Winter 2014 Issue

'You Always Have a Home Here'

The gift of the Tribe experience

By Will Morris '11

Denise Sheehan '78 finds many reasons to return to campus
Photo by Stacey Busbee Summerfeld '04

“I know when I was a student it never dawned on me to work for the government.”

The middle link in a multigenerational alumni family, Denise Sheehan ’78 came to campus in early November for a presentation at the Cohen Career Center about her work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I want to share knowledge with students who are about to come out of college,” she said. Judging from her workshop packed with inquisitive undergrads, students saw great value in her presence.

“When Justin was only a toddler, I purchased an inscribed brick that was laid at the Alumni House.”
Hailing from Altoona, Pa., Sheehan said that most students from her high school went to Penn State. But her father, George Sheehan ’49 — a good friend of Sam Sadler ’64, M.Ed. ’71, former vice president for student affairs — encouraged her to attend William & Mary.

“There is no way to capture how valuable it has been to me,” Sheehan said of her W&M education. “It was a gift from my father.” With her son Justin ’18 now enrolled as a freshman, the gift of the Tribe experience is coming full circle.

“If you want to feel grounded, W&M is a good place to return to, especially if you’ve had a lot of change in your life.”

Sheehan cites many occasions when she’s come back to W&M — from an acceptance dinner for Northern Virginia freshmen, to a sociology department gathering, to the time she and her college roommate from Albuquerque road-tripped to campus. “If you want to feel grounded, William & Mary is a good place to return to, especially if you’ve had a lot of change in your life. People get older, parents pass away and things happen, but William & Mary always looks and feels the same. You always have a home here.”

Sheehan shares what most alumni know as that intangible, nearly indescribable, feeling of belonging, purpose and camaraderie that comes only from attending William & Mary. By offering a little time and wisdom to current students, gathering with other alumni, and attending a Tribe event every now and again, she demonstrates how that feeling can be reignited and sustained through ongoing engagement with our alma mater.