members of the shea brembs paladinos fosters alumni familiesA conversation with a four-decades-deep Saint Joseph’s alumni family.

By Ann Swardlick

To talk with the extended Shea family, which includes Brembs, Paladinos, and Fosters, is to glimpse nearly 40 years of campus life at Saint Joseph’s College. There are veiled references to 25-cent beers, Jell-O wrestling, baseball road trips, and bonfires by the lake. But don’t think for a moment that they’re telling us everything.

When Mike Shea met Nancy Brembs at SJC, he was one of only two guys in the junior class. “Despite the male-female imbalance,” says Nancy, “I was the one he asked to Spring Weekend!” And thus began a relationship that grew into a
family legacy.

Here is some of what we gleaned from a recent conversation with eight members of the Shea tribe:

The ’70s

Mike Shea ’72: “I transferred to Saint Joe’s in 1970, the year the College went co-ed. Most of the male students were freshmen—I was a rare upperclassman. How the Sisters of Mercy survived is a mystery! What shone forth was their commitment to higher education: they would push us to go above and beyond.”
Nancy (Brembs) Shea ’74: “Everybody knew everybody. I’ve stayed in close contact with so many of my friends from freshman year, including Sr. Michele Aronica ’74, current chair of the sociology department, who I’ve known since high school. After graduation, she decided to become a nun, and I decided to get married.”

The ’80s

Jim Paladino ’81: “I have great memories of Monks baseball road trips. My philosophy at the time was: You never get these four years of your life back, so take advantage of everything you can. You’re going to make mistakes, but our teachers encouraged us to open our eyes and take risks. One accounting professor, Richard Lamb, had a big impact on my career.”
Marianne (Shea) Paladino ’82: “I remember visiting my older brother, Mike, and loving the small campus on the lake. I also liked the College’s holistic approach to nursing. They taught us to care for the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. It was challenging, but we had plenty of time for fun. It’s not the studying I remember, it’s the great times and friendships I made.”
Eddie Brembs ’83: “I came up to visit my sister, Nancy, and made an instant decision to transfer. I liked the close-knit community and the small-college atmosphere. I met Dino [aka Jim Paladino] right away. We both played baseball and believed in making the best of the time we had in college. (‘Beat the Clock’ and 25-cent beers come to mind!)”

The ’90s (into the aughts)

Colleen (Shea) Hallee ’00: “Saint Joseph’s seemed so big and exciting to me when I was young. Since my father was on the Board, we visited often. I wanted to go to college out-of-state, and I thought playing Division III field hockey would be exciting. So, Saint Joe’s was the perfect fit. As an education major, the professors really pushed our comfort levels. Right away, they put us in front of a classroom. When I became a teacher, I was really well prepared.”

The Millennials

Katie (Foster) Paladino ’07: “I applied on a whim. I wanted to go away to a Catholic college—but not too far away—and it was a privilege to be at Saint Joe’s when Father John Tokaz was there. The education department was amazing. We knew our professors; they helped me get out there and become a teacher. And another good thing: I met my wonderful, handsome husband, Andrew!”
Andrew Paladino ’09: “With a mom, dad, aunt, and uncle who all went to Saint Joseph’s, it was a foregone conclusion I would be next! As a business major, I liked the non-traditional, project-based approach. It got us to think outside the box. My HR management professor, Beth Richardson [now director of career development], was phenomenal. She really helped prepare me for the business world.”

Back to the Future with Mike Shea

In 1975, Mike was invited to serve on the Saint Joseph’s Board of Overseers (now the Board of Trustees). It was the first of multiple terms on the Board and marked a turning point in the College’s history: the beginning of Saint Joseph’s pioneering entry into distance learning.

“I’ve seen the College grow up,” says Mike. “We’ve grown in both size and stature. There’s no need to be shy about the quality of our education and our facilities. Saint Joseph’s College is no longer a hidden gem.”

“The physical changes are the most startling,” he adds, “but there is also a change in the atmosphere. There’s a vibrancy here, a lot of exciting things are going on.”

Mike will continue to play a leadership role as the College moves ahead with ambitious campus improvements and new initiatives as outlined in the President’s strategic plan. He’s a strong advocate for active alumni engagement to help Saint Joseph’s maintain its momentum and reach its potential for growth and stability. And the Sheas will always be here, providing the College with a solid foundation grounded in family history.

“We’ve done a good job, if not intentionally, of creating a Saint Joseph’s legacy,” says Mike. With six in the next generation—soon to be nine—there’s already an expansion team waiting in the wings.