Meet the Elite Fleet

Alcala Club students


Kirk Leopoldo had barely arrived on campus when he decided to join the Alcalá Club — if he could. After all, one of the things he liked most about the group was its selective nature, the rare chance it offers 32 USD students to work with President Mary E. Lyons, PhD, and attend VIP events most of their classmates never even hear about.

“It seemed like a unique opportunity to represent the student body, interact with interesting people, and serve in a different way,” Leopoldo (above, second from left) says.

The Alcalá Club may fly under the radar, but it’s been around almost as long as the university itself. Marge Hughes — wife of Author Hughes, who took over as president when the College for Men, the College for Women and the School of Law merged — came up with the idea of selecting student ambassadors to represent the university at events for trustees, donors, honored alumni and other high-profile campus visitors.

It’s been a win-win ever since. VIPs appreciate meeting current students and learning about USD from their perspectives, while students gain opportunities to interact with respected leaders .

“I went to breakfast with the Board of Trustees, met Jamey Power of J.D. Power and Associates and had a chance to talk with him,” says Leopoldo, who’s a business administration major planning a career in sports marketing. “Another time, I met Ron Fowler, one of the owners of the San Diego Padres. It was cool talking with him about baseball.”

Alcalá Club advisor Deanna Wittman, Director of University Events and Promotions, works hard to spread the word about the group. “We not only email incoming students, but we send letters to the parents, saying, ‘Please encourage your students to apply. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”’

Only eight new members are chosen each spring from some 200 freshman and transfer student applicants. Making the cut takes at least a B average, plus character, charisma and a true passion for USD.

“It’s very competitive,” Wittman says. “USD has so many exceptional students; narrowing it down to just eight is very difficult.”

Leopoldo, who chaired last year’s selection process, says there’s a good reason it’s so rigorous.

“Representing USD is an important thing to Dr. Lyons and the trustees; it can’t be taken lightly,” Leopoldo says. “We want to pick the most dedicated students who are going to serve the club and the university well, people who feel confident in VIP situations.”

New members go through special training in etiquette, protocol and conversation skills before they’re deemed ready to accompany the president to Masses, ceremonies, fundraising dinners or homecoming tailgate parties.

Leopoldo, now a brand-new business graduate, looks back fondly on every one of those events as an invaluable part of his time at USD, opportunities both to learn and to “talk with donors, alums and visitors, so I could tell them how great a school I go to.

“College has been the best four years of my life so far,” he says, “and being in the Alcalá Club has been the cherry on top.” — Sandra Millers Younger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *