Actress Susan Saint James delivered an inspiring address to students, parents, faculty, staff and alumnae Friday, Oct. 4, marking the official start of the annual Reunion Weekend at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart.
However, this is more than just a speaking engagement for the star of four TV series, who is probably best known for her role as Rock Hudson's wife in McMillan and Wife. Saint James also joins with fellow classmates in celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation from the Lake Forest school.
Her remarks touched on this year's theme at Woodlands Academy, "The Resilient Sacred Heart Woman." In her introduction of Saint James, Alumnae Coordinator Maura Chamberlin said, "Susan has proved to be a resilient Sacred Heart alumna. She is dedicated to many philanthropies including volunteering and becoming a board member for the Special Olympics, owns a business called Seedling and Pip (a baby gift basket business) and is also a board member of the Telluride Foundation."
Saint James shared a Power Point presentation of photos (mostly black & white) of her high school years along with thoughts on how the all-girls, Christian-based education she received prepared her to face life's challenges -- such as the huge one on Nov. 28, 2004, when a private plane crash claimed the life of her 14-year-old son, Teddy Ebersol. She shared the words that helped turn her life around following this tragic event: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience -- we are spiritual beings having a human experience."
Saint James admitted she was obsessed with being perfect while in high school, but was quick to add, "Perfection is not the solution, progress is the solution. For a lot of us our imperfections are what push us forward. It's important to express yourself and be who you want to be."
Her advice to the students: "There should be no time limit on finding out what you want to do and where you want to go to college. Don't feel pressured into making such decisions. Have a lot of fun, laugh a lot and when you're tired -- take a nap."
"One of the things I value most from here is the quiet time we had as part of our daily routine. I feel we all should have a little quiet time in our lives every day," she added.
Woodlands Academy has previously honored its famous alumna by dedicating the school's performing arts center to Saint James who, in addition to her starring roles, appeared in 14 other TV series as well as several films between 1966 and 2011. She received several Emmy nominations during that time and won the award in 1969 for her role as Peggy Maxwell in the TV series Name of the Game. Of her 20 motion pictures, probably the best known is Love at First Bite (1979). In recognition of this body of work, Saint James received her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008.
Born Susan Jane Miller in Los Angeles, Calif., Saint James was raised in Rockford, Ill., where she began modeling as a teenager. After graduating from Woodlands Academy, she attended the Connecticut College for Women.
Saint James has received five honorary doctorates from Connecticut colleges and universities and has been inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. Her volunteer service includes serving on the University of Notre Dame Performing Arts Advisory Council.
Saint James enjoys traveling; watching lots of sports with her husband of 32 years, Dick Ebersol; and spending time with her family.
Founded in 1858, Woodlands Academy is an independent Catholic college preparatory day and boarding high school for young women, and part of a worldwide network of Sacred Heart Schools that spans 19 cities in the United States and 44 countries around the world. A nonprofit, Woodlands Academy's identity is rooted in Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat's desire to inspire young hearts and minds to excel, to lead lives of integrity and to serve. For more information about Woodlands Academy, please visit www.woodlandsacademy.org