It’s Truly a Family Affair

Generations of the McDonnell family


It was a different world back then. The gates to the San Diego College for Women were locked every weekday evening at twilight, nuns were housed with the students, and parents looked at the nascent Alcalá Park as not just an educational institution, but a safe and nurturing place to house their daughters. It may have been strict, but Cathy (Steeds) McDonnell ’65 wouldn’t change a thing.

“We’re a very Catholic family,” she said from the dais at the 2014 Grandparents’ Weekend Brunch, where she and several family members were featured speakers. “We have four children, and we’re very blessed to have all four of them practicing Catholicism, and we’re blessed that they all went to USD, which embodies what our family believes in.”

She met her husband, Mike ’64, ’67 (JD), on campus as a student, and the end result is three generations — 10 family members and counting — of Toreros in one family. “It’s been a great ride,” said Mike, beaming. “It was a fabulous experience having our four kids come here, and now seeing our grandkids come here.”

Son Tim ’88 is the oldest of Mike and Cathy’s four children. He looks back on his days at USD as the most formative of his life. “I came here because I wanted to continue what my parents had started. My sisters came here, and their husbands came out of USD. My best friends remain those I met through this university.” When it came time for Tim’s oldest child, Megan ’17, to apply to college, USD was on her short list.

“This has been an amazing first semester,” said Megan, a communications major. “I’m just so grateful and proud to be able to carry out our family legacy; it really represents our family bond.”

“We heard about USD all the time when we were growing up. But when Megan got in, the whole family legacy idea really sank in for me,” said Megan’s cousin, Clay Oliver ’17, whose parents, Julie McDonnell ‘90 and Peter Oliver ‘88, are both USD alumni. “To know that I could go from seeing her once or twice a year to seeing her every day, that was something I couldn’t pass up.”

“Also, having her male cousin here looking out for her is reassuring,” said Tim to appreciative laughter from the audience, which was made up of more than 230 grandparents, students and parents.

Director of Admissions and Enrollment Minh-Ha Hoang ‘96 — herself one of three family members who attended USD — spoke movingly about the importance of legacy on campus when introducing the McDonnell family.

“Legacy applications are reviewed at least three to five times. When we admit a student, we are admitting a family, and we are hoping to admit many generations to come.” — Julene Snyder

Photo caption: Family members Tim McDonnell ‘88, Megan McDonnell ‘17, Clay Oliver ‘17, Cathy (Steeds) McDonnell ‘65 and Mike McDonnell ‘64, ‘67 (JD) spoke about their love of USD during 2014’s Grandparents’ Weekend Brunch.

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