the Child, and at the end of the film many students over the years have been very emotional,” said Mullins. “This one time the students were very shaken but too embarrassed to cry. Suddenly a football player ripped out a page from his notebook and blew his nose. It was like that one action gave the rest of us permission to cry with him.”

Mullins did manage to take down all her cards from the walls, take her gifts from the window sill, the writings of students out of desk drawers and the paper topics from the door. The room is empty now, awaiting the next bright and eager professor to step in and make it home. But to students, now and then, the narrow hallways in Chaminade Hall will always seem to lead to the comforting world of Monalisa Mullins and her compassionate love of UD.

Mullins' door of topics for students to write onMonalisa Mullins in her officePhilosophy professor Monalisa Mullins hangs out with a group of students during a third-year Core Retreat, in a tree at Mt. St. John's.

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