SU Voice Alumni Blog

Reflections of a Graduate: Izzy Gardon, '16 It’s More than Donating: Being SU Alumni Means Creating a More Just and Humane World

Posted by Izzy Gardon on June 1, 2016 at 4:06 PM PDT

Whether you’re ready or not, it’s happening. In a few short days we’ll make the jump from student to alumni. Don’t fret –– we’re not making this jump alone. We’re making it with the Seattle University Alumni Association –– a network of over 77,000 alumni across the globe.

Despite what you might think, the Alumni Association isn't focused on asking for donations. The office, in fact, never asks for donations. Those asks come from various departments and offices throughout the university. They do important work that funded our education, but that's not what the Alumni Association is about.

The Alumni Association is about fostering community, establishing a network of Seattle University graduates across the globe and creating conversation about topics ranging from how to get your dream job to discerning how our degrees can create a more just and humane world.

That's what the Seattle University Alumni Association does. I'm excited to join it not as employee –– which I’ve been for the last two years –– but as an alumnus. I hope you’re excited too.

With that said, I can understand if you’re feeling uncertain. Like many of my classmates, I struggle with discerning what my role as an alumnus will be. What does it mean to have a degree from an institution that doesn’t always reflect my values and my identities?

Whether you’ve advocated for fossil fuel divestment, heard the rally-cry of Reignite the Mission, or occupied Casey with the MRC Student Coalition, there are many of us who love Seattle University so much that we have constantly sought to push the university to do better. As students, I like to think we did our part in creating a more inclusive, sustainable and loving institution. Indeed, we fight because we love.

Please bring that love, those ideas and your passion to the Alumni Association. I guarantee that there is space for you in this community.

When Seattle University first admitted women in the 1930s –– one of the first Catholic universities in the country to do so –– alumni were there. When students demonstrated against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, they weren’t alone –– alumni were there. When students invited Seattle’s homeless community to make Tent City on our tennis courts in 2004, they didn’t send the invitation by themselves –– alumni were there.

Class of 2016, where will you be after commencement? I hope you’ll be joining me as an active member of the Seattle University Alumni Association.

Izzy Gardon, ’16, is a political science major born and raised in Sacramento, CA. He currently works as the Senior Marketing and Communications Assistant within the Office of Alumni Engagement. Upon graduating he plans on moving back to Sacramento to work as an Executive Fellow at the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

Alumni Spotlight: Autumn Ray, '02

Posted by Miranda Benson on June 1, 2016 at 4:06 PM PDT

When most people picture America’s national parks, they think of sightseeing in Yellowstone, looking down onto the Grand Canyon or perhaps hiking in the Olympic Mountains. But Autumn Ray, ’02, sees things differently. When Autumn thinks of the national parks, she thinks of her goal to run in all 59 national parks by 2020.

Autumn’s mission began in February at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. After having trained for the chance to participate in the Olympics for years, she unfortunately missed her goal—and the cut—by fourteen minutes. Left with the realization that she would not be continuing to the Olympic Marathon, Autumn searched for a new focus—and that’s when the idea to run the national parks came to her.

“[They’re] one of my favorite places to run,” Autumn says, explaining her choice of the national parks. Less than six months after the beginning of her mission, Autumn has already completed runs in 23 of the 59 parks and plans to complete all 47 parks in the continental U.S. by the end of 2016. Both are ambitious goals, but as someone who grew up in the outdoors, it’s as much about passion as it is about ambition.

Autumn spent her childhood in Montana, where she was raised close to Glacier National Park. She says, “My roots are being outside.” After spending a childhood skiing in the Rocky Mountains, Autumn arrived at Seattle U prepared for rigorous academics and with plans to continue her athletic nature. While she says she regrets not getting involved in SU’s competitive athletics, Autumn was glad to be outside often when she was a student. Running down Cherry Street through the Central District and Madrona allowed Autumn to develop a love for running, and she claims that running back up the hill to campus is “the reason I can trail run.”

Now living in Arizona, Autumn is an emergency medical physician. Through her work, Autumn sees risk-takers like herself every day—but she acknowledge there’s a difference between the “stupid risks” she often sees patients having taken and the calculated risks that are part of her goal. “[At my job,] I see humanity at its worst,” she explains. But this doesn’t make her fearful. “I’m going to take advantage of my health. I’m going to pursue my greatest joy. [I want to] maximize the way I’ve lived and make the most of my life.”

While most national park visitors like to camp in the park, Autumn decided her journey would be different. After a particularly rainy camping experience near Mount Baker as a Seattle U freshman, Autumn swore off camping for life. Instead, she treks across the country in her car, towing a small teardrop camper with a bed, small kitchen and minimal other facilities. Other park visitors and friends that help Autumn along the way like to take pictures with her camper, which Autumn features as her “road crew” on her blog.

Once Autumn finally reaches each park, she can’t wait to start running. Each trail is carefully selected to be rigorous, devoid of crowds and full of jaw-dropping scenery. Autumn loves viewing the hidden gems of the parks, saying “it becomes addicting to collect them.” While she certainly has favorites (Zion, Grand Canyon and Glacier), even the less traditional parks, like Big Bend (Texas), Congaree (South Carolina) and Hot Springs (Arkansas) are full of beautiful surprises. Autumn explains, “Each [park] is completely different…They preserve not just what’s scenic, but what’s historic, what’s unique.”

Autumn is now on the second leg of her national park journey, and during May and June, she’ll visit all the national parks in North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and her home state, Montana—almost a dozen parks over eight short weeks. Particularly exciting are Autumn’s visits to Grand Teton—which she says she’s looking forward to the most—and Mount Rainier—a mountain she’ll always recognize from her time at S.U., but that she’s never before visited.

Looking back on the parks she’s already visited, Autumn reflects, “It’s been fulfilling and it’s been getting me outside again…I’d lose my mind if I wasn’t running.”

You can follow Autumn’s journey on her blog, Notes from a teardrop.

“The Last Salmon”

Posted by The College of Arts and Sciences on May 4, 2016 at 11:05 PM PDT


“The Last Salmon,” written and directed by Theatre Professor Ki Gottberg, is a family friendly event that has its Seattle premiere on June 18 in the Lee Center for the Arts. The musical, based on a children’s book by Seattle author Phil Davis, tells the story of a gang of salmon, Buck, Spring and pals, who travel from their home in the river to the ocean and back again. The play is designed for children and the people who love them (ages 3 and up) and features seven singers and musicians who tell the story.

“The book and performance honor the abundance of the earth, pointedly enacting how native peoples protect and nourish this precious resource so tied to their livelihood,” Gottberg said. “It’s more a music event than a theater event, and adults will enjoy it as much as the kids.”

Award-winning composer Casey James wrote the music for the play, using various popular forms including hip-hop, rap, and indie-pop. James has written more than 100 songs recorded by major artists including Elton John, the Spinners, Lou Rawls, the Temptations, Johnny Mathis, and Jennifer Lopez.

Learn more and get event details here.

Become a Contemplative Leader in Action

Posted by Magis: Alumni Living the Mission on May 4, 2016 at 11:05 PM PDT

Are you an emerging leader striving to integrate faith into your personal and professional life? If you are an alum between 25-39 who is interested in engaging and developing your leadership skills and spiritual life within an intentional community, Magis has the perfect opportunity for you!

Magis is currently recruiting for its Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA) Ignatian Leadership Program, a meaningful two-year cohort experience which integrates leadership development and spiritual formation. Cohort members meet monthly with a focus on growth in self-awareness, faith, leadership and professional skills, all while being part of a supportive community. The cohort will consist of approximately 24 members from diverse professional, cultural/ethnic, and faith backgrounds. 

Current CLA3 participant Zandy Harlin sees CLA as a natural way to build on her other formative experiences at Seattle University. As a student in the College of Nursing, Zandy developed a love for community health nursing, while also deepening her emotional and spiritual engagement through Campus Ministry and other leadership opportunities. During this time Zandy’s understanding and commitment to social justice began, and eventually led her to complete a transformative year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

As an alum, Zandy has found that “SU continues to support me on my personal and professional journey. I have had such a wonderful experience over the last two years learning and growing with my Contemplative Leaders in Action cohort. It is excellent to have the curriculum, space, and community to develop while I continue on my career path.” Through Zandy’s involvement in Magis, she has discerned a fulfilling direction in her career with a local non-profit healthcare provider, where she works to improve the health of its members as a nursing professional.

Applications for the 2016-2018 CLA cohort are currently available online and are due Friday, May 20, 2016. Visit the CLA website for an application and details regarding the application process.

If you know an alum you think would make a great candidate for CLA, please email Anne-Marie Witcher with the following: name, contact info, and two to three sentences telling us why your nominee would be a great fit for the program.

Contact Bob Stephan, S.J., Chaplain for Ignatian Leadership, with any questions about CLA. 

 To learn more about Magis and our ministry to alumni, please visit us online.

Alumni Spotlight: Danielle Mar, '10, '12, and Damian Peterson, '09

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on May 4, 2016 at 10:05 PM PDT

Hundreds of graduates pack the building. An excited hum fills the air as families and friends embrace. This is a celebration – but it’s not graduation, it’s Commencement Brunch.

Each year the Seattle University Alumni Association welcomes its newest members at this celebratory event that draws over 800 students and family members. Commencement Brunch takes a more fun and less formal approach to graduation and is hosted by two outstanding young alumni emcees. The emcees share their own experiences of adjusting to life after college and try to help quell some of the pre-commencement nerves.

This year our emcees are Danielle Mar, ’10, ’12, and Damian Peterson, ’09.  Danielle is a double alumna with a Masters in Professional Accounting and Damian Peterson is a drama graduate with a career in development.

We sat down with Danielle and Damian to talk about how their time at Seattle University shaped them and why they are excited to welcome the Class of 2016 to the alumni community.

Danielle Mar, ‘10, ‘12

Danielle was involved in undergraduate life during her time at Seattle U. She worked for Housing and Residence Life as a Resident Assistant, cheered on the Redhawks as a member of the Dance and then Cheer team, and counseled new freshman in the Albers School of Business and Economics as a New Student Mentor.

“As a New Student Mentor, I helped guide freshman through their first year at Seattle U as well as  helped plan social and networking events for them. “I remembered how overwhelming my first few months at Seattle U were, so I just really wanted to help my mentees figure out what they wanted out of the experience and then help put them on the best path toward that goal.” 

So much of her undergraduate studies were memorable for Danielle. Chief among her favorite memories was working as a resident assistant her senior year. “It was definitely challenging being a resident assistant for other students my own age. While you’d like everyone to think of you as their big sister, they tend instead to think of you as their mother. But in the end I made a lot of great memories and life-long friends.”

During her junior year at Seattle University, Danielle was inspired by the Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI) and started volunteering with children in Maple Valley. She started her volunteer work as a music and dance teacher and has, eight years later, expanded the program from dance lessons once a week during the summer to weekly lessons year round and three productions a year. “I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that could afford music, dance, and voice lessons and so I think the arts are really valuable. I work with a lot of children who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this training if not for our program.” She also works as a camp counselor at Lakeside Bible Camp each summer.

Danielle is now a CPA and works as a Business Assurance Senior at Moss Adams LLP. But despite her busy schedule, she’s found ways to stay connected to Seattle University. She has returned to attend the “Freshman to Professional Networking Event” for freshman business students, served as an expert at the Seattle University Alumni Association’s Insider’s Guide to Getting Ahead, and given presentations on the basics of personal finances for RA trainings.

“I loved the years I spent at SU and am a strong proponent of Seattle University, the education I received, and the school’s values. I learned a lot, both inside and outside the classroom, and wouldn’t be as successful as I am without those lessons!”

Damian Peterson, ‘09

As a drama student at Seattle University, Damian feels his classes and the works they studied helped him to grow as a person, embodying Seattle University’s mission of formation and educating the whole person.  

“I was lucky enough to be in a drama program. I was surrounded by talented peers and challenged by invested professors, I was able to act in a myriad of plays, often times with working professionals, all the while working in the Lee Center for the Arts in every facet of production.”

Damian is currently the Bill and Mimi Gates Advancement Intern at the University of Washington. His role gives him the opportunity to get hands on experience with fundraising professionals.

Damian attributes his experience at Seattle University and its emphasis on discernment and self-reflection with helping him discover this new career path.  

“SU shapes it’s alumni in a very unique way. The seeds sown during school don’t always bloom in the way you expect. For me, my yearning to make an impact in higher education and get reengaged with Seattle University came after both a career in acting and time spent reflecting on what new direction I wanted to travel. Those years spent exploring, trying and even failing are integral to cultivating fertile soil. SU encourages you to take the road less travelled, which will inevitably lead you where you need to go.”

Damian has stayed connected to his alma mater as an active member of Seattle University’s Young Alumni Chapter, serving on its board.  Through its events and programming Damian has been able to connect with staff, faculty, students and alumni from all backgrounds.

“SU should be seen by alumni as a support system. It needs you and you need it. SU can be a big resource. Use it. Alumni chapters like the SU Bridge, Women of SU or the Filipino Alumni Chapter are perfect examples of ways to get involved and also gain valuable experience,” Damian said.

Both of our emcees are excited to be the face of the alumni community welcoming the next generation of Redhawks.

“I want to let the Class of 2016 know that in the end it’s all worth it,” Danielle said. She plans to inject humor about life after college and the struggles young graduates face into her role as emcee.

Damian shared that, Commencement is an exciting time and he looks forward to celebrating it with oue graduating students.“ These kids are going to be chock-full of hope, anxiety, freedom and the unknown. I am excited for them.”


Commencement Brunch Video
Share your words of welcome for the Class of 2016 in a brief video message and email it to to be included in our Commencement Brunch video welcome. See last year’s video to get some ideas.


Commencement Brunch Volunteers
Want to help Danielle and Damian welcome the Class of 2016 to the SU Alumni Association? We are looking for Commencement Brunch volunteers to sit at tables and serve as a friendly face welcoming our graduates and their families. Email to learn more and volunteer.

Commencement Brunch
8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Seattle Sheraton Hotel


Introducing the New Alumni Travel Program!

Posted by Miranda Benson, '16 on April 6, 2016 at 4:04 PM PDT

The Seattle University Alumni Association is proud to announce the new Seattle University Alumni Travel program. SUAA’s new travel program kicks off with Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Class & Italian Dolomites Expedition, Reflections of Italy, Peru: Ancient Land of Mysteries and Washington: Four Rivers of Wine and History.

Our travel program aims to awaken the explorer in you whether you want to explore Washington wineries or Machu Picchu.

To find the perfect trip for you and your family, check out our website and attend one of our information sessions (available in-person and via online webinar) this spring.



Travel with us


Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Class & Italian Dolomites Expedition
When: September 3-10, 2016
Details: Facilitated by Albers faculty, Bill Weiss and Hartley McGrath, learn the skills to communicate effectively to engage, inspire and support others.
Highlights: Ascent to the Seiser Alm region via gondola, overnight stay at Tierser-Alpl-Hutte, hiking over to the legendary Schlernhaus

Reflections of Italy Presentation
Monday, May 23 | 6:30 p.m.
Seattle University | Admissions and Alumni Building

Reflections of Italy Webinar
Wednesday, June 29 | 5 p.m.
Registration details TBD

Peru: Ancient Land of Mysteries
Late June, 2017 (exact dates TBD)
Stops: Lima, Cuzco, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Puno, Uros Floating Islands, Las Chullpas de Sillustani, Lake Titicaca
The Peru: Ancient Land of Mysteries adventure lets you explore a world unlike any other. Immerse yourself in the ruins of the ancient Incans, view the expanses of South America from the top of Machu Picchu, and see how modern and ancient traditions co-exist in mystery-filled Peru.

Peru: Ancient Land of Mysteries Presentation
Tuesday, August 23 | 6:30 p.m.
Seattle University | Admissions and Alumni Building

Washington: Four Rivers of Wine and History
October 14, 2017 – October 21, 2017
Rivers: Columbia, Snake, Willamette, Palouse
Seattle U alumni know that Washington is home to some of the world’s most beautiful rivers, valleys, and mountains. What better way to see those beauties than with a glass of wine in hand on a river cruise? You’ll get a taste—quite literally—of Washington’s world-famous vineyards and a look at the natural beauties that make beautiful Washington a world-famous destination.

You can learn more and register for our alumni tours on our website.

3rd Annual EcoChallenge

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on April 6, 2016 at 4:04 PM PDT

Celebrate April, Earth Month, by participating in the EcoChallenge April 11-29. Have fun, care for the planet, and win great prizes! You can participate individually or as a team.

The EcoChallenge is a fun 3-week event encouraging participants to raise awareness and make small lifestyle changes to care for the planet and our communities. For three weeks, you’ll challenge yourself to learn, act, advocate for, and share information about each week's theme: FOOD and WASTE (week 1); ENERGY and BUILDINGS (week 2); SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY (week 3). Don’t worry, we will provide lots of ideas for activities. Gift cards to local businesses will be awarded to the winner of each week!

Sign up here! Registration is open until Monday, April 11. You can sign up individually or as a team of up to 3 people made up of any combination of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. More info about the EcoChallenge can be found here. Sponsored by the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability.


10 Signs You're a 2006 SU Graduate

Posted by The 2006 Reunion Committee on April 6, 2016 at 3:04 PM PDT

In honor of our 10th Reunion the 2006 Reunion Committee put together this list of top 10 memories to get you ready for Reunion Weekend.  


1. You loved watching Fr. Rog Dance to Men in Black at orientation.


2. Your favorite sandwich artist was Rick the Sandwich Guy!


3. You were there when the Night Hawk got its start.


4. You remember that the SU Men's Soccer Team went undefeated.

5. You were there when The Presidents of the United States played at Quadstock.


6. You remember sledding down Cherry on trays and street signs.

7. You remember when the Bistro used to have bubble tea.
the Bistro

8. You used to count the shrimp in your shrimp pasta to make sure Bon Appétit wasn't cutting it fast and loose with the numbers.

Shrimp Pasta

9. You remember the awesome poster from "New Kids On The Hawk" at the first home soccer game of freshman year!!

10 You remember getting free passes from incognito MTV staffers on campus to see Michelle Branch, Missy Elliott, and Dave Matthews in concert at the EMP.

We hope to see you at our reunion on April 30th. Make sure you've got your tickets so you don't miss out on the fun! There's a full weekend of events taking place on campus during Reunion Weekend, including four reunions. Check out the complete weekend schedule for more info! 

Have pictures from your time at Seattle U? Send them to us to be a part of the reunion slideshow. 

Class of 2006 10th Reunion Dinner and Celebration

7:00-10:00 p.m.
Seattle University | The LeRoux Room - Student Center 160

Class of 2006 After Party

10:00 p.m.
Sam's Tavern

The Reforms of Pope Francis: Can They Last?

Posted by Fr. Patrick Howell, S.J. on April 6, 2016 at 10:04 AM PDT

Fr. Howell

March 13 marked the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis—not only an Argentine, but also the first Jesuit ever elected pope. Several times I have been asked, “Can the reforms he has begun continue beyond his time as pope?” Here’s my take.

When the 114 cardinals elected him, they knew that three major reforms needed to occur: 1) the response to the sexual abuse crisis, 2) the reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, and 3) the reform of the scandalous Vatican Bank. Pope Francis has made a strong start on all three. But the cardinals got a whole lot more than they bargained on.

The key is that Francis has changed the culture. He has changed the very way that we think about the Catholic faith, so his reforms will continue long after he’s gone. Let me count the way!

1. He urges a decentralization of the Curia. He has repeatedly said, “Too many issues come to Rome for decisions?” He encourages disagreements and doubts. “Having all the opinions is the only way to do a genuine discernment.”

2. He excoriates the trappings and egos of clergy and hierarchs who lord it over others. From the beginning he has said that the Church is too narcissistic, too self-centered. In a telling image he said, “Christ is knocking on the door of the Church. But he’s knocking from the inside, trying to get out.” The Church needs to be a “field hospital.” It needs to go out to where the people are wounded and hurting.

3. He invites the poor and the homeless to breakfast with him. On Holy Thursday he washed and kissed the feet of Muslims, Hindus, Protestant and Catholics. “God’s mercy is never exhausted,” he says. He has inaugurated a Year of Mercy, and he himself embodies that reality.

Because of the change of atmosphere, because of the shift in church vision, it will be nearly impossible to revert to the defensive, whistle blowing Church which characterized so many of the previous years.

Fr. Patrick Howell, S.J., former dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, is currently the Distinguished Professor in the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.


St. Patrick and Ireland's History

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on March 2, 2016 at 9:03 AM PST

Consistently rated as one of the most popular saints of the Catholic Church, St. Patrick (387 – 461 CE) is also one of the few whose saint’s day is treated in some places (most notably the U. S. and Ireland) as a national holiday, regardless of one’s religious or ethnic identity.  What other saint could inspire the journeyman plumbers of Chicago to turn the Chicago River an emerald green every year?  A variety of details of St. Patrick’s legendary life are known by many:  that he spent much of his youth as a slave in Ireland before he escaped back to England, that he used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity, that he supposedly drove all the snakes from Ireland, and that he converted the entire island to Christianity in 40 years.

But in all the stories about St. Patrick, what stands out is his humility and receptivity toward all he met.  Unafraid of death or martyrdom, he seems to have had no trouble welcoming even those most hostile to him.  One of my favorite collections of stories about Patrick is Acallam na Senórach (Tales of the Elders of Ireland), in which Patrick befriends the most unlikely of people:  the warrior Caílte, one of the last of the Fíanna, the warrior band led by the famous mythic hero Finn mac Cumaill.  The tales read like a collision between Greek myths and saints lives.  It is hard to imagine two more different people.  Yet somehow the physically gigantic Caílte (St. Patrick comes up to this waist) and the more diminutive St. Patrick hit it off.  They become friends; the warrior converts to Christianity; and the two continue their adventures throughout Ireland.  

Throughout their journeys, Caílte tells stories of Finn and his heroic adventures, stories of magic and the marvelous straight out of another age.  Rather than dismiss these, though, St. Patrick encourages them.  Two angels told him that he must do all he can to preserve the stories of Ireland’s past.  He approaches his task with relish.

We learn something important here from St. Patrick:  that the past is important and worth saving.  Indeed, The Tales of the Elders of Ireland reminds us of the deep layers of Irish history.  As Seamus Heaney once said of the Irish landscape, every acre seems camped on before.  The layers are readily discernible today.

This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls close to a particularly resonant date in Irish history.  2016 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising, an event as important for the Irish as the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, is for an American.  On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, an armed group of militia stormed several British strongholds in Dublin in an effort to inspire a nationwide rebellion against more than four centuries of British occupation.  After several days, the uprising failed.  But the well-publicized executions of the leaders in the immediate aftermath created a public backlash that eventually resulted in revolution and Irish independence.  

Every summer for the past 12 years, former Washington State Poet Laureate Sam Green and I have led student groups in Ireland, where students see firsthand Irish literature and history and where they learn to try their own hands at writing poems and stories.  Everywhere the past can be seen in the present.  You can still see the bullet holes in the columns of the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, the epicenter of the Easter Rising rebels.  And you can still see in Celtic crosses the distinctively Irish approach to Christianity that St. Patrick cultivated centuries ago.  

The Irish are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people you are likely to meet.  If you haven’t been to Ireland, you should think about going.  You won’t regret it.

To learn more about the Easter Rising, visit  

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sean H. McDowell,
Director, University Honors
Associate Professor, English