Daniel Rairdin-Hale, MFA, didn't have to act Ambrosian when he first stepped in front of a theater class as an assistant professor here in 2009.
Like Jeff Griebel '76, Monica Forret '88, PhD, and countless others before and since, Rairdin-Hale, a 2004 theatre graduate, joined the St. Ambrose faculty/staff well-schooled in Ambrosian culture and tradition. And with a diploma to prove it.
Griebel, Forret and Rairdin-Hale are among dozens of faculty and staff who either returned to St. Ambrose as alumni or never left.
"What better opportunity than to return to the program that gave me my foundation, that first sparked my interest in making theatre my career?" said Rairdin-Hale.
He remembered falling in love with St. Ambrose during a college visit and that passion didn't wane during his undergraduate experience. As he was completing work toward his Master of Fine Arts degree from DePaul University, Rairdin-Hale learned of an SAU Theatre Department opening. He applied and was hired. "I was still in love with the campus and the people," he said.
Forret chose St. Ambrose after visiting her older brother on campus during Sibling's Weekend. The concern shown by St. Ambrose priests when her father died unexpectedly during her senior year in high school also influenced her decision to attend school here.
When the university decided to add a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program in 1997, Forret, who had obtained her doctorate from the University of Missouri two years before, returned as an assistant professor. She now is the program's director.
She said faculty and staff alumni ties help heighten the sense of family that students find under the oaks. "The genuine relationships between the students and both the faculty and staff here at St. Ambrose are truly unique," she said. "Everyone is so invested in seeing the students succeed and knowing one another on a personal basis."
Rairdin-Hale concurred. "The people," he said, when asked what defines St. Ambrose. "It isn't about the new buildings or the growing programs. It's about the faculty and staff who genuinely care about the students here, this feeling of family."
The oldest of five siblings with St. Ambrose degrees, Griebel exemplifies Ambrosian family spirit. "My whole life has revolved around St. Ambrose," he said.
He took a work-study position on his very first day of school, spent his undergraduate summers working on campus and then joined the staff immediately after graduating.
Through the years, he has been alumni director, associate dean of admissions, director of financial aid, bowling coach and, since 2005, coordinator of athletic recruiting. Most notably, he has been the head coach of the men's golf team since 1982, a tenure that makes him the longest serving head coach in St. Ambrose history.
Griebel believes St. Ambrose students are cared for-and taught to care. "Our faculty and staff instill the importance of being a good person, of making an impact on people's lives," he said. "It's not just getting the diploma; it's the whole environment, the whole package."
Griebel was all of the above when he stayed at the side of former golfer Mike Rettke '91 for several days after Rettke's wife, the former Tracy Briggs '91, died just months before their son Ben turned two in 1995.
This fall, Ben Rettke, a strong prep golfer in Minnesota, will tee it up for Griebel and St. Ambrose.
"That's what it's like to be in the St. Ambrose family," Griebel said. "That's the reward of the job. The feeling that we are making a difference. And in my case, now it has come full circle."