Notable alumni become successful through service and variety both in college and beyond

Paul Martucci

Through the classrooms of Tolentine and the dorm rooms of Sullivan have passed some of America’s most successful men and women. Emmy award winners, Pulitzer Prize recipients and NFL Hall of Famers have received baccalaureate degrees from Villanova University.

In the simplest of senses, one could look at the famous names of Villanova graduates and make the claim that the University produces nationally proclaimed leaders in a multitude of industries. Father John Stack, the VP for Student Life, contrarily argues that this reputation only presents half the story of your typical Villanova graduate.

“A lot of people who have graduated from Villanova have the ingredients to be successful in whatever field they choose,” Father Stack said. “You really have to work to not be touched by the idea of service, though.”

Celebrities and typical graduates alike have both been influenced by that notion of service. Volunteer work is encouraged on campus and with so many opportunities to get involved, most students participate in something in their four years.

NBA Star and Villanova graduate Kerry Kittles prescribed to that idea of service. In addition to his involvement on the basketball team, Kittles was an active Eucharistic minister. Kathy Byrnes, the Assistant VP for Student Life, acknowledged Kittles’ broad involvement.

“In my opinion, Kerry got what Villanova was about as well as being a star athlete,” she said.

Actress Maria Bello is also a celebrity who flourished in many ways while at Villanova. You may know Bello for her roles as Edie Stall in A History of Violence and as Donna McLoughlin in World Trade Center. At Villanova, though, she was particularly moved by the preaching of Father Ray Jackson, a campus minister in the Peace and Justice Center.

“Her interest in global justice issues was inspired through Father Jackson’s lectures,” Father Stack said, “and this made a significant difference in her life.”

Other prominent alumni of Villanova University include Jim Croce, who according to legend wrote the lyrics to the famous song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” in the Grotto, Jennifer Santiago, an Emmy-award winning reporter for CBS4 News in Miami and Diana Sugg, a former Villanovan editor and Pulitzer Prize recipient for her medical reporting in The Baltimore Sun.

Additionally, superstar athletes such as Howie Long, Brian Westbrook and, most recently, Randy Foye have all graduated from Villanova. Long and Westbrook have taken the service ideals of Villanova to heart in foundations and charities that they have formed to distribute their wealth to less fortunate causes.

“The average students that arrive at Villanova are not fully aware of how privileged and blessed they are,” Father Stack said. “Most students get exposure in their four years, though, to people who are less fortunate than they are. The exposure affects their decisions and affects how they eventually raise their kids.”

Other graduates, while less well known amongst the American population, have also made extremely significant contributions to society and, in return, have given back to the school and the community in whole.

John Drosdick, Chairman of the Villanova Board of Trustees, is the CEO of Sunoco Oil and makes significant annual contributions to the University. James Orr, another member of the Board of Trustees, came to Villanova on a track scholarship and is the Chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, an institution that donates millions of dollars to deserving causes.

Jim Curvy is another member of the Board of Trustees. He came to Villanova from a small, impoverished coal mining region in Pennsylvania, but after leaving Villanova he raised up to the No. 2 man in the Fidelity Investment Corporation. Not only does Curvy give back to the University through scholarships to others from his hometown area, but he also donates money to students interested in pursuing summer study projects.

Some graduates, meanwhile, leave Villanova and enter the world without ever earning worldwide fame, but their legend at Villanova will always be remembered. Mary Foti is an example of one of those people.

In the late ’70s, Foti and a few of her friends who were involved in the Villanovans for Life organization decided to branch out from the group to form a small Special Olympics chapter on campus that started as a one-day event with only one sport. Having a brother with Downs Syndrome, Foti devoutly committed herself to creating this chapter. Today, that chapter has grown into the largest annual student-run Special Olympics event in the world.

Similarly, Ed Sullivan started a program in the early ’80s to outreach to the Philadelphia homeless. Today, ideals like his have turned Villanova into one of the largest, most involved student campuses in the United States.

The contributions that students make on a daily basis to Villanova are countless. There are currently about 140 student organizations on campus, and that number is consistently rising. An important aspect of almost every student organization, though, is that ideal of service.

“Service is an integral part of this university’s mission,” Father Stack said. “In fraternities, sororities, campus ministry, Special Olympics and almost every other organization, students are being affected just as much as, if not more than, in their classes.”

With such an honorable ideal, Villanova University will continue graduating prominent and successful young adults.