Mary Kaye Waldron

Award Winner


Student-selected Mary Kaye Waldron Award given to McNellis, S.J.

Published in the Thursday, May 1, 2008 Edition of By Matthew DeLuca Assistant News Editor

The Mary Kaye Waldron Award, given each year to a faculty member selected by members of the student body, was presented to Rev. Paul McNellis, S.J., at a banquet on Monday. Given by the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC), the Mary Kaye Waldron Award is selected entirely by students.

Alex Hirs, the director of faculty administration and student programs and A&S '10, said, "The Mary Kaye Waldron Award is really the only student-nominated award for faculty recognition." Hirs said that the selection committee received over 50 nominations, over half of which were for McNellis.

He said that the award is intended to recognize "any faculty member who goes above and beyond their job level and improves student life on campus."

The award was established to honor such faculty members, and is named after Mary Kaye Waldron, BC '95, who was involved in a variety of activities while she attended school here.

Waldron died of cancer in her senior year. Waldron's parents attended the ceremony, as they do every year. "The award started in 1996," Bonnie Waldron says, "a year after she died.

"UGBC was involved in an initiative to break down the barriers between students and faculty and they wanted to foster communication … UGBC has continued its commitment and that is such an honor for us as her parents."

The recipient of this award, McNellis, has lived a varied life. From 1968 to 1971 he served in the U.S. military in Vietnam.

"I worked with Vietnamese reconnaissance companies," McNellis said. "I got out of the Army in the spring of '71 … and ended up working for the AP." McNellis worked with the Associated Press before heading to Cambodia, where he worked to aid refugees. "I left Cambodia about a week before the Khmer Rouge came in," he said.

McNellis was drawn to the Jesuit order because, he said, "it was my discernment that that was what God was calling me to."

He said that people sometimes get the wrong sense of this sort of calling these days. "I think any decision about the direction of your life is an outgrowth of everything that has happened in your life up to that point," he said.

McNellis said that all of the paths his life has taken him on have been rooted in service. "I considered military service a service to the country and the work with refugees a service to refugees," he said.

After joining the Jesuit order he was assigned to the Gregorian University in Rome.

Of teaching, he says, "I enjoy it very much. I thank God ever day that he has made teaching part of my priesthood."

He said that he pushes students in his Perspectives classes, in the hope that they see some glimpse of their own potential. "I think the big advantage of a Perspectives course is that you get to see the same students all year," he said.

Colm Willis, A&S '08, spoke of his experience with McNellis as a professor. "The biggest impact I had with him was my freshman year. I came into college questioning a lot of things."

He said that he remembers entering class on the first day and being impressed with the sense of discipline that McNellis brought to the class environment.

"The first day of class I remember walking in and he said, 'These are the reasons not to take my class,'" Willis said.

He said that McNellis continued and said that the one reason to take this class is because the subject material will change your life.

Willis said that this is the passion McNellis always brought to teaching and education. "I went to my advisor and I also went to him, because I felt he really cared," Willis said.

Tim Moriarty, A&S '08, said that he plans on entering the seminary next year, in part due to the model of priesthood he saw both in class and out in his relationship with McNellis. "My time in that class was probably the most important class I took at BC, and my time with Father McNellis was probably the most important relationship I made at BC … He's the most selfless, giving teacher I've ever met. He just pours himself out for his students," he said.

McNellis said that he feels that his vocations as a priest and as an educator are one and the same. He said that his students experience him in two ways, as both a Jesuit priest and a professor.

"They know me as a priest, and I live here on campus … this is where I live. So there is more opportunity to see people," he said.

Of receiving the award, McNellis said, "It's very humbling. It's a great honor … UGBC did a wonderful job organizing the whole thing."

He said that it is especially an honor because it is a student-selected award. "I enjoy it, and I feel very, very fortunate," he said. McNellis said that teaching is a truly rewarding experience. He said that, of all the things he has done, teaching is undoubtedly the hardest. "There isn't anything I'd rather do, and nothing I've ever done before as important as this."

The Waldrons agree that all the recipients of the award named for their daughter share a common quality. "They all have humility," said Jim Waldon. "Humility is the common thread among the winners."

"That's the hallmark of each candidate," agreed Bonnie Waldon.

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