Kate Purcell M'80
Which part of your liberal arts education at SMC has been the most valuable to you?
My goal in attending SMC as a graduate student was to attain my MS in Counseling Psychology. I did not have the traditional liberal arts education so prized at SMC.
Believe it or not, 43 years ago what made the experience rich was the diversity of grad students that were in my cohort. Interviewing Techniques was one of the most important courses I took. It has helped me immeasurably working in my various career positions. Selling engineering software was my true passion and career. Working for start-ups to multi-nationals as a sales rep for national accounts and as a director. In each of these positions, the ability to ask open-ended questions, listen to what was said (and at times, what was not said was equally important) came because of my interviewing techniques class.
Was there a particular lecture, course, book, professor, staff member or extracurricular activity that made an indelible impact on your career path or life, or shaped who you are now?
St. Mike’s Fire and Rescue made a huge impact on me. I was one of the first women to make senior status as a Firefighter. The ‘One Firefighter Drill’ was most impactful on me. The idea was that if you were the only person to answer the alarm (which never happened), you were able to drive the truck, rig the hoses and put out the fire, or at least contain it until help arrived. There is a certain adrenaline rush to driving an American LaFrance Fire Truck with two tons of water swishing in the back with sirens and horns blaring! The metaphor of this drill is that as critical as it is to ask and receive help, it is also critical to know we have the skills to sustain, work on getting the job done and do as much as one can until help arrives. This is as true in fighting fires as it is in dealing with life’s difficult circumstances.
After putting out one house fire, we were turning the truck around on a cul-de-sac. I was riding on the back step, hanging onto a strap, which was also a good time but now not allowed. As we turned, a little girl on her bike in a driveway looked at me and said “Hey, you’re a girl!” I replied: “Yes I am, and you can grow up to be a firefighter or anything else you want to be.” I still hold that event in my heart; it’s a reflection of how every day, whether we know it, we are role models.
Mike Samara was Dean of Students at that time (and for many years after). He was a calming influence on campus and did a great job working with the students and staff. I was a Resident Director and an Interim Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Housing. Jennie Cernosia, Director of Student Activities/Associate Dean of Students, was also critical in teaching me how to work with students and parents, using those listening and communications skills I was learning to fine-tune. Edmundites Father Tom and Father Mike were instrumental in both having fun and learning to give. They also taught through their actions that the return on giving was not material well-being, but more importantly emotional and spiritual well-being. Father Ray taught me the importance of recognizing and knowing names. He would memorize all the names and be able to identify students personally in the first days of school, a true gift!
Gratitude is the one word I can use to express my time at SMC. It was full of both negative and positive learning opportunities that have served me throughout my life. I was married at the Chapel; I love going to Mass there. It brings back the warmth and love of my wedding day, along with that of the SMC community near and far.