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All in the Family

The Burds family

June 2017 | by Ted Stephens III ’01, ’04


Zachary Burd '10, '12 MBA did it.
So did his sister Emily '11.
And his sister Martha '13.
And, eventually, so too did his brother Paul '16.
Even Zachary's wife Meredith (Carr) '10, '11 MOT did it.

So when Olivia Burd was in her senior year at Boylan High School in Rockford, Illinois, the last place she intended to go to college was St. Ambrose University. "I convinced myself that I was going to be the one to change things up and go somewhere else," she said.

A last-minute return visit to the St. Ambrose campus, though, changed her mind. Olivia is scheduled to graduate from her siblings' alma mater in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.

The Burds are part of a growing number of families who choose St. Ambrose time and again, generation after generation. More than 800 families have had two or more members attend St. Ambrose. Forty-three of those families span three generations, and two span four generations.

Paul Burd also tried to buck the family trend, but, after two years at a large university and another at a community college near home, he transferred to St. Ambrose and completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics in 2016. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program.

Both Paul and Olivia said that St. Ambrose has brought them closer to their faith, and to one another. "When we were younger, Olivia and I never really got along. We were always picking fights with each other," Paul said. "Now, we often go to daily Mass at Christ the King Chapel together. We make it a point to get lunch together. I would say she is one of my best friends today. That's because of Ambrose."

"Inescapable loyalty" is what Anne Gannaway, director of alumni engagement and special events, calls the natural Ambrosian bond that occurs when a brother and sister, or mother and daughter, or grandfather and grandchild, attend the same university.

"You get to share this common experience of college that most often happened at a different moment in time," she said. "The situations, and most certainly the campus, may be unique-but there are relationships, traditions and values that withstand the test of time."

That is true for Eva Dondaville '10, '12 MBA and her mother, Deborah Lassen '83. Both lived in Cosgrove Hall and to this day share an affinity for those juicy hamburgers at Circle Tap. They also found commonalities in the way professors cared about their students, and the friendships that formed late at night in the residence halls.

"That first year of school, my mother really took me under her wing," Eva said. "She would come back for Homecoming every year and my friends would get the chance to spend time with her friends. It was proof that the relationships we make here withstand the test of time."

Eva's grandfather, the late Louis E. Dondaville '54, also attended St. Ambrose. She said he was proud she continued the family legacy. "When I earned my bachelor's degree, he gave me a beer stein that he received when he was a student," she said. "To have a piece of Ambrose history-his Ambrose history-meant so much to me. It still does today."

When Daniel Cusack '71 first stepped on the St. Ambrose campus in 1967, he had no idea the university would one day also become home to two sons, a handful of nieces and nephews-and even some of his clients and partners at the law firm that bears his name.

"Ed Rogalski was the dean of students back then," he said. "By the time my sons Shaun '06 and Colin '05 went to Ambrose, he was president. While the campus grew, the values remained the same. We've paid an awful lot of tuition dollars over the years, but I have to say, it is one of the best investments our family has ever made."

Gannaway said the multitude of legacy families speaks volumes about the lasting value of a St. Ambrose education.

"The fact that St. Ambrose has become a home for so many generations of family members says so much about the quality of this institution and the type of people it attracts," Gannaway said. "There's something powerful about reinvesting in your alma mater through a son or daughter, by giving them the gift of an education that you once shared as well."

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