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Passion to serve

Passion to serve

Cynthia Currell ’80 January 26, 2021

In my first year at UD, I became friends with Andrea McColgan ’80, who lived across the hall in Marycrest. One day we saw a sign-up sheet for the Appalachia Club. We agreed to go to a meeting, and it was the best decision I could have made. I’m still friends with almost everyone I met, and I credit my career working with children and families to my experience with the Appalachia Club. I came to UD as a political science major because I planned to go to law school. Because of the Appalachia Club, I added sociology. 

Illustration by Zachary GhaderiThe Appalachia Club had a Dayton program. Many of the families we served lived in South Park, which was then a lower-income neighborhood. Our efforts weren’t very formal — it was just club members driving the van to Oak Street Methodist Church and doing activities with kids. On weekends, a group of students from the Appalachia Club would drive to Salyersville, in Magoffin County, Kentucky, for home visits. While I didn’t participate in the Summer Appalachia Program, I went to Kentucky on weekends during the school year to maintain those relationships. 

Appalachia Club member Laura Urgo ’78 introduced me to the Peace Studies Institute, located in Zehler Hall. There I learned about Catholic Social Teaching, peace studies, racism, poverty and injustice — issues still relevant today. We students felt so full of possibilities that we could change the world. I learned much from sociology professor Stephen McNamee, Peace Studies adviser Brother Leo Murray, S.M., and political science professor Brother Richard Liebler, S.M.  

“We students felt so full of possibilities that we could change the world.”

After graduation I did a volunteer year with Southerners for Economic Justice in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Later, I went to law school at UD for a year and a half but left when I realized my calling was in community service. I earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Cincinnati and today am the manager of the department of social work at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Thanks to my UD experience, my career has included positions with the Marianist Volunteers, Montgomery County (Ohio) Children Services, UD’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community and more. The work has been meaningful, and the UD relationships have allowed me to sustain my career with passion and energy.  

I have so many memories of UD. I married my husband, Edward Finn ’83, in the UD chapel, and two of our three children, Caitlin and Grace, and my son-in-law, Christopher Thunander, are UD graduates. My husband and I often visit campus and attend Mass. UD is much bigger now, but I remember it as a place that gave ordinary kids a chance to grow up and be self-directed. We learned from each other. It was a great time.

Beating the odds