Living the Mission: Deanna Carlson Ness ’95

Gilmour was always a special place to Deanna Carlson Ness ’95. With fond memories of her first campus tour and that feeling of home, Deanna knew that Gilmour would be the place that would challenge her, provide her with opportunities and be the place that would take her outside her comfort zone. 

In good company, Deanna used to drive to school with the late Mr. Teisl, who taught her to lift others up, work hard and give back. Learning about the famous Honduras service trips led by Mr. Teisl, Deanna knew then that she wanted to make an impact. She also remembers walking into Mrs. Emerson’s classroom and seeing a picture of her riding a camel in Egypt. The big world suddenly seemed a little smaller.

“As I think about the mission of Gilmour, I can’t help but reflect on the way my time in these hallowed halls helped me to see and gave me the courage to act. I recall being touched when a classmate’s family adopted children from Russia. When my husband and I struggled with infertility issues for five years, I reached out to the mother of this family, Mrs. Borden, to learn from her experience and help navigate our own story. This is why I love Gilmour.”

Today, Deanna is the mother of six children - three biological and three adopted. The Nesses’ story of adoption is one of compassion, love and faith. Deanna and her husband, Scott, were always open to the idea and it became even more real through infertility struggles. After giving birth to their oldest, Ethan, through a number of impossible circumstances and situations, the couple connected with a birth mom and jumped at the chance to welcome another new baby into their home. The Nesses welcomed Elanna into the family. 

“I held Elanna moments after her birth with skin-to-skin contact, which is incredibly rare for an adoptive mother. I was holding this new precious gift and she was kicking her legs. At the same time, I was six months pregnant with her sister, Emery. She was kicking on the inside of me and Elanna was kicking on the outside. It remains one of my most cherished memories of this incredible journey that God has led me on as a mother.”
The Ness family didn’t know it at the time, but Elanna’s adoption would lead to their family growing even larger. They remained in contact with the birth mother and, when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she asked if they would adopt her other two children. After prayer, lots of conversation and soul searching, the Nesses said yes. They welcomed Ember and Charlie to the family shortly after giving birth to her third biological child, Ella. Their family of eight was complete.

“While I can’t give Gilmour all the credit for the way our family came to be, I can certainly point back to the lessons that Gilmour instilled within me. Seek to live a life of faith as it intersects with the world. Look for God’s presence in daily life. Don’t shy away from challenges.” 

Deanna added, “As I think about all the people that could have been asked to be a part of this article, I can easily think of many others. So many have achieved so much and had such an impact in the world. I’m humbled to think that my story is worth telling. And yet, as I think about the impact that Gilmour has had on me, I turn around and think about the ways in which I continue to pass on to my children the passion to go for it.” 
She continued, “I don’t know that Mrs. Emerson realized that putting a picture of her on that camel would have such an impact. She, most likely, just wanted to be reminded of a great trip. But it had an impact on me.”

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An independent, Catholic, coed, day and boarding school in the Holy Cross tradition. Toddler-Grade 12.