When Joanne Korpanty Solecki ’80 was leafing through “Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges,” she came across Immaculata—it was relatively close to her home in Livingston, New Jersey; it was affordable; and she appreciated that it was a Catholic college. She and her mother scheduled a visit. “We just loved the campus and how pleasant everybody was—and still is to this day,” she says.
Joanne majored in biology and took classes with Sister Marian Bernard, IHM. She remembers learning about Rosalind Franklin, a scientist who played a crucial role in the discovery of DNA, even though her male colleagues got most of the credit. “I remember Sister Marian telling us how important it was to remember that there were so many women who made just as many important discoveries as men, but didn’t quite get the acknowledgment and the recognition that they should have,” Joanne recalls. “It was nice to hear that reinforcement, that we are just as capable.”
Joanne felt encouragement from the Immaculata community in other ways, too. “My father unfortunately passed away my freshman year,” she says. To her surprise, Sister Rita Regina O’Leary, IHM, the dean of students, and two student representatives drove two and a half hours to attend the funeral. “That helped me see what Immaculata was—it wasn’t just a college, it was a family,” Joanne reflects.
She remembers close-knit midnight Masses in Marian Chapel. She also valued her theology classes. “It was neat to learn theology on a higher level, to learn more about my faith than just the Ten Commandments and the Baltimore catechism…my faith became so much stronger,” she remarks. Her time at Immaculata inspired her to teach Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes for many years.
After graduation, Joanne worked in a lab at a wastewater treatment plant, which introduced her to environmental science. She earned a master’s degree in environmental engineering and toxicology at New Jersey Institute of Technology, met her husband there and had three sons after working in the environmental field for several years. Joanne volunteered for many years with the local environmental commission, commenting on development plans and making recommendations pertaining to town projects.
When it was time for Joanne’s son, Peter Solecki ’10, to look at colleges, Immaculata had just opened its doors to men. Peter was impressed by the individualized instruction and ensembles available at IU and became a music education major. Sister Rita sometimes saw him in the halls and talked about his mother. Sister Cathy Nally, IHM, former director of campus ministry, invited Peter to accompany Masses at Immaculata and connected him with local churches. Sister Regina Foy, IHM, gave Peter a binder of liturgical music and nominated him for a scholarship for organ lessons. Peter continues using his skills as music director at St. Ann’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware and as director of choral activities at Elkton High School in Cecil County, Maryland.
Peter left Immaculata with more than just a degree—he also met his wife, Ashley McMullen Solecki ’10, in a music class. Their first date was a Philadelphia performance of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They sang together in the IU Chorale and at Mass every week. “Providing music for Masses allowed us to grow in our faith there,” Ashley says. Like Joanne, Ashley enjoyed her theology classes at IU. She went on to earn a master’s degree in religious education, teaching theology and leading the liturgical choir at St. Thomas More Academy in Delaware until its unfortunate closure last spring.
Immaculata became a family for Joanne, and for her son, “Immaculata certainly led to family!” Peter said. “It started with my mom and led to Ashley and me starting a family of our own.”
Some things have changed at Immaculata since Joanne graduated—she attended Peter’s concerts in Lourdes Hall, which used to be the library during her time at Immaculata. However, she says, “everybody is as kind as they were when I was there.”