From same dorm to same schools, retiring BCU alumnae share rewarding careers

Retiring Teachers
Photo courtesy Sioux City Journal (click to purchase)

Teachers Holly Mead, left, and Penny Neswick pose for a photo at Riverside Elementary School. These two, who met as freshmen at Briar Cliff in 1973, are retiring at the end of this school year, closing the book on careers that spanned 40 and 39 years, respectively. Mead and Neswick are also starting a scholarship at Briar Cliff.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — After four decades of teaching, Holly Mead and Penny Neswick aren't having a retirement party. They aren't taking a cruise, a trip or a shopping spree.

They're starting a scholarship fund.

The story begins with that premise: Simple, yet far-fetched.

"They always have retirement bashes for teachers," said Mead, a fifth-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School. "Our social committee wanted a party, but Penny and I said that's not our style."

We want to pay it forward with a scholarship that can help a student in education. ... And we hope it begins something more.

— Holly Mead '77, retiring elementary teacher

Actually, the story began 44 years ago, in Sioux City, at the "little college on the hill."

Mead, the former Holly Rummel, came to Briar Cliff when it was a college, in 1973, having graduated from West Sioux High School in Hawarden, Iowa. Neswick, the former Penny Smith, was graduated from Storm Lake (Iowa) High School in 1973 and joined her classmate in Alverno Hall. They lived across the hall from one another.

Briar Cliff had a profound impact on them. The school, founded in 1930 by the Sisters of Saint Francis, of Dubuque, Iowa, maintains a commitment to the Catholic Franciscan traditions of service, caring and openness. Franciscans are called to life of simplicity and respect for all, especially the poorest among us.

In wrapping up careers of 40 and 39 years, respectively, Mead and Neswick agreed that a party didn't align with their spirit. They met with Carolyn Ellwanger, director of philanthropy at Briar Cliff, and decided to establish a Grateful Teachers Scholarship.

"We want to pay it forward with a scholarship that can help a student in education," Mead said. "And we hope it begins something more. We're kind of challenging other Briar Cliff alums who are grateful students."

The scholarship information can be found on the Briar Cliff website ( under the heading "BCU Alumni-Grateful Teachers Scholarship."

Read the entire Sioux City Journal article →

Tags: Alumni, BCU, Education