"It was kind of an 'I told you so' moment for both my parents," said Erin McDonald '13.
The (then) 18-year-old had just visited the college she thought she was going to choose. But on the same trip her parents "forced" her to tour St. Ambrose, their alma mater. "I loved it," said McDonald. "The first moment we stepped on campus, I knew I was home."
That's what they were trying to tell her.
St. Ambrose University runs in McDonald's blood, so to speak. Her maternal grandfather, John (Jack) Donnelly, graduated in 1950 with a degree in physical education and history. His daughter, Amy (Donnelly) McDonald '87, decided to attend to follow in her father's footsteps by enrolling at St. Ambrose, where she met future husband Bill McDonald '85 (whose brother and sister had preceeded him). Fast forward to McDonald's fateful campus visit, where cousin Chris Donnelly was already a Fighting Bee basketball player. The St. Ambrose family legacy was getting serious at this point.
Now the Madison, Wisc., native has herself become a St. Ambrose alum. Graduating with a degree in exercise science and human performance and fitness, McDonald hopes to get into physical therapy school.
McDonald reminisces about the friends she's made and the professors she has grown close to. She describes not only knowledge and facts but "life lessons" taught by her professors, as well.
Her senior year classes served as a catalyst for integrating everything she had learned the three years prior—including all of the memorization of her first year.
"This year was my 'Oh' moment, when it all came together," she said.
Working as a personal trainer for an SAU staff member as part of her senior capstone course proved very rewarding. An internship at Genesis East Cardiac Rehab Program was another opportunity to apply what she had learned.
Another point of pride for McDonald was her job in the St. Ambrose Campus Recreation department, where she provided supervision for intramural sports and helped facilitate the start of eight sports clubs in one year. "Disc golf, volleyball, swimming, tennis, dodgeball, rugby, hockey and running," she listed off. "It was a lot of work."
So on Saturday, May 11, commencement day, McDonalds' parents proudly looked on.
"We're kind of an Ambrose family," McDonald acknowledges. In fact, so much so that her parents are having the St. Ambrose Fighting Bee carved into a wooden wall plaque for their new house. And there's one more McDonald who might just Bee-come an Ambrosian, younger brother Liam. "I'm sure the whole family will push it," admits McDonald, with a laugh.
Just bring him on a campus tour.