Recently, Seattle University Magazine sat down with three alumni representing three distinctive period in SU history—pre-1970, 1971-99 and 2000-present to get their take on what it means to be an alum of Seattle University and share how their experiences here helped shape who they are today.
Michael Alcantara, ‘09
Majors: Humanities/Fine Arts: Digital Design
SU Service: Active with SEAC (Student Events & Activities Council); sings with Chapel choir; helped start Mad Grad Crew (networking, support of athletic events)
Michael Alcantara’s first introduction to Seattle University was by way of a visit to campus when he applied for the Sullivan Leaders scholarship.
A native of the region and graduate of Seattle Prep, Alcantara was urged by his father to apply to SU. When he arrived on campus a second time—as an admitted student—he knew he made the right choice. Although a commuter student, Alcantara immersed himself in campus life from the outset: building community with others students who lived in the residence halls, attending lots of events and supporting athletics. With his warm, infectious smile and easygoing nature, making friends and making the most out of his time on campus enriched his college experience.
Alcantara is proof that an SU alum is an alum for life. Although he graduated from the university a few years back, he continues to be active with his alma mater, showing up for many events on and off campus. On Sunday nights, he can be found singing with the choir at Mass at the Chapel of St. Ignatius.
From SU he gained a top-notch education and a greater awareness of his own capabilities. He believes an SU education prepares leaders and helps bring out one's strengths. He encourages others to engage with the university or reconnect through the service opportunities available to not only students but also alumni. Seemingly small measures can make a significant difference in the lives of others, he says.
“A Seattle University education puts you in a place where you can make a difference by utilizing the gifts you have," he says.
With the support of other alumni he helped start the Mad Grad Crew, who are front and center at SU’s basketball games at KeyArena at Seattle Center, wearing proudly their red and Redhawk pride.
"Athletics is something people can rally around and for me it was a great way to meet people," says Alcantara, who has been attending SU games for as long as he can remember.
Even when he's not able to be on campus Alcantara stays up on the latest news and happenings through SU's active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.
Today a graphic designer for the Puget Sound Business Journal, Alcantara says his SU education equipped him with the skills and confidence to be a free thinker, to open his mind to divergent viewpoints and boundless possibilities. It is an education that sticks.
“A Seattle U education challenges you. My Humanities education gave me the ability to see different sides of an argument,” he says. “That it’s not just black and white.”
Sue Parisien, ’87
SU Service: Active with ASSU as an undergrad; Resident Assistant frosh-senior years
Coming from a large public high school in Brooklyn, NY, swelling some 6,000 students, Sue Parisien was looking for something entirely different when it came time to choose to a college.
The East Coaster set her sight on Seattle, a city she first visited at age 14. Two years later, she would return as a freshmen—at age 16—to attend Seattle University.
“I knew that because I was young, a large university would just swallow me up,” says Parisien. “I wanted something more personalized and intimate. I loved the small classes. Seattle University gave me opportunities I would never have had at a large school.”
Originally, she had her sights set on becoming a counselor. But her calling for the law proved too strong and after graduation she headed back east to attend law school at Villanova University. She practiced law for several years before coming back to Seattle, where she was an Assistant Attorney General.
The importance of giving back was instilled in Parisien in deep and profound ways while at SU—a tradition that continues today as she cooks and serves meals to homeless teens at area churches as a volunteer with the TeenFeed program. (As a student Parisien spent time volunteering at St. James Cathedral.)
The mother of two is a diehard “crazy Redhawks” fan, who rarely misses a basketball game. “I am always proud to say I am a graduate of Seattle University.”
One of her most positive experiences at SU was as a Resident Assistant, which she enjoyed because of the connections and friendships made and the sense of community and closeness. During her first year she was a work study student in the psychology department.
"I've always appreciated the focus on community here and to be part of this community," Parisien says.
Jim Dykeman, ’61
SU Service: Former Board of Regents member; President’s Club; Fine Arts Advisory Board member
Jim Dykeman seemed destined to attend Seattle University.
Like his brother, he went to Seattle Prep (before transferring to Garfield High School) and his father was a good friend of SU’s Father McGoldrick. The work and values of the Jesuits resonated with him. (His brother is a law professor at a Jesuit school.)
Fresh in his memory is the day when he came to SU, seeking admission, and found himself seated in the office of President Father Lemieux, his knees shaking. The meeting proved successful as he was accepted.
Years later he would find himself in that same office to interview a Jesuit seeking the presidency: Stephen Sundborg, S.J. Following graduation, he served in the military—for a time he was based at Fort Lewis—and got married to his wife of now 52 years, Geri. After years back East he and Geri, with three kids in tow, returned to the Seattle area to start his post-military career.
One day he came across an event at SU, featuring the late Perry Lorenzo and operatic music, and made his way back to campus. That was more than 20 years ago and he’s been engaged with SU ever since.
“If you can get alumni to campus, they’ll stick around.”
Like many SU alumni, the social justice and service component stuck with Dykeman, who has been involved with various international projects to bring safe drinking water to areas in need. He has been involved with Professor Phil Thompson's work through SU's chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Dykeman is also interested in seeing how he can be a part of SU's work with the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood through the Youth Initiative.
"Seattle U has become an active part of my life," he says. "I love being on this campus."