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Lessons Learned: 1979-1970

Lessons Learned: 1979-1970

Our Alumni December 02, 2018
Wit and wisdom from alumni from the Classes of 1979-1970.

Class of 1979

Kate Kern
Visual artist, Cincinnati

I think there’s an emotional, psychological component to color.

Kate Kern ’79When you see something that you don’t like or that you feel isn’t right or you aren’t happy with, then it’s your responsibility to try to do something. Venting is okay, but constructive action is better in the long run.

To do anything interesting, you need to be able to enter into “play,” whatever that means for you.

There’s this thing called plant blindness. If you show someone a landscape and ask what they see, they’ll say, “Oh, a house,” but they won’t say, “Oh, a tree.” I think I have the opposite of that — I’m really distracted by plants.

Why are we so human-centric? Why do we think we’re separate from nature? We are living things that are made from the same things as the nature around us. We’re all connected. Those mosquitoes in your backyard? You need them.

I did not say where I should be born, when I should be born, who my parents should be, what should go on in my life. I have inherited a certain life. I’ve always had people helping me. I couldn’t say, “I climbed this mountain all alone.”

It’s easy to let different connections drift away. But it’s important to keep the dots connected.


Allan Walton
Journalist, Clarksville, Virginia

As a (mostly) retired journalist, I’m horrified by attacks on a free press. Newspapers and their digital platforms remain the last and best defense against corruption at the highest levels. I’m reminded of Superman’s fight for truth, justice and the American way. While “the American way” may be subject to discussion, truth and justice are  the unquestioned pillars of our society and built upon the foundation of good journalism.

Allan Walton ’79By the way, Superman is an immigrant.

My father told me every man, every woman, is smarter than me in some way. That’s not just a lesson in humility, but a reminder that we’re all defined differently — by upbringing, religion, education, environment and experience.

If you’re a parent, you know that money and material things matter only for the security and comfort they provide. Sons and daughters are the treasures of our lives.

Retirement is just another chapter in a life story. Stay energized; there’s more to come.

Pete Rose once said he’d “walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” Passion for your profession is powerful. Find it, celebrate it ... and don’t besmirch it.

Let challenges be empowering, not frightening. As one of my mentors said, “Follow the mantra of trying, failing and trying again.”


Class of 1978

Rob Durkle
College admission dean, Dayton

Treat people with respect. They deserve it. I learned to that from my parents. In my work, I meet people from various backgrounds. I need to respect where they are coming from. A student with not the best grades or scores may have had hardships or unseen successes.

Rob Durkle ’78Something I’ve learned from people I’ve worked for and with: Support others who have greater needs. Lend a hand. Listen. Appreciate the Marianist charism — not just the words but the actions. Daily I see people supporting others — not because their job requires it but because it’s just what they do.

I’ve stored on my phone some words of Barbara Bush: “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people — your family, friends, and co-workers and even strangers you meet along the way.”

We have a limited number of days. Make use of each one.

Be patient. Understanding. Caring. Committed. Passionate.

Working as a team, we are stronger than when we are individuals.

Don’t be concerned with titles, career goals or recognition but about doing work that benefits others.




Kathy Moeder-Christensen
Retired educator, Jacksonville, Florida

You don’t have to cross the world to learn life lessons, but when you do it sure is fun.

Kathy Moeder-Christensen ’78I think keeping a gratitude journal makes you mindful of people and relationships. It’s something my husband suggested: Write down three things you are thankful for every day. My husband died in 2015, and that really helped me through.

Cultivate your strengths but realize there are areas in your life that you need to confront.

It doesn’t take things to make people happy. It’s relationships, it’s people you live with, it’s people you surround yourself with. That’s what makes you happy.

Life is short. Do it now.

My favorite quote is something that my husband shared from Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits: Wake up every morning and say, “Who will I help today?”

In most situations I’m a listener. But that doesn't mean I don’t like to give advice.

I grew up in a family of eight kids, and we were all very close in age. We all took care of each other and pushed each other along. They are my inspiration and we continue to challenge one another. 


Sharon Davis Howard
Communicator, Community Engager, Dayton

I felt like — especially in college and early in my career — I had to be perfect. But when you grow up in the inner city and you’re a girl and you’re African-American and you want things that you historically couldn’t have, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I knew that, ultimately, the only person who’d provide for me is me.

Sharon Howard ’78Failure is inevitable and it sucks.

I’ve been a high achiever in everything, so failure is hard for me and it’s horrible, but you lick your wounds and move on.

Parenthood really is a gift, but it’s hard work to take a little person and help them become amazing.

I’m laughing a lot more than I did when I was younger. I refuse to be in that negative space. My grandmother used to say, “If trouble is on the left, you need to be on the right.”

My dad was everything I wanted to be. He’s a UD alum, he’s an educator, he always gave back to the community. The things that were important to him are important to me.

Women are really amazing when you think of all the things they have to do to be successful. But you don’t have to do it alone. I have awesome girlfriends, women who would move a mountain to help me. I can’t imagine my life without them.

Class of 1977

George Hanley
Principle, Philanthropist, Chicago

I’d tell my 21-year-old self to trust his intuition, be himself and take risk. You need to stay true to who you are at your deepest self.

George Hanley ’77I’ve learned that out of marriage come many great things — love, children and learning how to compromise.

This advice from my grandfather George Weston is among the most valuable in my life: “Sometimes you have to put your pride in your back pocket.” He said this to me when I was going through one of the worst periods of my life, when my expectations and dreams were crushed. He was very street smart, and I learned a lot from him.

I would want my great grandchild to know that I was always willing to be humble and that I respected that quality most in other people.

Why me? I struggled with that at church, got on my knees, prayed, cried for so many years. What I’ve come to is that I’ve received these blessings and these gifts because I get the honor and the job of figuring out how to give them back in the most effective way.

It’s all a journey; you just have to keep your eyes wide open.


Class of 1976

Bob Byrne
Financial Services Director, White, Georgia

I don’t know the meaning of life, but I’ve got a pretty good handle of the meaning of my life. God gifted me this existence to be happy and to bring happiness to others. To make it more involved or complicated than that is a waste of the time he’s granted me.

Bob Byrne ’76Check your ego at the door. You don’t want to be that guy that sucks all the air out of the room.

Ultimate success, in life or anything else, has little to do with what you end up with. It’s more about the things you achieve and the memories you make along the way that allow you to minimize the regrets.

I’m a banker (sort of), but I’m really a biker. Experiencing life on a motorcycle literally saved me. Being in the movie instead of watching it on the screen changed my life and my perception of things forever.

Marriage, for those who choose it, is the ultimate human commitment that we are the least prepared to handle. It’s the hardest and best thing most of us will ever do in our lives.

I’d rather explore the world around me by getting lost than following a flight plan.

Class of 1975

Joe Lipinski
Musician, Retired Educator, Springboro, Ohio

The effects on the human body of laughter versus stress are bio-chemical opposites. Pick a time to be your laugh-time and use it at least daily. Allow laughter to be your great sustainer.

Joe Lipinski ’75Collectively, humans can do great things. Sometimes the collectively great things are truly great; sometimes the collectively great things are horrible. Many times in your individual life you may have to choose which side you are on. Question everything.

In life, opportunity knocks often; the more you choose to answer the knock the more knocks you will hear — and vice versa.

Take positive risks; welcome failure as a tutor and motivator. Try again. Be a lifelong learner. Educate yourself and others.

I have learned that some people are nurturers and helpers, and some aren’t. Occasionally, taking can be a form of giving. Be responsible for yourself, and — as much as practical — for the effects of your actions.

Financially, I have always enjoyed living below my means. There’s a deeper core to existence that transcends material wealth.

In the mom-and-dad-told-me category, accept hospitality but strive to leave the host’s place better than you found it. The ecologists’ slogan is, “Take a hike and leave only footprints.” Go a step beyond. Let your good flourish. Pack out more trash than you brought in. Strive to make the world a better place.

Class of 1974

Mary Anne Sharkey Dirck
Writer, Public Affairs Consultant, Vermillion Township, Ohio

Humor is what you need to stay sane.

Mary Anne Sharkey Dirck ’74I am a news junkie; I subscribe to five newspapers. You have to pay for reporters and editors to keep citizens informed and politicians and government officials honest. Corruption costs us a lot more than paying to read newspapers in print or online.

Do what you love. You should seek employment in a field where you are happy to get dressed and go to work. I realize not everyone can have that in life but that is what you should strive for when you decide on a course of study, take an internship and send out résumés.

Home is where you hang your jacket, pet your dog, snuggle with your cat and invite people over for a cookout.

My most prized possessions are family albums that include five generations: my grandfather, the first dean of UD’s law school, and four generations of UD graduates right up to my grandnephew, Bryan Sharkey, who is currently enrolled. I have news clippings, graduation programs and items that could never be replaced.

Failure is what happens when you stop trying.

No one will think more of you than you do of yourself.

Class of 1973

Ann DeStefano Sutherland
Video producer, Washington, D.C.

By listening to and observing people around you, you can learn a great deal about what is going to be expected of you.

Ann Ssutherland ’73The media business is constantly evolving. The core of what we do is the same in that you tell a story the same way; however, the tools that we use now are very different than they were 40 years ago.

Every experience you have in life is a learning experience. One of my greatest challenges has been managing a business. It was important for me to learn this lesson: You might be good at what you do; you’re not necessarily good at managing a business doing it.

I tell students all the time: You’re going to have to write. It is the core of everything you do. The digital tools you use are the sexy part of the job, but they won’t make up for a poorly written script.

Experiential education is even more important now than it was when I graduated. Potential employers want to see what you’ve done and what kind of worker you are. The experience you gain from an internship or part-time job is more valuable than you could ever imagine.  


Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH
International Religious Educator, Dayton

As director of UD’s Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, I’ve learned that people can animate a prophetic engagement with their faith and local community — if they firmly believe they are the people of God.

Angela Ann Zukowski ’73Embrace a vision. Inspire, mentor and organize with synergy, passion and enthusiasm.

In a ministry with Native Americans, I learned how deeply we are all connected to the environment, to nature, to one another, to the transcendent.

I have come to appreciate and love history; I’m the archivist for my religious community. There is a richness in passing on our legacy. Tell stories or keep a journal. But do write it down.

Social media brings people together, yet pulls them apart. It has created a lot of problems for young people. They can’t talk to each other; they can’t read social cues. Some have never read a book other than an assigned text.

The Mystical Body of Christ means we are all connected.

People have a lot of suffering in their lives. Some seem to have everything, the perfect job, a wonderful family. But once we get to know them, we see how fragile life is.

Everyone has a spark of the divine. Respect it.

Class of 1972

Judy Schwindeman Connelie
Hospitality Entrepreneur, Topsham, Maine

I wake up each morning and thank God that I have another day, and I make the best of it. It’s so important to be satisfied with what you have.

Judy Connelie ’72We were so poor when we were first married that, if we had a dime left over at the end of the month, we’d buy an Almond Joy and each have a piece. That was our treat to each other. It was a struggle, but we always knew we were in it together.

My husband was career military; we moved 23 times in 21 years. We can live in any house because family is what makes it a home.

The best advice I ever received: “Be true to yourself.”

Success is being happy with your-self. If you enjoy what you’re doing — whether it’s a minimum wage job or a career — then you’re a success.

Meeting all of our guests at our bed and breakfast re-established in my mind that there are a lot of nice people in the world — a lot of good people of all faiths and all nationalities.

Parenting is something that, if you do a good job at it, you will work yourself out of a job.


Class of 1971

Nan McNamara
Retired Nurse and Pilot, Sun City Center, Florida

There’s a difference between “It was the ’70s” and “I’m in my 70s.” We used to say, “Oh, he’s cute.” Now it’s, “Oh, he drives at night.” Then, I walked with a wiggle; now, I walk with a waddle.

As a nurse, I know that laughter is good for the heart, the blood pressure, the lungs, so I do try to make people laugh.

I traveled a lot when I was younger, and if I could go back, I’d revisit Paris and Switzerland — for the butter.

I have learned that I have per-severance but not resilience. You do what you can do at the time and then move on.

One of my regrets is that I wasn’t more aware of the people around me and their good qualities. Try to look for the good qualities in every person.

You have to keep your spirits up in times of trouble and laugh.

My advice to today’s students is to get a job-oriented education and marry a handyman. I thought that because I had a college education I should look for a college-educated guy. Wrong. There is nothing sexier than having someone fix your broken toilet for free.

Class of 1970

Westina Matthews Shatteen
Author, Retreat Leader, Savannah, Georgia

One of my father’s favorite sayings was, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken. But who wants to be strong ALL the time?”

Westina Matthews Shateen ’70There comes a time when you may need to tell someone, “No one should run out of chances … but you can run out of chances with me. I wish you more chances, but not with me.”

Follow your passion … the money will follow.

Don’t let anyone else decide your future or try to define you. Your life is a continual “start-up.” It’s not the next chapter or the next act; it’s a new book or a new play.

The sound of laughter and giggles while receiving a big, sticky, wet kiss and hug with a whispered “I love you” from your grandchild will chase away any blues.

My mother taught me that you never know who will give you your last cup of water. Be nice to everybody.

Twenty-five years after I graduated from college, Alan Shatteen ’69 called me up out of the blue, and three years later, we were married. So, I always tell women, “If he calls, take the call.” And to the men, I say, “Call. Call.”  

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