By Mariana Barron Esper

Barron Esper at the piano with her grandmother's sheet music.

Barron Esper at the piano with her grandmother’s sheet music.

When I was a senior in high school and considering my future, the University of the Incarnate Word seemed like a natural choice. My oldest sister had chosen to attend UIW and was truly enjoying her time and the education she was receiving here. My mother had also taken some courses at UIW.

I wanted to study international affairs and continue to develop as a musician at the same time. Little did I know that I would be following in my family’s footsteps.

On a recent trip to Queretaro, Mexico, to visit with my paternal grandmother Maria Del Carmen Cepeda, I discovered our Incarnate Word connection. While studying at a school run by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Saltillo, Mexico, she received a recommendation to study at what was then Incarnate Word College (IWC) in San Antonio in 1960.

When I asked my grandmother about her experience at IWC, I could not help but feel a sense of connection with my own experience thus far. She too was a musician and studied piano, which is also my instrument, though she remembers being taught music by a Sister. She also truly enjoyed being able to attend daily mass, which I often try to do as well.

Del Carmen Cepeda as photographed for IWC’s 1960s yearbook.

Del Carmen Cepeda as photographed for IWC’s 1960s yearbook.

The diverse friendships she made with young women from Panama, Venezuela, Mexico, China and the U.S., and the social activities she participated in with such a diverse student population mirror my personal experiences and the many international friends I have made as a UIW student. Her humanities and arts courses in music and English with, as she recalls, “extremely kind and comprehensive” professors remind me of the wonderful professors I have had.

The core values have been significant and the foundation of faith has been valuable for the both of us. The education I’ve received from this institution founded by courageous religious women filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit and the conviction to serve the greater good all to glorify God, is something I seek to put into practice in my everyday life.

My grandmother’s fond memories and experiences with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (through her piano lessons and other friendly encounters) provided her with examples of women to look up to and to emulate. For me, my grandmother has been just that example for the 22 years I have known her.

Maria del Carmen Cepeda, known as Carmelita, performs in Mexico in 1955.

Maria del Carmen Cepeda, known as Carmelita, performs in Mexico in 1955.

I was moved and excited about the similarities we have both experienced as music students. Semester presentations of her piano pieces to the music department, getting nervous before performances, and a love for a wide range of composers and pieces has also been engraved in my journey to become a better musician every day.

The friendships, experiences and connections she made are what she recalls missing the most about Incarnate Word College. I hope to reconnect and continue to grow in the friendships made throughout the four wonderful years I have experienced at UIW. My sister, my mother and my grandmother and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have attended an institution founded under the example of the greatest gift to humanity, the Incarnate Word.