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A Major Influence

Franciscan Magazine

Would you choose the same major if you had a chance at a do-over? Most of our alumni gave a resounding yes!

My major was elementary education—and I never regretted it! Taught and was principal for 30 years. Retired in 1994—wanted to pursue something in working with adults. Became manager of a jewelry store—then went on to be deputy city clerk in a small town in Minnesota.  

This made me realize that adults are no more than children in bigger bodies! All the things children do in the elementary grades to irritate teachers are the same things adults do—only magnified! So eight years ago, I decided to substitute here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I now reside. Love every minute of it! Teaching keeps you young at heart!

Diane (Bilby ’66) Perry
Elementary Education

I chose to major in English because I love literature and writing.  I wanted to share that love with others. I learned so much from the classes I took and went on to teach high school English at Canton South High School and Alliance High School.  The students were wonderful and added so much to my life. Although I’ve been retired for 13 years, I still have fond memories and enjoy having former students come up and speak with me when I’m out in the community.

Carol (Wolak ’67) Evans 

I am an MD practicing in Charleston, West Virginia. I chose pre-med as an undergraduate, which obviously served me well as I always wanted to be a doctor of medicine. During my fourth year of college, I was accepted to West Virginia University School of Medicine and also to Emory University School of Medicine.

Looking back, I am very grateful for the caliber of education I received from outstanding professors. But more impressively, because of the makeup of the curriculum, I was exposed to, and learned the humanities, which are so important to a well-rounded person, specially a physician. 

Nowadays, there is a renewed interest from different medical schools to recruit students with a liberal education background, which appears to be a novelty, and yet is such an obvious background to have.  To this date, I continue to be equally interested in the sciences and the arts. Granted that the love of both started before college, but it most certainly was reinforced at the, then College of Steubenville, and now Franciscan University of Steubenville.  I remain grateful and proud to be its alumnus.

George Zaldivar ’67

I was a business administration major with a minor in economics. I chose this major because I had plans and did enter our family business, Diamond Wire Spring Co. I had great teachers: Ed Kelly for accounting, Mr. Able, Ms. Troy for many of my business classes, and Dan Gallagher for economics. These teachers and subjects served me well through out my career. I fully appreciated what I learned at Steubie U.

My wife Bernadette (Bryll ’69) majored in education and that major prepared her for her teaching career, which she enjoyed.

Donald G Fazio ’70
Business Administration

At the time I was in college, sociology seemed to be the only thing close to what interested me—whatever that was. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  Being a child of the ’60s and ’70s, I recall saying, “I don’t need to make a lot of money; I just want to help people.” It didn’t take long for reality to set in.  

During my years at Steubie U, there was no social work major, but there was a four-course concentration in social work, which I took. I sort of stumbled into an internship, or practicum, at a local skilled nursing facility, and I was hired there for a full-time job right after graduation. That began a career in social work, which continues to the present.  Along the way, I became a licensed social worker in Ohio, though I now live in Arizona. I’m a medical social worker in a hospital, and I truly like what I do.  

 Would I have done something different or chosen a different path? Sometimes I thought pharmacy might have been a possibility for me, but I don’t know if I’d change what I do. Being a social worker is part of who I am. It’s not just a job for me. On the occasion when I can really connect with one of my patients or family members, I can feel that what I’ve shared with them has made some kind of difference for them. Social work can often be frustrating and thankless work. But those rare connections with patients make it all worth it for me.  

Michael F. Clark  ’74

I chose the business administration program because I needed the tools it provided to pursue my career goals in the telecommunications and Internet services industry. The degree helped me achieve my goals to hold a number of executive positions in the industry; I would definitely choose that major again.

After I retired, I pursued a master of liberal arts degree at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. I have been teaching various writing and literature courses at St. Ed’s for the last 10 years, and I enjoy it a great deal.

David L. Hughart ’79
Business Administration

During my high school years, my wonderful father would say this sentence to me over and over again, almost like a mantra and with an Italian accent: “You should go to the College of Steubenville and get good med-tech degree like your cousin Frances.” I ended up with a biology degree, plus another lab degree from different institution. Since then, I’ve worked in research labs and small and large hospital labs in a variety of locations. I’ve loved every minute it! My cousin Frances has also continued to worked in a lab setting throughout her life. We received exemplary educational instruction from the professors in the biology and chemistry departments back then—Dr. Rose Cerroni, Mr. Ed Bessler, and Dr. James Slater to name a few! But the real bonus of attending the College of Steubenville was meeting my soulmate, the love of my life, my husband, Jimmy, class of ’79!

Luann (Zanke ’79) Gilliland

Realizing at a young age that I was born to be a teacher, I never looked back. Because of my love of literature and the written word, I had hoped to become a high school English teacher, especially after the enthralling experience my senior year in high school of being a student of Dr. Mary Antoinette Sunyoger! At that time, there were not many teaching opportunities in English, so my parents and guidance counselor encouraged me to set my sights on becoming an elementary teacher.

Franciscan University prepared me professionally, academically, and personally to step on my career path as an educator. The foundation in the field of education I received from Franciscan enabled me to advance my studies and my job opportunities, and I have taught for over 30 years. My professional success is tied directly to the high expectations set forth by professors such as Dr. Dianne Keenan and Dr. Mary Lucille Smith, as I continued to maintain those standards throughout my rewarding career.

I recently reclaimed my love of literature and writing by publishing in July my first book, Sacred Silence, fulfilling the passion for writing nurtured in me many years ago!

Kathleen Bronson Bowers ’80
Elementary Education

I always loved math and I wanted to be a teacher since second grade, so I majored in mathematics with secondary education. Since then, I have been a math teacher at Catholic Central High School for 27 years and an eighth grade math teacher at Indian Creek Middle School for the past 8 years. 

Joyce Evangelista Cammilletti ’80, MSE ’97

I earned a degree in humanities. I studied history, English lit, theology, psychology, and philosophy. All of the subjects have been useful, and I have taken courses in all five disciplines in graduate schools. I used the first two as a high school teacher and the others in my current work as a missionary in Africa. I would earn the same degree again. However, I would have taken more courses from [Father] Francis Martin. I still listen to his teaching online.  

Jay Gerhart ’84

If I could have a do-over—and I so wish that was possible—I would never have chosen business administration and political science. Not because the curriculum and teachers weren’t great, because they were. It just isn’t me, not then and not now. 

I thought I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. In hindsight, I just chose to ignore it due to concerns about career and earning a living. Music has always been my love and what I am good at, my real calling, but I didn’t pursue it. Sure, now I still play in bands and compose original music, but I work as an attorney for my “day job.” It pays the bills, but unfortunately, I am not truly fulfilled.  

My advice to anyone in this same position is to follow your heart. I truly believe God gives everyone a unique set of talents and gifts suited for the work he wants you to do in life, and you intuitively know this in your heart. If you follow that calling, you will be happy because you will be doing what God has called you to do. Anything else and you are following your own way instead of God’s, and that, to me, is a sure prescription for unhappiness. 

Sorry for the downer, but maybe this will help others struggling with the same issues. Nevertheless, I value my Catholic education, and the University will always be in my heart.

Raymond Parello ’84
Business Administration/Political Science

When I first enrolled at the College of Steubenville in 1979, I had wanted to major in Spanish. I was not interested in a French language major, so I was officially undeclared. I did not like being “undeclared,” so toward the end of my first semester I went through the college catalog and, by process of elimination, chose engineering science. The engineering curriculum was heavily math-based and gave us a math minor. To double major in engineering and mathematics, you only needed three additional math credits. I would definitely do the engineering major again. The only do-over I would consider would be a minor in computer science instead of a second major in math.

David Torrey ’84
Engineering Science/Mathematical Science

I can distinctly recall reviewing the academic catalogue the summer before entering the University, working on the decision of which major to pick. I made a decision simply based on what interested me the most after seeing what my options were from the catalogue. I didn’t know what I should choose, but poly-sci seemed to fit my interest in government and life issues. I had a really good high school chemistry teacher who planted a seed for me to think about being a doctor or a lawyer, giving me the confidence to think I could do that. The decision had a profound effect on my life, as it led me into a career in the private practice of law, which, after 25 years, has been a tremendous challenge and blessing. If I had the chance to restart, I don’t think that I would choose differently, and I know I would not choose a different school, as Franciscan University has had the greatest impact on my life —well beyond my job. For that I’m forever grateful.

Rob Krall ’87
Political Science 

I went from the University to working in computers for a major non-profit (The Salvation Army) for the next 21 years. I worked at all levels of the organization from local units to regional offices to the corporate office in Atlanta, Georgia. After those years of service, God called me into full-time ministry as an officer (pastor/minister/administrator) and I entered into their seminary in 2009. In 2011, I was ordained as a minister and commissioned as an officer of The Salvation Army and have had two corps (church) appointments to date. I will always be grateful to Franciscan University for the excellent education it gave me, not only within my major but also in other facets (such as theology) that have continued to help me grow as a person as well as facilitate my career and calling. I also appreciate the efforts of my teachers, Mr. Bozek, Mr. McCain, and Dr. Salt, for their investment in me, and their relentless efforts to drive me toward my potential. If I had it all to do over again, I would have kept my major but tried to absorb even more in my short time at Franciscan. 

Lt. Oliver (“Mike”) Michels  ’87
Computer Science

I majored in mental health and human services, which we would call social work in New Zealand. I had always intended on doing a degree in parks and recreation until I did a weeklong hike with a friend and realized I really liked being around and helping people.

As a committed Catholic, I decided I would like to study overseas at a Catholic university, if possible (there are no tertiary Catholic institutions in New Zealand). Franciscan University accepted my application and offered me a small scholarship.

Afterward, I worked as a youth worker in a parish for three years. My major suited me as I am a people person, and the skills I learned have served me well in all the work roles I’ve undertaken.

I have no regrets about the major I chose, and the experience of living in another culture and making lifelong friends at Franciscan has been pivotal in my life.   

Mike Copeland ’88
Mental Health and Human Services

So far, what I learned at Franciscan University has influenced my life thoroughly. As a homeschooling mom, I’ve used it to form my children. I have it used to energize the many Boy Scouts I have taught in the Catholic religious emblem programs over the years. Lastly, as a college planner working for families, what I have learned has informed all of my interactions with high school students. Seeing people as gifts from God who were created for a purpose is a different perspective than society’s. It’s an orientation that informs and impacts my every single encounter with another person. As someone who works with youth, I am privileged to help them realize that they were created in God’s image on purpose for a purpose. They have intrinsic value and are here for a reason. From that very powerful position, I work with them to help them discover their career goals.

If I had a do-over, I would have attended Franciscan University as an undergrad. Some of my critical thinking skills are not what they could have become if I’d had a solid liberal arts education. Additionally, since I was 17 when I went off to college, the household system would have been a boon to me. Nonetheless, I probably would not have stayed at Franciscan for grad school, but would have gone to CUA or the Angelicum to pursue a more academically rigorous program. (N.B. The current MA program is of a higher caliber and now has a pre-PhD/STD track, which are fantastic developments.)

Katherine O’Brien MA ’91

I began at Franciscan University with a dual major in political science and theology. I wanted to become the lawyer who brought down Roe v. Wade and learn about my faith—why we believed what we believed and how to defend it from those who attacked it. 

After awhile, I realized that while I was learning a great deal from Dr. Krason and other professors in the department, being a lawyer might not be the best choice for me or my temperament. To keep my options open, I switched to a history/theology major to keep my options open for both law and education. 

Still, I was unsure. By the second semester of my junior year, I made the switch to English/theology, and finally felt that my temperament fit the subject matter. Through it all, I was very thankful that the Theology Department made it easy for a young man not planning on entering the priesthood to have theology as a second major; it allowed me to take courses from Dr. Hahn (then “Mr.” Hahn) and others, while learning other disciplines that profited me a great deal. 

My time with multiple majors has served me well in my career as a Catholic middle school teacher and occasional writer. I had no real head for the sciences or business, so if given a second opportunity to start my undergraduate career I would not go that route. My wide breadth of knowledge learned from the four departments I studied from at Franciscan has given me a treasure trove of information and inspiration to mine when I want to teach my students. Be it the basis of the Constitution, the Catholic contribution to world literature, or a host of other topics, what I learned from my sampling of various majors has served me well.  

John McNichol ’92

I chose history as a major because I had a vague intention of going on to law school after graduation. While a student, I added French as a major because I already was proficient in it, and I thought it would enhance both my skills and my resume to become fluent.

However, during my student years, I lacked guidance on how to actualize my career goals. More accurately, I lost my career goals, seeing such things as rather mundane. I was steeped in philosophy, theology, history, etc., with absolutely no sense of real-world application, and no motivation to actively pursue any post-college path. I assumed that “God would take care of it.” I never applied to law school; didn’t even know I had to take the LSAT. I just naturally assumed that my future/career would fall into place and be as wildly successful as my high school and college careers had been.

As it turns out, eight years after graduation, I did apply to and go to law school, and I believe my Franciscan University education served me well there. So while I don’t know if I would have changed my major (though I might have added business or economics as a double major, instead of French), I certainly would have pursued my studies with my head less in the clouds and with much more attention paid to what comes next. I was the quintessential “Franciscan University is a four-year retreat; God will take care of me” sort of student who is caught up in the pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty for their own sakes, but lacking the understanding that you need to be practical as well.

Jason Negri, ’92 MSE ’96

Like most 18 year olds, I had no idea what I was doing when I chose my major, but I stuck with political science because it was a challenge and added the history major because I loved Dr. John Carrigg’s classes.

I am now an attorney for the military and often deal with fundamental issues of jurisprudence. Without a doubt, Dr. Stephen Krason’s department gave me an advantage in law school and life. 

If I had a do-over, I wouldn’t change a thing!

David Wendell ’95
Political Science/History

I began as an elementary education major, but during the fall semester of my sophomore year I discerned God’s call to re-evaluate that decision.  Second semester of that year, I switched to English with a concentration in American literature.  I loved every minute of it!  As I was preparing to graduate in spring of 1995 I knew I needed a plan for how God was calling me to use that degree, and as I was praying for an answer, he made it clear that his plan was that I return to education.

At the time, Franciscan was just beginning its Master’s in Education Program and, as an incentive, graduate credit hours were being offered at a reduced rate—even cheaper than undergrad credit hours! I was able to use this program to complete my secondary education teaching certification (grades 6-12).  Within just a few short weeks, that spring of 1995, God revealed his plan to me and put all the pieces together. I was able to keep the apartment where I was living, provided a roommate, accepted to the Master in Education Program, and very importantly, able to keep my job at the JPII Library.

It was a wonderful adventure, and I know it all happened exactly as God had planned. So, no, I would not go back and change a thing or do anything differently.  I have been teaching middle school language arts (grammar, reading, writing) since I left Steubenville and only enjoy it more each year.

Kristin Wilson ’95 

The reason I chose my major was due to my high school religion teacher who was instrumental in shaping my Catholic life. My role as a catechist has been nothing short of instrumental through the graces I have received working in the Church for almost 20 years. In my capacities as a parish and diocesan DRE and a Catholic high school principal and superintendent of Catholic schools, every role has served the purpose of evangelizing souls and clearly articulating the faith for the sake of conversion.

Would I do it over again? Yes. I had an opportunity to work for the government early on in my career and turned it down to stay in the Church. Needless to say, the government job was a very good position that would have given my family and me the “world” so to speak. In hindsight, my family and I made the right choice.

Marlon De La Torre ’96 MA ’05
Theology/Mental Health and Human Services

I majored in biology with a theology minor. I would totally do it again— loved my profs, loved the work, and really bonded with my fellow bio students. I have a passion for biology (especially relating to the human person) and have worked in different bio-related fields on and off since I graduated in ’99. I’m also glad that I added the theology minor my last year. I grew in my faith immensely during my time at Franciscan University.  

Sarah (Koechl ’99) Gould 

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, and I chose communication arts with a concentration in radio and television last minute. 

I’m a Beachbody coach with over 150 coaches in my network and growing fast, and I use my degree every day as it has transmitted to social media. My business is run completely online, and because of my foundation, I’m able to use my skills to write effectively, create videos and images, and lead my team with confidence. I’ve been able to use my faith and ethics that I learned from immersion in the University culture to work with people and to lead with heart.

If I were to do things differently, I would have double-majored in communication arts and marketing. With that added education, I could have done even more than I have accomplished at this time. And, of course . . . I wish I had focused more on my work than having fun.

Michelle (Weber ’99) Hillaert
Communication Arts

I chose theology and Christian ministry because I wanted to enhance my knowledge of the Catholic faith.

Michael Wrasman MA ’00

I chose my majors because they helped form my intention to work in the church as a youth minister and theology teacher, but mostly, to answer God’s call to follow him as a priest of Jesus Christ.

The role that the majors played in my life was to attend a dynamic Catholic University in which I met many people, grew in friendships, and grew as a man of God. I entered seminary, and more than two years ago was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ. I would choose it all over again for the glory of God and for his kingdom.

Father Scott Carpentier ’05 MA ’09
Philosophy/Theology/Religious Education

My major was education with licensure in mid-level English as well as mid-level mathematics. I chose my major because for as long as I can remember I have always dreamed of teaching. Throughout my life I attended public school. While this was challenging as a devout Catholic, I also found many teachers along my journey who shared a deep love of the Catholic faith. Once they learned I was Catholic, they would reach out and share their faith with me. Because of their influences, I felt a strong calling and desire to major in education in order to teach in the public schools in the hopes of finding other young, Catholic students to share the faith with. Without those good, Catholic teachers in the public school, my time there would have been much harder and longer than it needed to be.

My major has influenced my life because it has provided me with a career in which I can also stay home with my young children. Because I have a degree in education, I was able to found my own tutoring company about two years ago. I tutor two to three hours each evening during the week once my husband is home from work. This allows me to provide income for our family as well as take care of my children. It is truly the best of both worlds.

If I had a do over, I would definitely choose to major in education again. Teaching and touching others’ lives is my passion. 

Danielle (Constant ’07) Prince

I earned my master’s in theology as a Distance Learning student. It took me nine years to complete the course (I had to take some undergraduate courses first), and I was 69 years old when I finished.  I chose to study theology so I would have more confidence in witnessing to the faith with my children and grandchildren and in my community.  

If I had it to do over again, I would choose the same course. I use what I learned at Franciscan every day both in my private life and in my family life. I use it when, as the president of the Legion of Mary in my parish, I visit the jail, pray at the abortion facility, and conduct prayer services at the adult homes and nursing homes in my area. It has been a great blessing. 

Marjorie Ackermann MA ’09
MA Theology

I double majored in biology and anthropology, and I wouldn’t change anything! My training at Franciscan, and in biology in particular, has been invaluable to me. Since Franciscan, I have obtained an MS in paleopathology (the study of disease and trauma in ancient human remains) from Durham University. Franciscan’s rigorous Biology Program was excellent preparation, and I graduated with from Durham with distinction.

Last year I received a doctoral scholarship from the University of Otago in New Zealand and am currently doing data collection for my dissertation on the relationship between metabolic and infectious diseases at the transition to agriculture in ancient Chile. 

Although Franciscan is not primarily known for its science programs, my experience as a grad student and instructor at other universities has made me appreciate the quality of a Franciscan science degree.  

Anne Marie Sohler-Snoddy ’09

I really enjoyed working with cameras and editing movies, commercials etc. Working on TV sets was a lot of fun. I chose theology because I loved learning about it. I chose the minors to help me get a job and assist in whatever career path I would end up choosing.

I worked in radio for four years on Catholic Answers Live, and the business minors have helped a lot in making designs for various projects and helping to draw in more listeners etc. The theology played a huge role in the show. I now teach high school religion, and obviously the theology major has helped a lot with that as well as the experience in radio.

I would have done the same major; however, I think I would have liked to either triple major with business management or at least gone on and earned an MBA from Franciscan. We had an awesome Business Department.

Matthew Tuszynski ’10

I chose to major in elementary education, not only because I had transferred into Franciscan with my associate degree in early childhood education, but also because I wanted to further my education/training in the education field. I love working with children, and after attending Franciscan I wanted to teach in a Catholic school somewhere. If I had to do a do-over, I would still have chosen education but would have considered going into the Nursing Program or something in the health field as a double major.

Lisa (Poulos ’11) Laboy 

Originally published in the Autumn 2015 Franciscan Way magazine.

Your turn: Would you choose the same major or another? Why? Send replies to, and we will share online or in Franciscan Magazine (submissions subject to editing).