Junior nursing student Molly Gabaldo gave a sandwich to a homeless person in Chicago's inner-city last winter and happily discovered she had fed a hunger inside herself.
Brea Christiansen '11 still remembers the wide-eyed joy of Davenport grade school children as they opened Christmas presents one not-so-long-ago December. Perhaps the biggest gifts those children received that holiday season, the presents were bought and proudly delivered by Christiansen and her St. Ambrose track and field teammates.
Men's Basketball Coach and Athletic Director Ray Shovlain recently encountered an unfamiliar but beaming young man who exclaimed "You're Coach Ray." The man then thanked Shovlain '79, '82 MBA for lessons he learned a decade earlier at a National Youth Sports Program summer camp for underprivileged QC youngsters hosted by St. Ambrose.
Ambrosians serve in myriad ways on a daily basis and, in the doing, they discover that the familiar saying is genuinely true: Service is its own reward.
Here, however, service is not left to its own devices. Yes, for many Ambrosians, service is instinctual, but at St. Ambrose, service also is intentional. And service is institutional.
University Chaplain Charles Adam '82 said the Ambrosian call to serve also is foundational, a basic pillar upon which Bishop John McMullen began to construct his earliest vision of a school rooted in diocesan heritage and committed to molding future community leaders.
The call to service is a tradition handed down over our 130-year history by such champions as Rev. Bill O'Connor '29, Rev. Jack Smith, Sr. Ritamary Bradley and Msgr. Marvin Mottet '52, individuals who showed the way both in thought and in deed. That tradition continues through the examples of modern-day campus icons like "Fr. Chuck," "Coach Ray" and Professor of Education Rachel Serianz, PhD.
Today, service is taught at St. Ambrose literally from a student's first days on campus, when staff and faculty from across the curriculum lead first-year students in Urban Plunge, an array of one-day service projects that span the Quad Cities.
"Through Urban Plunge, I think we have been very intentional about letting new Ambrosians know this is our vision, this is our expectation," Fr. Adam said.
The teaching carries on in the classroom, where service assignments increasingly are part of the curriculum in every college and almost every major. And it reaches the fields of play, where athletes like Christiansen discover a capacity to serve others is as valued in Shovlain's athletic department as the ability to pitch, catch, run or shoot.
How rich, deep and inspirational is our tradition of service? It is rich and deep and inspirational enough to have informed the service vision of a young Buddhist monk who already had committed his life to lifting children in his native Cambodia out of poverty and despair before he enrolled at St. Ambrose.
Venerable Somnieng Houern '10 said he carried the spirit of Ambrosian service home after his years on our campus, and stressed he left here a better servant than he was when he arrived.
"Education is not just what you learn in a book," he said. "St. Ambrose prepares us to work and respond and be part of our community."