Villanova’s sweetheart: Miss Pennsylvania



Megan Hansler

Extravagant gowns and sequined costumes, fake smiles, rehearsed answers and glittery crowns. These are just a few of the perceptions that people have about pageants. However, there is a ‘Nova alumna who proves all of these perceptions wrong.  

Shannon Doyle graduated from Villanova in 2007 as a biology major and is currently pursuing a medical degree at Thomas Jefferson University. During her years at ‘Nova, she was a member of the dance company, involved with Greek life and served as a Eucharistic Minister at the 8 p.m. student mass. She is from Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and has three brothers. Growing up, Doyle always knew that she wanted to be a doctor.  Today, she is Miss Pennsylvania 2009. And in a few days, she could be Miss America 2010. 

Described by her friends as warm, genuine, humble, and hard-working, Doyle offers a fresh look at what it means to be a pageant queen and a member of the University community.  In performing her duties as Miss Pennsylvania, Doyle travels all over Pennsylvania raising money for charity, visiting schools, meeting people, and making special appearances. According to Doyle, her Villanova experience played a large part in preparing her for these responsibilities. 

 “I think one of the biggest things that sets [Villanova] apart is the sense of community and camaraderie,” she says. In her role as Miss Pennsylvania, Doyle is able to spread this sense of community and camaraderie beyond Villanova. Meeting many different Pennsylvanians has also given her the opportunity to further develop the interpersonal skills she gained at the University, she says. She believes these skills will make her a better doctor because “being able to relate to people and connect with them” goes beyond knowing the basic science. 

As she looks back now, Doyle says she recognizes the many benefits she has gained from participating in pageants, but initially her motivation for competing in pageants was to lessen the financial burden of paying for college through scholarships. The Miss America Organization gives out over $45 billion in scholarship money each year to women who compete in Miss America pageants. Doyle participated in her first pageant after her sophomore year at Villanova and although her friends were supportive, some were skeptical about pageants at first. However, after learning more about pageants, Doyle’s friend, Ryan Werner, admits, “Shannon has taught me that pageants aren’t about plastic smiles and forced answers.  In fact, they are about empowering and supporting the dreams of women across the nation.  They build confidence, develop values, and help form a strong foundation upon which to build a lifetime.” 

Another one of Doyle’s friends, Chris Botti, also changed his opinion on pageants after seeing Doyle’s experience. 

“I thought it was all fluff and pretty much a beauty contest, but it is more than that,” he says. “The people in the Miss America pageant truly want to make a difference in people’s lives.  They use the opportunity they have to help others.”

As Miss Pennsylvania, Doyle is making a difference in the lives of sick children. She raises money for children who are in hospitals so that hospitals can buy toys, books and games. She also visits schools and answers questions from the kids. These experiences have been very rewarding for Doyle since plans on becoming a pediatrician with her medical degree. 

Doyle’s continued dedication to improving the lives of sick children also shows how Villanova’s commitment to service is being reflected in Doyle’s choices as Miss Pennsylvania. 

“There is no doubt in my mind the Augustinian values Shannon received during her time at Villanova influenced her generous spirit and academic achievements,” says Doyle’s friend, Kelly Immordino in an e-mail. “She is not only brilliant, but has a true desire to help others, values which are no doubt contagious at Villanova.” 

Tina Lamsback, a friend of Doyle’s who graduated last spring, described Doyle as “a hard worker, a great student, friend and competitor.  She is a well-balanced and well-rounded individual. No matter what, she always makes it a point to follow her dreams.” And what is her dream? Miss America. So where is she going? Vegas.

In just a few days, Doyle will be standing on the Miss America stage in Las Vegas. A Miss Pennsylvania has not won Miss America since 1954. The past few weeks have been exciting and intense, filled with hours of preparation, she says: spending long hours at the gym, rehearsing tap dance (Doyle’s talent) and studying current events for the questions section of the competition. And all of this must be done while also fulfilling all of Miss Pennsylvania’s responsibilities and prior commitments. 

As Botti described it, “the amount of dedication it takes truly is super-human.”

The Miss America Pageant will air live at 8 p.m. on Saturday on TLC . Although you may not be able to go to Las Vegas with Doyle’s family and friends to cheer her on in person, that doesn’t mean that you can’t support your fellow wildcat. Not only can you watch the pageant on Saturday, but you can also influence who will win by watching TLC at 10 p.m. on Friday. At that time the channel will be featuring each of the 50 women who will be competing in the Miss America Pageant. The audience is then asked to vote for their favorites. Out of the 15 finalists in the Miss America pageant, 11 will be chosen by the judges and four will be chosen based on the audience vote. 

Many Villanovans will be standing behind Doyle as they would stand behind any Wildcat: with spirit and with pride. And in this case, maybe with a can of hairspray, too.