Family Affair

Sandra RollisonTwo stone sculptures, one white and one black, stand in the Rollisons’ family room. The black statue is of a man with gargantuan hands upraised, cupping an infant, as if receiving a gift. The white statue is a clump of two parents and two children, the wide, comb-like hands of the adults enclosing the children in a protective embrace.

Sandra Rollison, who worked in undergraduate admissions and is now assistant dean of the College of Graduate Studies, commissioned the black sculpture from Artist-in-Residence Sister Trinita Marie Amorosi, IHM. Sandra wanted to give it to her husband Jeff for his first Father’s Day after their daughter Meghan was born.

“I was just kind of bowled over by it,” remembered Jeff, who is now the director of the Gabriele Library at Immaculata. He and Sandra enjoyed it so much that they commissioned the second sculpture to be made a few years later with their whole family, including their newborn son Michael.

“When you look at your children now, you don’t think of them as babies,” said Jeff. “But when you see [the sculptures], you remember that, and how special that time was, and how special those sculptures were. And still are.”

In addition to these pieces, the Rollisons have bought an original work every year from the art show— stained glass, a tea set, carvings of birds, a neon coffee cup sign in the kitchen, paintings— which are now woven throughout their house.

“When I look around our house, I see all this art, and that’s the biggest reminder of Immaculata,” said Sandra. The collection “really makes our house a home.”

Through these pieces, they have brought Immaculata into their home life, and they have also brought their home life to Immaculata. Both parents have worked at the University for many years and have earned graduate degrees from it—Jeff has a doctorate in education, and Sandra a master’s in organization leadership. Both kids grew up going to Cue and Curtain plays, Future Stars camps, Haunted Grottos, and Carol Nights, and both worked at Camilla Hall. Meghan has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Immaculata, and now Michael is taking some classes at IU.

“We are Immaculata’s first family,” Sandra quipped. She, Jeff, and Meghan are the only mother, father, and child with degrees from IU.

Even the family dog, a golden and poodle mix, comes to the campus. Sandra likes throwing a ball for him to chase between the bookshelves in the library. But the Rollisons didn’t commission any more sculptures from Sister Trinita after their dog joined the family, Jeff noted with a grin.

Some families might find it awkward to share not just life at home but also life at work and school. But the Rollisons have worked that out smoothly. Jeff said that when he joined Sandra in Immaculata’s administration, “we would make that effort to come together, go home together, but not get in each other’s way.”

Most college students would probably be mortified if they were students at the same institution where their parents worked. But Meghan never applied to any other colleges and said of her experience, without hesitation, “It was great!” Jeff and Sandra were careful to give Meghan her space, letting her decide whether to tell people that they were her parents or not.

And having her parents close by had some perks. “When I would get sick, my mom would make me little care packages and I would just stop by her office and pick them up,” Meghan said. “If I was having a bad day, I could go in and talk to my dad in the library.” A few of Meghan’s friends got a shock when they overheard her talking to the director of the library so casually. “A lot of [my friends] thought that we owned the library,” Meghan remembered, adding that she went along with their notion as a joke.

“People always used to ask me, ‘Doesn’t she come in and ask for money all the time?’” Jeff said. “And no, she didn’t … She was like any other student: ‘Do you have a pencil?’”

“Coming in as a freshman, I did feel more comfortable than probably a lot of other freshmen did,” Meghan said. “Going to school there, it really did become more of a home.”

Sandra remembers a time when Meghan was invited to make Immaculata her permanent home. A Sister took 14-year-old Meghan to the chapel at Camilla to see the body of a nun who had recently passed away. “You know,” the Sister told Meghan, “we’re going to have to replace her.”

“And so Meghan’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll think about it, Sister,’” Sandra said. “She was very politic, even at that young age.”

Although Meghan has not chosen to become a Sister herself, she sees the Sisters as role models and members of her extended family. “I love the Sisters,” she said. “They’ve done so many amazing things. Like all of them have been to Peru, and they’ve all taught in all these different environments. They’ve traveled and really lived amazing lives. And you would never really know, because they’re so humble. But once you get them talking, they’re just full of wisdom and stories. And they’re funny.”

Meghan came to know many of the Sisters through working at Camilla in high school. “I’ve always thought they were really strong advocates for women’s rights,” she said. “I just admire them so much, and I want to be like them.”

Being at Immaculata for so many years has molded all of the Rollisons in various ways. “We’ve had so many different experiences on so many different levels—student, librarian, parent, participant in activities, just a wide variety of things,” Jeff commented. “I think it’s kind of a unique experience, that we’ve seen it for so many years in so many different ways and experienced it in so many different ways, through the eyes of a one-year-old jumping into the swimming pool for the first time, to walking your dog on a snowy winter day down the Grotto Road, going to the Camilla Fair.”

Throughout the Rollisons’ years on campus, Immaculata’s character has been etched into their family. And the Rollisons have contributed a certain quality to the campus, sculpting Immaculata into more of a family.

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