In 1944, Dr. Paul A. Volpe began his career at Seattle College as a professor in the Department of Commerce and Finance, but little did he know he was also beginning a family legacy spanning three generations. In 1947, Dr. Volpe went on to become the first Dean of the business school, bringing the number of schools at Seattle College to five. The college would go on to be renamed Seattle University in 1948.
Dean Volpe was dedicated to the Jesuit values of the university, evident in his promotion of his college and his efforts to improve the student experience, saying that “to educate men and women in character, intellect and professional capacity is the goal of the School of Commerce of Seattle University.” In 1948, Dean Volpe instituted night classes to better fit the needs of working students.
In 1965, Dr. Volpe resigned as Dean of the School of Commerce, in order to serve on the President’s Advisory Council. Dr. Volpe was the first non-Jesuit in Seattle University history to be appointed to the President’s Council. Despite his resignation, Dr. Volpe continued to teach business management courses until his death in 1968.
Dr. Volpe’s pride and belief in Seattle U's mission was shared with his wife Marie, and was passed on to his seven children, Paul Vincent, Tessie, Ginny, Mark, Peter, Marian and Esther, who all went on to attend Seattle University, as would six of his grandchildren. In 1999 his grandson, Paul A. Volpe II, earned the “Paul A. Volpe Award,” for the highest academic excellence in the Albers School of Business and Economics.
Paul and Marie Volpe with their 7 children.
As a freshman attending a Seattle University orientation dance, Dr. Volpe’s youngest daughter, Esther, met Tom Drouin, a fellow legacy student and her future husband. The couple was married by Fr. Axer, S.J., a Seattle U professor and close family friend.
As Esther and Tom built their own family, they instilled in their children those Jesuit values that were a cornerstone of their education and that Dr. Volpe had believed in so strongly – intellectual and academic excellence, social justice and Catholic faith.
Joseph, the Drouin’s oldest, graduated from Georgetown, and completed the TESOL program at Seattle University, preparing him for his current role as a teacher in South Korea.
Their daughter, Rachael Drouin, is currently a senior in Seattle University’s nursing program.
“Our family legacy played a role in our children, nieces and nephews planning to attend Seattle University; that and pride in keeping their grandfather’s name alive,” Esther said.
In 2010 the family attended a re-dedication ceremony for the Volpe Room in the Albers School of Business and Economics.
“Seattle University has been good to my family.” Esther shared that when her mother died in 2004, Fr. Sundborg, Fr. Sullivan and Fr. Reichman officiated her service. “We have always felt welcomed by the university.”
When speaking to the importance of legacy families, Esther said, “People often think of legacy families as important for their donations they make to a university, but I see their importance as having pride in the university and keeping their family at the school. I’ve noticed the Jesuit values and the global world view very present in Seattle University alumni and students as they graduate. I’ve read about their impact in the community, for example the Seattle Nativity School. They’re carrying out those Jesuit values of social justice and epitomizing a Jesuit education."
As Rachael Drouin prepares to graduate from Seattle University, she has already demonstrated her commitment to these values, from volunteering in New Orleans on a mobile medical unit to caring for over 500 children at a clinic in South Africa.
“My Grandmother Marie believed in the ideals and mission of this university to the day she died; after my grandfather’s passing, she continued to carry on his legacy and instill the Jesuit tradition in her children and grandchildren. Legacy is not something we choose for ourselves, but rather something that is bestowed upon us from our ancestors,” Rachael said.
The Volpe family embodies what Seattle University is all about - social justice, academic excellence and tradition. Twenty-nine year old Paul Volpe had no way of knowing when he took a job at Seattle College what a lasting legacy he was creating for his family and the university, but it is one we are sure would make him proud.