For years she was much like the rest, dressed in the uniform that has been described as “immaculately colorless, tasteless and generic,” but she has emerged as her alma mater’s most striking symbol of change.
Felina Co Young is the first lay president of the College of the Holy Spirit Manila (CHSM), a post that breaks tradition in the 98-year-old institution on historic Mendiola Avenue near Malacañang.
In yet another highlight of an already colorful life, Young took her oath in an investiture on campus on July 11. It was the first time CHSM inducted a president wearing red lipstick, a graduation cap instead of a nun’s veil and high heels.
“I am humbled by the legacy of my predecessors who ably wore the mantle of leadership before me, and more so, by the roster of accomplished and distinguished CHSM alumnae who have proven themselves in their respective fields of expertise,” Young said in a speech.
Her ascent—both to the CHSM auditorium stage and the position—drew applause, cheers and a number of standing ovations from the crowd made up of fellow members of High School Class of 1965 and other alumnae, friends, colleagues, family members and students celebrating her historic appointment.
In introducing Young to the crowd, Deanna Go Bio, acting CHSM director for administration, compared her achievement to that of other women in history: “[She] may not wear the habit but is just as equally guided and ruled by the Holy Spirit.
“She is an ordinary woman led by circumstances to the extraordinary.”
Indeed, how Young described the typical CHSM student in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer may very well speak of herself: “Naturally, Holy Spirit girls are good. But they are so quiet, very low-key, very unassuming, so people never realize how good they are because they don’t want to talk about their accomplishments.
“But when you make them work, they’re good.”
In her speech, Young looked back at how uncertainty marked her entry to school and how CHSM, then known as Holy Ghost College, molded her into the sought-after educator that she is now:
“I saw myself decades ago, as a young kindergarten student who was unsure of the world ahead of her; saw classmates who were just as hesitant and shy as I was, teachers who were strangers to me, and surroundings that appeared to be remote and diffident.
Pursuit of excellence
“Through the years, my teachers have motivated me and ingrained in my soul their wealth of knowledge and undeniable spirit of service. I realized as I went along with my work, however, that my profession required agility of intellect and relentless pursuit of personal and professional excellence.
“So I challenged myself to be the best in anything that I was doing; to be the monopoly that I can be.”
Hard work has brought the 1969 CHSM mathematics graduate a long way.
Young has spoken before international audiences and has notched many firsts in her career. She is, among other distinctions, the first program director of graduate schools at the Institut Pengembangan Wiraswasta Indonesia in Jakarta and Chiang Kai Shek College, the founding dean of San Beda College’s graduate school of business, the first woman vice president of San Beda College, and the first woman vice president for higher education and graduate school dean of Jose Rizal University.
The mother of three was recognized in 2001 by the Gintong Ina Awards as the Teodora Alonzo Awardee for Education. She is now a doting grandmother of nine.
“They … would understand why I usually spend my time in front of the computer, or entertain graduate students at home even on Sundays, or miss some of our family gatherings,” she said.
At the helm of CHSM, Young hopes to bring the school to the fore as a competitor in the field of education.
“We want to promote the school. We’re trying to make it more aggressive, to make people say that we are here as a competitor among quality schools,” she said. “The quality is good but I’m trying to reinforce quality more. We have a history of academic excellence in all courses.”
Alumni and school officials have expressed concern over declining enrollment, Young said. Roughly 1,000 students are enrolled this year, and the new president is hoping to raise this number by leveraging the college’s known track record of offering quality education.
“We are trying to establish what you call the monopoly. When [you] say monopoly, you have that added value, your purchasing power is higher, and you’re good, you’re versatile, you’re excellent, you’re a performer, an achiever. That is the branding that I want,” Young said.
“I’d like our students to be one of a kind. When you’re good, employers will seek you,” she said.